The Big 12’s future in hoops

22 Sep

By Sam Duren
National Hoops Report

Just a few days ago, the Big 12’s future was bleak. Texas A&M was officially out the door to the SEC, Missouri seemed likely to follow. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech looked ready to help form a mega conference, the PAC 16.

Late Tuesday night that all changed, as the PAC 12 announced there would be no expansion for the time being. Also, it was found out that the rumors that Missouri’s held an offer from the SEC were just that, rumors.

A&M is still out the door but the nine remaining Big 12 teams look ready to give it ready one more go and stay together. The two most important pillars, Oklahoma and Texas, are now committed to the Big 12 after being rejected by the PAC 12.

With the league at nine teams now, following back to back years of defections, the conference is now looking to expand. The Big East looks vulnerable after already losing two teams to the ACC (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) with the possibility of more to leave as well. There are also a few mid majors that look ready for the jump to a major conference.

From a basketball standpoint the conference is still strong and expansion will only help that.

Texas A&M is the only school to leave to have been a factor on the scene in recent years. Colorado and Nebraska had historically struggled for much of the Big 12 era.

Kansas is still a national power, with one of the most prestigious programs in the nation. Rick Barnes has taken Texas to new heights in the 2000s, with amazing recruiting success. The Baylor Bears are an up and comer, with Scott Drew proving he can recruit with the big boys recently, Perry Jones, Quincy Miller & Isiah Austin for example.

Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St have consistently been NCAA tournament teams during the Big 12 era, with both OU and OSU having Final Four appearances.

Frank Martin has used a brand of toughness to bring Kansas State to three NCAA tournament appearances in his four seasons at the helm. Even Iowa St has won two conference regular season titles and new coach Fred Hoiberg is starting to jump start the Cyclones.

The Big 12 already has a strong nine teams to build from and with the right additions, the Big 12 can continue to be a top power conference on the hardwood.

Football may be the driving force in these moves, but this will look at what possible Big 12 expansion candidates bring to the table on the hardwood.

Here are six likely candidates to be apart of the Big 12 expansion, which will likely consist of one to three teams

Air Force

Current Conference: Mountain West Conference (since 1988)
Location: College Springs, CO
Enrollment: 4,147
Arena: Clune Arena, 1968. Capacity: 5,855
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 4, Last 2006

The United States Air Academy was on a list of three teams that the University of Oklahoma President, David Boren gave out as possible expansion candidates . The Falcons’ football team has been a competitive squad in the Mountain West but the basketball team has struggled mightily.

Air Force only has four NCAA tournament appearances in their school history, though two of them did come in 2004 and 2006. They also made the NIT in 2007 and made it all the way to New York with a semifinal appearance when coached by Jeff Bzdelik (who left for Colorado in 2007 and is now the head coach at Wake Forest).

This past season they made the CollegeInsider.com tournament with a 16-16 record, it was only their ninth time in school history that they recorded sixteen of more wins.

Air Force basketball has always been hindered by being a service academy and that graduates are required to serve in the Air Force after graduation. So even the jump to being in a major conference, isn’t likely to bring a big improvement to their recruiting.

With their struggles to compete in the Mountain West conference, its hard to foresee a future of them finishing in the top half of the Big 12.

Brigham Young University

Current Conference: West Coast Conference (since 2011)
Location: Provo, UT
Enrollment: 32, 9247
Arena: Marriott Center, 1971. (22,700)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 26, Last 2011

Brigham Young University is a name heavily being thrown around with the possibility of Big 12 expansion because of football success, but their basketball pedigree is nothing to sneeze at.

Starting in 1979, they have been to the NCAA tournament nineteen times, which is more times than over half the remaining Big 12 teams; Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

Eight of the Cougars’ nineteen appearances have occurred since 2001 and they have won the Mountain West Conference’s regular season crown six times since then.

To go along with BYU’s consistency, their brand is now at an all time high thanks to the success of Jimmer Fredette. They also seem to be serious contenders in the race for Jabari Parker, the top player in 2013, who is a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

He explosive small forward even took an unofficial visit to Provo in August and if BYU does move to a high major conference it can only help their chances with him.

BYU basketball is brand that has been among the top of the mid majors in recently. With their five straight NCAA tournament appearances under Dave Rose (159-54 in 6 years at BYU), they have the look of a team that would be able to compete in the Big 12.

Cincinnati

Current Conference: Big East (Since 2005)
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Enrollment: 29,928
Arena: Fifth Third Arena (13,176)
NCAA Tournament Appearance: 25 (2011), 2 National Championships (1961, 62)

From a geographic standpoint they are one of the more logical additions, when compared to the west coast options, especially if the Big 12 successfully raids the Big East.

During the early part of the 2000s the Bearcats were consistently in the NCAA tournament, even earning a one seed in 2002 while under the guidance Bob Huggins. All their success occurred under the Conference USA flag. They joined the Big East prior to the 2005 season, the same year Bob Huggins resigned as head coach.

Since then its been a long rebuilding process for Mick Cornin as the Bearcats had three consecutive losing seasons to start his tenure. The past two years have been different though, as they landed a NIT berth in the 2010 and finally returned to the dance last year.

Cincinnati is a program with tradition, that is currently on the upswing in hoops and a move to the Big 12 could help that. While the conference has top tier teams, Kansas and Texas, it is not as fierce as the Big East has been, making winning in it more likely.

If the progression of recent seasons continue the Bearcats would be a player in the new look Big 12 and would consistently carry the Big 12 banner dancing in March.

Louisville

Current Conference: Big East (since 2005)
Location: Louisville, KY
Enrollment: 22,290
Arena: KFC Yum Center (22,000)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 37 (2011), 2 National Championships (1980, 1986)

From a pure basketball standpoint, Louisville might be the best possible addition. Their winning percentage in the 2000s is only behind Kansas and Texas among Big 12 schools. Overall they have eight Final Four appearances, more than any team not named Kansas from the Big 12.

From a parity standpoint alone, Louisville would do wonders in giving new competition at the top for Kansas; the Jayhawks have won outright or shared the last seven Big 12 regular season crowns.

While Louisville may not fit a high profile football powerhouse, that is seemingly driving the conference expansion madness, Big 12 hoops fans should be more than eager to welcome them into the fold.

Texas Christian University

Current Conference: Mountain West Conference (Set to join the Big East in 2012)
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Enrollment: 9,142
Arena: Daniel-Meyer Coliseum (7,201)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 7 (1988)

It seems logical to replace a leaving Texas school (Texas A&M) with another, especially when the new program is coming off back to back to BCS bowls. On the flip side, while the Horned Frogs have risen to new heights in football, their basketball program has steadily declined.

Jim Christian is in his fourth year at the helm and his best season was his first, with a 14-16 record. Since then it has been a struggle, including thirteen consecutive conference games losses for a 1 and 15 conference record.

Right now the Frogs bring very little to the table when it comes to hoops but as Baylor and Texas A&M have proven, its possible to jumpstart basketball programs in Texas. Both the Bears and Aggies were consistently near the bottom of the Big 12 when it started, but lately they’ve been near the top.

It is possible that a jump to high major status could boast recruiting and TCU does sit in the middle of a booming recruiting ground, the Dallas Fort-Worth metroplex.

West Virginia

Current Conference: Big East (Since 2005)
Location: Morgantown, WV
Enrollment: 32,351
Arena: West Virginia University Coliseum, 1970 (14,000)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 24 (2011)

The Mountaineers have quietly put together a very consistent program since the 1980s started, with only three losing seasons (1995-96, 1998-99 & 2001-02). John Beilein made them a force in the mid 2000s with back to back Sweet Sixteens (2005 & 2006) and a NIT championship (2007).

Following the 2007 season, Beilien left for Michigan and Bob Huggins took over. He didn’t miss a beat as he has turned them into a contender in the Big East with four tournament appearance. In 2010 the Mountaineers also won the Big East tournament championship and reached the programs’ first Final Four since 1959.

Similar to Louisville they are a program that is rolling right now and would help bring a new challenger for Kansas’ throne. Another benefit for West Va, is that Huggins has signed one player from Texas in his last two recruiting classes (Darrious Curry 2010 & Keaton Miles 2011). They are also in the picture for 2012 Dallas-Fort Worth based shooting guard Jelon Hornbeak.

With annual games being played and more TV appearances in the Lonestar state, that can only help their recruiting efforts there.

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