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Mapping a 20 team Big East basketball conference

The whole conference expansion conversation is tedious, especially for followers of basketball-only schools. Schools like St. John's, whose main athletic revenue creator is basketball, just aren't a big factor in the conference realignment talk.

The eyes of American college sports fans must always drift towards Texas and the southeast, where football is king, the television income is hearty, and a hungry confederacy battles to become the dominant amateur (or semi-pro?) conference in the land.

With Texas A&M now accepted into the Southeastern Conference (once the Baylor roadblock and litigation is dismissed from the Aggies' way), the SEC has 13 teams. I hear rumors about West Virginia or Missouri being the first-choice candidates; the SEC says they can stay at an unbalanced 13.

Let's say they do. Let's say Lenn Robbins' report about the Big East looking at conference expansion with teams like Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri has some legs, and the two Oklahoma schools in the Big (former) 12 decide to play with the Pacific teams.

That kind of conference armageddon could be a POSITIVE for the Big East, preserving basketball rivalries and maintaining some of what made the Big East a notable name - the hoops.

Below, I've mapped out some possible divisions that keep many of the hoops rivalries together.

From Lenn Robbins' report, here's what a 20-team conference would look like. It would be football program detritus, but it could be pretty competitive:

The Big East has studied the creation of four five-team divisions in basketball and two divisions -- East and West -- in football, The Post has learned.

In basketball it could mean each school having home-and-home games with the other four schools in its division and then playing crossover games from schools in other divisions. Some schools wouldn't play each other in a given year.

Football would split along geographical lines with Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Cincinnati, Louisville and TCU in the West Division, and UConn, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, South Florida and West Virginia in the East.

Missouri or West Virginia stand a viable chance to leave for the SEC. In that case, Iowa State becomes an available and not-atrocious target; Baylor is out there for the taking as well. No other major conference will want them either.

You know what? For basketball, at least, that's not half bad. I mapped out what the divisions would look like for hoops:

New Jack Division
Old School Division
West subdivision
Central subdivision
Mid-East subdivision
Northeast subdivision
Notre Dame
Kansas State
West Virginia
St. John's
Texas Christian
Seton Hall
South Florida
Missouri/ IA State
1 game home+away vs each team in (8 games total)
1 game vs  4 of the 5 teams in the associated Subdivision (4 games total)
1 game vs 4 of the 10 teams in the other Division, determined by coaches voting, seething anger, or Pomeroy stats (4 games total)

Preserved in this proposal are the midwestern games between the old Conference USA Rivals Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and DePaul; the Pitt/ West Virginia beef; the Syracuse/ Georgetown lovefest; the Villanova/ Pitt in-state rivalry; the New York City area programs with Providence.

The only teams that get a short shrift here are South Florida and Notre Dame. Notre Dame gets closer games but fewer chances to play to their base in the New York area. And South Florida is geographically far from the Western edge of this conference, but they are already geographically distant from everything in the Big East. What's a few more air miles?

For football purposes, the South Florida Bulls would play in the East or "Old School Division." 

Visually (feel free to move around in the map and zoom):

View Big East 20 team basketball in a larger map

That's a solid football conference, with good programs on the come-up. Louisville has had moments, and they're solid; Kansas and Kansas State struggle to remain relevant in the Big 12, but would be on more even footing here. Texas Christian and South Florida are rising programs in fertile recruiting bases - all the good players can't go to Florida and Texas.

Missouri would obviously raise the profile of the conference much more than Iowa State, but the Big East might like another midwestern team. Or they could look at Baylor or Southern Methodist as well.

It could work, right?


The Big East isn't going to toss 30 years of basketball history for a sport that just isn't that huge on the east coast, will it?

If the Big East buckles to the national realignment pressures, Syracuse and Rutgers will find homes with the Atlantic Coast or Big Ten, Louisville will go southern, Missouri will go become huge rivals with Arkansas and brawls will start in lovely Cape Girardeau over the location of the southeast Missouri border.

Meanwhile, the Big East is going to end up with the Conference of S.O.L. which Bearcats Blog and I crafted last night:

Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor, UCincinnati, UConn, South Florida, Central Florida, Memphis, East Carolina, Houston, Louisiana Tech & Southern Miss.


That's Conference USA. 

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