UConn and the ACC: The One That Got Away

Posted by Chris Kehoe on April 4th, 2014

When the most recent jumble of conference realignment was underway, the ACC squarely targeted the Big East for its newest conquests. Commissioner John Swofford wanted to add programs that were strong in the revenue sports of football and basketball, holding distinctive geographic locations that would open up the conference to new fans and marketing possibilities. The ACC won out in a big way, snagging prominent athletic programs at Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh from the old Big East. While these programs are have had varying degrees of success in the sport that drives realignment, Notre Dame is the only football name brand (and the Irish retained their football independence). So while the current athletic landscape is shaped by the financial juggernaut that is college football, the ACC locked up some of the country’s most elite basketball programs.

UConn has a rising star in Head Coach Kevin Ollie (credit: CT Post)

UConn has a rising star in Head Coach Kevin Ollie (credit: CT Post)

So while the ACC may have sought greater football legitimacy as its primary goal, the league also landed two massively successful basketball programs in Syracuse and Louisville. As a result, the ACC may very well have positioned itself as the basketball conference of the future, made up of most if not all of the best programs up and down the East Coast. That is, with one notable exception. As the league plundered the Big East, it may have made a drastic mistake from a basketball perspective. The ACC left behind a basketball powerhouse in its own right, Connecticut, a school that all but pleaded for entry into the ACC and a Final Four participant in a season when no conference team made it past the Sweet Sixteen. Recall the silly preseason talk about how the ACC was supposed to be ‘the best ever’, and it leaves you wondering if the exclusion of a program like UConn was the right move. The basketball program based in Storrs has had continued and sustained excellence in the sport over a long period of time, winning the national title three times since 1999 (as well as 2004 and 2011), and putting 13 players into the NBA as lottery picks since 1994. Few programs can match that record.

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Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Thursday Afternoon Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2013

Brian Otskey attended the Thursday afternoon session of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Georgetown is suffocating. The Hoyas limited Cincinnati to just 38 shots in a 40-minute game, in some ways due to Cincinnati’s turnovers but mostly due to Georgetown’s style of play. They grind and wear opponents out, especially one that struggles to score like the Bearcats. The Hoyas aren’t the flashiest of teams but they make big plays in big moments (Nate Lubick’s three field goals came at opportune times) and always seem to have an answer on both ends of the floor. This isn’t an overly talented team but it’s one of the nation’s best-coached. Georgetown runs a disciplined offense and is ultra-physical defensively, a bad combination for a Cincinnati team that needs to play defense for the full shot clock and then can’t get points off its defense on the other end. The Bearcats couldn’t get anything going today and give most of that credit to Georgetown.


    Georgetown Wore Down the Bearcats Today

  2. Mick Cronin understands the big picture. His team didn’t play well today and he was clearly disappointed in that, but Mick Cronin spent the majority of his postgame press conference discussing conference realignment and, essentially, his reasons for being a college basketball coach. It was a great listen and refreshing to hear a coach who understands the true meaning of college sports. Cronin blasted realignment (his school is currently left out in the cold so that’s understandable), but his larger point rang true. Everyone, whether it’s schools, conferences or the NCAA, needs to do more to promote the welfare of student-athletes. “These guys aren’t just jerseys” was a quote that stood out to me. Cronin discussed everything from how money is the sole factor in most of this to getting his players degrees and good jobs after graduation. This isn’t the first time Cronin has said what is truly on his mind. He has my respect for what he does. I only wish more coaches were as serious about all of this as he is.
  3. It was obvious coming into the week but it still needs to be noted: This tournament won’t be the same without Syracuse. No team in this league comes close to bringing to the Garden the passion of Syracuse fans. When the Garden is Orange from top to bottom and side to side, the Big East Tournament is better for it. The atmosphere was incredible for today’s Syracuse/Pittsburgh quarterfinal game and just imagine what it is going to be like tomorrow night when Syracuse meets Georgetown in the semifinals! Syracuse fans are loud and yes, sometimes too full of themselves, but this tournament simply won’t be the same without them. Read the rest of this entry »
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Memphis to Big East a Huge Win for Both Sides

Posted 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.

Josh Pastner Will Likely be Coaching Memphis in the Big East in Two Seasons

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.

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Big 12 Realignment: So, Who’s In?

Posted by dnspewak on October 28th, 2011

It’s been a wild 24 hours.

The Southeastern Conference announced Missouri as its newest member late Thursday night — and then it retracted that press release from its website ten minutes later. The Big 12 then officially invited West Virginia on Friday, and a news release from the conference did not mention Missouri as a member for the 2012-13 athletic season. So, what’s the deal? The Big 12 won’t claim Missouri, nor will the SEC. Looks like the Tigers are in limbo for now. Of course, don’t expect that to last long. Soon, we’ll surely hear the announcement that the SEC has added the Tigers as its 14th program. Right?

In this crazy world of realignment apocalypse, though, everything is an unknown. For now, at least, we know that WVU is a member of the Big 12 Conference starting next summer. And that means Louisville (for now) has been shut out of the league after a dispute that pitted it against the Mountaineers — a fracas that involved Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a UL alum — who tried to block WVU from joining the league.

Bob Huggins Shouldn't Be Sad Anymore After the Big 12 Announcement

Sen. McConnell’s efforts apparently did not work as the Mountaineers have won the Big 12 sweepstakes. WVU’s president said the league is a “perfect fit” for his school, and it’s certainly a move that will help Big 12 hoops. With Missouri’s likely departure, as well as the addition of the lowly TCU program, the conference needed a team with the history and recent success to bolster its basketball profile.  WVU will make an immediate impact in this league thanks to passionate fan base and an established head coach in Bob Huggins. The transition from the Big East to the Big 12 won’t be difficult, although all the chartered flights from Morgantown several hours west may be.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.26.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 26th, 2011

  1. Still nothing official on the realignment front… but the rumors are heating up with respect to West Virginia. The New York Times reported Tuesday that a WVU official said the school has gained acceptance to the Big 12. The Mountaineers, of course, would replace Missouri, who according to numerous sources were expected to withdraw from the league earlier this week. That never happened — not officially, at least — but the next few weeks could be a real firestorm. In fact, it’s arguable that these are some of the most important times in college sports history, as the entire landscape could change by Thanksgiving. That’s why we’ll make sure to bring you the latest analysis when this information moves from secret sources and rumors to official statements and press releases.
  2. Sticking with realignment, we’ve already told you of Notre Dame’s interest in the Big 12. It hasn’t exactly been a secret — a document mentioned ND as a candidate last month. But the talk of the Irish is getting louder and louder, and it’s worth mentioning that Orangebloods.com has reported that the two sides are “actively” discussing an inclusion of Notre Dame’s non-revenue sports in the conference. According to the site, the school won’t make a final decision until after football season ends.
  3. One interesting aspect of a possible Missouri departure is what to do with the Big 12 Tournament. It’s slated for Kansas City through 2014, but can you really hold a basketball tournament in a state where no school participates? According to the Kansas City Star, the answer may be “yes” to that question. A Sprint Center official said there is no reason to believe the league would pull the tournament from KC if the Tiger program were to leave for the SEC. With Kansas State and Kansas so close to Kansas City, it would still be a prime target as a central Big 12 location. Still, it might be a bit odd for the city to host a major tournament without a single conference member located in that state.
  4. Also, if West Virginia were to join the Big 12, it would obviously play Kansas State each year. And that means a regular trip back to Manhattan for WVU coach Bob Huggins, who you’ll recall left KSU after just one season as head coach there. In the end, everything worked out for KSU: Michael Beasley and Bill Walker stayed despite Huggins’ departure, Martin continued the school’s success after they bolted for the NBA, and the program appears to be in fine shape right now. Still, it seemed like the end of the world at the time, and needless to say, Wildcat fans were devastated by his departure. Looks like they may get a chance to air their grievances soon, though.
  5. Although we missed this piece of info on Monday, it’s still worth reporting: Braeden Anderson will now attend Fresno State after failing to qualify at Kansas. The 6’9″ forward who was rated as a top-50 recruit could have gone to junior college and joined the Jayhawks as a junior. Anderson told ESPN.com, though, that he did not want to take that route. That means Bill Self will need to find another power forward on the recruiting trail, and with his track record finding talented big men, that probably won’t be much of an issue.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.25.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 25th, 2011

  1. Despite rumors that Missouri would withdraw from the Big 12 on Monday, the league’s Board of Directors meeting passed without an official decision last night. Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told the AP that MU has not yet joined the SEC, but we’ll still keep an eye on this developing story over the next few days. For now, we’ll just have to deal with those top-secret sources and the rumor mill to keep us occupied.
  2. Speaking of that rumor mill, the Kansas City Star suggests that the Notre Dame/Big 12 talk may be heating up. That would be an interesting scenario, though more so from the Fighting Irish’s standpoint. Apparently, a move to the Big 12 would require ND to also bring its national football program into the league. The Star published this article just weeks after a document mentioned the Irish as a possible candidate for the Big 12. Again, this is all speculation, but it’s pretty juicy stuff.
  3. And finally, in your last realignment news of the day: West Virginia also appears to be a top target of the Big 12, and one league official is more than thrilled at that possibility. He’s so happy, in fact, that he issued the following quote, which deserves an entire block of text: “West Virginia has better football than Missouri, better basketball than Missouri, a better budget than Missouri and more passion among its fans than Missouri. They’re better, anyway you turn ‘em. The travel’s not good (to Morgantown, W. Va) but that’s it.” Tell us how you really feel, right?
  4. If you’re interested in hearing some expert opinion on the upcoming Big 12 hoops season, check out this interview with ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla. Even without Ron Franklin by his side, Fraschilla’s one of the best commentators in the business, and he’s covered the league extensively as a color man. He admits that Kansas and Texas are the two premier programs at this point in time, but he says the major graduations and NBA defections will open the door for the rest of the league this season. That’s hardly rocket science, of course, but Fraschilla’s got an interesting perspective on things. The interview is worth a look.
  5. Billy Gillispie has probably had enough of the public eye after his tenure at Kentucky, but he gave a candid interview to the Associated Press about his troubles. Regarding his much-publicized alcohol issue, Gillispie said he “made some stupid decisions,” but he said getting back into coaching at Texas Tech has helped him cope. One of the most interesting things about this hire for Tech is Gillispie’s roots in the state of Texas as a successful former coach at UTEP and Texas A&M, and the article touches on this aspect of his hiring as well.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.14.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 14th, 2011

  1. The league released its annual preseason coaches poll Thursday afternoon, and in its final year as a Big 12 member, Texas A&M made history. For the first and last time ever, the coaches selected the Aggies to win the conference. They earned 73 points to share the honors with Kansas, who received the most first-place votes with five. Baylor and Missouri also received first-place votes, while Oklahoma and Texas Tech finished tied for last. The poll, of course, means absolutely nothing, but it’s decent fodder for us fans as we wait a few more hours for Midnight Madness to tip off.
  2. It’s also decent fodder for coaches and players: coach Bill Self and guard Tyshawn Taylor both told ESPN.com they were “surprised” at the first-place selection. The Jayhawks’ tone during the pre season has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Self even expressed some public concerns this summer to CBS Sports about how his roster is shaping up, and he’s admitted that his team has more question marks in 2011-12 than any he’s ever coached. Still, with seven straight Big 12 titles to his name, you’ve got to think Self will figure something out with this team– especially since most of the “unproven” talent consists of former blue-chip recruits.
  3. The day we’ve been waiting for since last April is finally here — the first day of practice. Unfortunately, less than half of the Big 12 teams are holding public Midnight Madness events. If you’re wondering who is having festivities, though, take a look at this CBS Sports schedule: it appears only Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor will have public practices tonight (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will have events later this month). Kudos to A&M, though, for being the only program to truly hold a practice at midnight.
  4. Rick Barnes has sent numerous forwards to the NBA during his head coaching career, and Class of 2012 big man Prince Ibeh is hoping to become the next star in the Texas frontcourt. The 6’10” center verbally pledged to the Longhorns on Thursday, giving Barnes three forwards in this particular recruiting class. Considered one of the top recruits in the nation at his position, Ibeh checks in at #54 in the Rivals.com rankings. He’s primarily known for his shot-blocking ability, so watch out for this guy in the paint during the next four years.
  5. Finally, your obligatory realignment news: Kansas City mayor Sly James wrote a letter to Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, expressing his desire for the university to stay in the Big 12. James appears most worried about his city losing the Big 12 Tournament, and who can blame him? If MU bolts for another league, it’d be pretty difficult to keep the league tournament in a state where no team competes, despite the proximity of Kansas and Kansas State. James estimates the Big 12 tourney generates about $14 million a year for Kansas City.
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