The Big 12 conference has been in turmoil since the announcement of their expansion to include TCU and West Virginia. Some analysts argue that this move will ultimately be a positive for college basketball, while others argue that it will have a negative impact on the sport.
The Big 12 has announced that it is expanding to include the University of Texas and Oklahoma. This expansion will bring in $300 million for the conference. It is unknown what impact this will have on college basketball, but it will be interesting to see how this impacts the game.
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The presidents and chancellors of the Big 12 League decided on Friday to welcome BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF into the conference, with the individual boards of those institutions expected to officially accept by the end of the day. Though the changes were primarily motivated by football-related concerns, they will have an effect on other Big 12 sports. Men’s and women’s basketball are the most popular sports, with the changing tides of growth affecting the makeup and strength of the American Athletic Conference and the West Coast Conference as well.
What would the addition of a Final Four program in Houston mean for the Big 12’s men’s basketball profile, which is consistently one of the best in college basketball? Will the additions in men’s and women’s basketball help to soften the blow of Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC?
As conference realignment took another dramatic turn, ESPN’s college basketball reporting team of Jeff Borzello, Myron Medcalf, and Mechelle Voepel addressed the impact on the Big 12, the repercussions for the other affected leagues, and the landscape of men’s and women’s collegiate basketball:
How will the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF in men’s basketball affect the Big 12? Where does the Big 12 stand in terms of national power now that Texas and Oklahoma have announced their plans to leave?
With the four newcomers, the Big 12 has solidified its basketball position. KenPom has rated the league No. 1 six times since 2014, and No. 2 twice. While losing Texas and Oklahoma means losing two top-25 teams, Houston has been one of the most consistent programs in the nation under Kelvin Sampson and just reached the Final Four.
BYU has won at least 20 games in 15 of the past 16 seasons, giving it a greater opportunity to retain Mark Pope as its head coach for many more years. Cincinnati was a regular in the NCAA tournament under Mick Cronin and is trying to get back on track now that Wes Miller has been hired. UCF has had its moments, but its athletic emphasis has shifted to football, and its reputation as a “sleeping giant” in basketball has dwindled.
It’s difficult to claim the league has improved on the basketball side without Texas and Oklahoma, but I don’t believe there will be much of a drop-off with the newcomers, particularly considering Houston and BYU’s recent success. — Borzello, Jeff
How do the four institutions contribute to the Big 12’s women’s basketball profile?
It will be difficult for Big 12 women’s basketball to replace Texas and Oklahoma, but the new schools will offer something to the conference that will give it a lift after so much loss.
The most successful women’s program in the Big 12 is BYU. The Cougars have been in 14 NCAA tournaments and twice reached the Sweet 16 round (2002 and 2014). They defeated No. 6 seed Rutgers in the first round as a No. 11 seed before losing to eventual NCAA runner-up Arizona, a No. 3 seed, in the second round. Under head coach Jeff Judkins, the Cougars have made nine NCAA tournament appearances, with just one losing season since taking over in 2001-02.
The last time BYU won the West Coast Conference tournament was in 2019, while the last time it won the regular season was in 2016. BYU has a long history of strong women’s sports programs, with the Cougars’ women’s volleyball team reaching the final four three times (1993, 2014 and 2018).
Last season, UCF and South Florida tied for top place in the American Athletic Conference, while Houston finished third. Like BYU, UCF and Houston should benefit from being part of a big league. This past season, the Knights lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Northwestern, marking their sixth participation in the tournament. Houston defeated Arizona State in the consolation game of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, although the Cougars last competed in the NCAA tournament in 2011.
In contrast to its men’s basketball program, Cincinnati’s women’s basketball team has failed to create an impression, having last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2003. Michelle Clark-Heard was a successful coach at Western Kentucky before coming to Cincinnati and winning 24 and 22 games in her first two seasons. The Bearcats were 8-16 last season, but the move to the Big 12 may help her improve on what they accomplished from 2018 to 2020, which includes a WNIT participation. Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle
Penny Hardaway and Memphis have emerged as the AAC’s top program, but will the conference be able to keep them happy? Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
What effect will men’s basketball have on the American Athletic Conference, which is poised to lose three schools, including one that will compete in the 2021 Final Four in Houston? What about the West Coast Conference, which has lost one of its top three programs in BYU?
Memphis and Gonzaga, whose conferences have grown weaker, are likely to be the most affected. Even if their prospective destinations are less than apparent, now is the time for both institutions, the pillars of their respective leagues, to seek elsewhere.
Other clubs and leagues have made preemptive steps in order to gain control over their destiny via realignment. Since 2018, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF have combined for six NCAA tournament appearances. But it’s also important to note where they’re from. All three institutions are located in cities with populations of more than 2 million people. The league’s reduced presence, particularly in recruiting, is a significant issue for a league that will struggle to locate three similar schools. The decision will lose the AAC three excellent coaches, including Kelvin Sampson, who will be one of the Big 12’s top leaders once he arrives.
I’m not sure how the AAC will keep Memphis pleased with all of this turmoil. But that has to be the objective, since with these changes, a league that finished seventh in KenPom’s rankings might fall below the top ten. That’s why a Memphis club led by Emoni Bates and with a strong football program would be considering moving on rather than maintaining an insecure league. Under Penny Hardaway, Memphis has never made it to the NCAA tournament, and now it will miss out on three chances for quality victories in league play. That’s not a good sign.
And BYU made a significant contribution to the WCC. Not just because of its skill, but also because of the audiences and support it receives in Provo — and because of its legitimacy. Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s have all raised the prominence of the West Coast Conference, which has been a multi-bid conference in seven of the past nine tournaments. However, without BYU, the odds of sending several schools to the playoffs are substantially reduced.
BYU’s departure, I believe, has accelerated the discussion over Gonzaga’s future. How long can a top basketball program stay in the West Coast Conference? Gonzaga will remain a formidable opponent regardless of the outcome. Still, nothing about their future seems to be guaranteed. A basketball program with Gonzaga’s reputation might find a place in a larger league. Without BYU, it may feel it is obligated to do so. Myron Medcalf is a writer who lives in the United States.
How much does this move further damage the American, which was already suffering from the loss of UConn in women’s basketball?
Let’s just say UConn supporters are breathing a sense of relief again now that the Huskies have departed for the Big East. It’s not like the current Big East presents a significant obstacle for the Huskies; they were undefeated in conference play last season. However, from a geographical standpoint, the Big East makes sense for UConn. And, although it will probably never approach the heights of the former Big East in terms of women’s basketball, it is much superior than what is left of the American.
Coach Jose Fernandez has built a strong program at South Florida. Last season, both the Bulls and the Knights ended 12-2 in the American, with USF winning the conference tournament title game against the Knights. USF made their eighth NCAA tournament participation (all under Fernandez’s direction) and defeated Washington State in the first round before falling to No. 1 seed NC State in the second round.
South Florida may well remain the best women’s basketball team in the United States, but it’s not a league that will bring the Bulls any national exposure at this time. Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle
What are some of the new rivalries that fans should be excited about? Are there any significant rivalries that will be shattered as a result of the proposed changes?
Houston stands out as a program that has the potential to spark some new rivalries right away. On the recruiting path, the Cougars are already up against Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, and Oklahoma State, and there is clearly a regional aspect that lends itself to rivalries. Due to their closeness to former coach Bob Huggins and West Virginia, BYU and UCF may suffer in terms of rivalry, but Cincinnati’s early games could be intriguing.
We lost Bedlam, as I said when Texas and OU announced their plans. In both football and basketball, the rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State was one of the best in the state, but it’s not off the table on a regular basis. Texas will renew its rivalry with Oklahoma in the SEC, as well as with Texas A&M and Arkansas. Given Chris Beard’s transfer from Lubbock to Austin, this season’s Texas-Texas Tech matchups could be exciting. Borzello, Jeff
It would be great to see Houston rise over the Big 12’s other Texas schools, particularly Baylor, which is located close. That, however, will require some effort. Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M were all national contenders at one time in the Big 12’s history in the Lone Star State. With Texas A&M now in the SEC, Texas on the verge of joining the SEC, and Texas Tech struggling to be competitive in recent years, the Texas aspect of the Big 12 isn’t as thrilling as it once was. Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle
The american athletic conference is a college sports conference in the United States. It has 12 members, including Oklahoma State University, Iowa State University, and Baylor University.
- big 12 teams
- byu, big 12
- byu football
- sec conference