Memphis to Big East a Huge Win for Both SidesPosted by EJacoby on February 7th, 2012
Evan Jacoby is a regular RTC contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
The college basketball landscape incurred another major shuffle on Tuesday, as Memphis is reportedly headed to the Big East for all sports beginning in the 2013-14 season. At this point, geographical alignment is a non-factor when it comes to conference separation, so fretting over the fact that a school in western Tennessee will be a part of the ‘Big East’ is simply a waste of time. Instead, looking at this deal from a basketball competition angle shows that the move is a benefit for both parties.
Memphis, an elite basketball program with the third-best winning percentage of the past decade, gets to join a top tier conference that provides enough guaranteed challenges and limits the amount of difficult non-conference scheduling that the team must make. Playing teams like Connecticut, Villanova, and Marquette every year will greatly boost the Tigers’ overall profile each season so they don’t have to schedule as many pre-conference contests against Tennessee, Michigan, Louisville, and Georgetown like they did this year. Meanwhile, the Big East Conference is adding an upper echelon basketball school to help replace the impending departures of West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Memphis has reached the NCAA Tournament in six of the past eight seasons, including a Final Four run and two Elite Eight appearances in the last six years. Memphis is also a C-USA school, the conference that once harbored Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul, and South Florida. So the Tigers have familiar ties to several current Big East schools that make it a logical fit.
Prior to this agreement, the Big East had already agreed to bring in current C-USA schools Houston, Central Florida, and SMU to the conference for basketball starting in 2013. Those three schools as replacements for Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia (the first two headed to the ACC, the latter heading for the Big 12) are an incredible downgrade to the on-court product, and had fans worried that the conference would soon become a collection of teams simply left out of the other big BCS conference acquisitions. But the addition of Memphis gives the Big East a major boost and should have its fans excited for what’s to come.
In November of 2013, the Big East is now on track to still be one of the best basketball leagues. Mainstays like Georgetown, Connecticut, Seton Hall, Villanova, St. John’s, and Rutgers are still on the roster. Marquette, Notre Dame, Louisville, Cincinnati, Providence, DePaul, and South Florida are all staying, as well. Throw in UCF, SMU, and Houston, and they’re simply the aberrations to an otherwise sterling slate of basketball schools. You also never know how these new teams might look given the new recruiting pitch of playing in the Big East. Memphis, which came a Mario Chalmers three-pointer away from winning the 2008 National Championship, is now in as the lucky 17th school. All in all, there’s plenty of talent left in the Big East, at least until further developments. And this is a great thing for both the Tigers and the rest of the Big East competitors.