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Winning your new (major) conference is rare; Syracuse has healthy shot

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

The Orange are one of the best teams in the country, and best in the ACC? (USATSI)
The Orange are one of the best teams in the country, and best in the ACC? (USATSI)

Right now you can make the argument Syracuse is the best team in the country. You'd get push-back from Arizona fans, mostly, but at this point the undefeated Orange are looking pretty impressive and certainly like a top-three team, minimally. This group -- which has a freshman stud at point guard -- has beaten away Baylor, Minnesota, California, Indiana and Villanova. It's 13-0 overall heading into this weekend's ACC debut against Miami at the Carrier Dome.

Yes, Syracuse is now a member of the ACC. And it's got a good shot at winning the league; as of today, you'd figure only Duke has a reasonable chance of besting Jim Boeheim's ball club.

But here's what interesting about this season and Syracuse: If it wins the ACC regular-season title, it would become only the second team in more than 23 years to do so in its circumstance. That specific circumstance being winning a major conference in a first year of residence within said conference.

Mike Waters, who writes for the Post-Standard of Syracuse, did a terrific job compiling every instance of a team joining a major league since 1991. In total, we've had 23 programs make a leap into the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12 or Pac-8/10/12 since 1990. Basically one program per year hops into a new power conference. And the only regular-season champ in those given leagues for a first-year member was Arkansas, back in '91-92.

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said Syracuse might be better positioned than most teams that switch conferences.
"If you look at those teams, how many had been league champions in their old league in the past 10 years?'' Bilas said. "Syracuse is a power. You don't often see the power of a league switch leagues. It doesn't happen that often. Usually, teams in a power position in a league remain in that league.''
That Syracuse would open ACC play against Miami is somewhat ironic. Miami played in the Big East from 1994 to 2004 before leaving for the ACC. So Miami has been the newbie in two power leagues.
Since 1990, the ACC has added four schools -- Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. Florida State made its ACC debut in 1992. The Seminoles went 11-5 and finished second in the league, but Florida State still has never won the ACC's regular-season title and it wasn't until 2012 for the Seminoles to win the ACC Tournament's trophy.

Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, the other newcomers to the ACC, are 12-1 and 9-4, respectively this season. And, via Waters' story, here's the list of those who took on the new challenge and how they fared in their first season in a major conference.

Team (conference)YearRecordFinish
Florida State (ACC)1991-9211-52nd
Virginia Tech (ACC)2004-058-8t-4th
Miami (ACC)2004-057-9t-6th
Boston College (ACC)2005-0611-53rd
West Virginia (Big 12)2012-136-128th
Penn State (Big Ten)1992-932-1611th
Nebraska (Big Ten)2011-124-14t-11th
Miami (Big East)1991-921-1710th
Rutgers (Big East)1995-966-126th in BE7
West Virginia (Big East)1995-967-114th in BE6
Notre Dame (Big East)1995-964-146th in BE6
Virginia Tech (Big East)2000-012-147th in East
Marquette (Big East)2005-0610-6t-4th
Cincinnati (Big East)2005-068-88th
Louisville (Big East)2005-066-10t-11th
DePaul (Big East)2005-065-11t-13th
South Florida (Big East)2005-061-1516th
Colorado (Pac-12)2011-1211-7t-5th
Utah (Pac-12)2011-123-1511th
Arkansas (SEC)1991-9213-31st
South Carolina (SEC)1991-923-136th in East
Missouri (SEC)2012-1311-7t-5th
Texas A&M (SEC)2012-137-1111th

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