The options had been virtually endless.
There was, as recently as a day or two ago, no shortage of speculation that the Big 12 (or what remained of it) and the Big East were set to combine in an effort to save both leagues.
West Virginia was believed to be history in the Big East.
Texas was thought by many to be gone to the Pac-12.
Now that the Pac-12 has opted to stand pat -- at least for the time being -- we take a crack at what the college basketball landscape will look like in 2014:
The league is at 14 following the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Commissioner John Swofford comes out of this -- thus far -- as the King of Conference Realignment, at least on the hoops front. We've also swapped out Virginia Tech (SEC) with UConn, which is an upgrade from a basketball standpoint. At the end of the day, this league is clearly tops in college hoops circles with Duke, UNC, UConn, Syracuse and Pittsburgh leading the way.
1. Duke: Until the day Coach K calls it quits, these guys stand above everyone else.
2. North Carolina: The Tar Heels are a close second. Real close.
3. UConn: The Huskies have made a huge turnaround in the past year, but are still vulnerable in life after Calhoun.
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4. Syracuse: When Jim Boeheim leaves, these guys already have a plan. Hand the baton to Mike Hopkins -- and he's more than capable.
5. Pittsburgh: Haven't gotten to the Final Four, but Jamie Dixon gives them stability.
6. Maryland: Mark Turgeon has already begun to assemble talent in a job that is considered one of the Top 10 in the country due to support and proximity to talent.
7. Florida State: The 'Noles were considered the third-best program in the league -- until UConn, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Mark Turgeon came into the ACC.
8. Virginia: Tony Bennett just needed time to get in his "own" players.
9. N.C. State: There's a history of success here, but Mark Gottfried still has a long way to go.
10. Georgia Tech: There's plenty of talent down in Atlanta. The only problem? Brian Gregory didn't inherit much of it.
11. Clemson: Brad Brownell is a heck of an X's and O's guy, but this is a football school -- and the key question here is whether Brownell can recruit.
12. Wake Forest: It's been a train wreck over the past few years, but Skip Prosser proved you can win at a high level in Winston-Salem.
13. Miami: Jim Larranga had a difficult job when he took over. Now he can thank Nevin Shapiro for making it even more difficult going forward.
14. Boston College: It's a pro sports town. Steve Donahue may be able to coach, but the question remains whether he can recruit amongst the big boys.
With the Big 12 sticking together, that means the football schools are able to remain in the Big East. The league lost Syracuse and Pittsburgh -- and we've also got UConn heading to the ACC. That means it'll have to add a few football schools as replacements and we've gone with Central Florida, Houston, Navy and Air Force. Also, TCU is scheduled to join the league this season. Eight basketball-only schools remain: Notre Dame, St. John's, Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul. While not as powerful as it was, it's still a solid hoops league.
1. Louisville: Rick Pitino, the facilities, support and tradition make it numero uno.
2. Villanova: Jay Wright has brought the program to where he's fending kids off to commit these days.
3. Georgetown: The Hoyas will be down this year, but there's still a history here and plenty of kids in the area.
4. West Virginia: Just check Bob Huggins' track record since he took over in Morgantown.
5. Marquette: Basketball-crazed and a terrific young coach.
6. St. John's: The program has been down, but Steve Lavin has the Red Storm on the rise -- and he's able to sell Madison Square Garden.
7. Notre Dame: Mike Brey has found his niche and the Irish have been a mainstay in NCAA tourney of late.
8. Rutgers: Mike Rice has already started to assemble talent -- and the home-court advantage can be impressive once they get it going.
9. Cincinnati: The question is whether Mick Cronin can keep it going.
10. Providence: Ed Cooley can recruit -- and the Friars have plenty of support.
11. Central Florida: Terrific campus and a guy in Donnie Jones who can both recruit and coach.
12. Seton Hall: Kevin Willard needs to get some players -- or else they will be yearning for the Days of Gonzo.
13. Houston: James Dickey has already made strides on the recruiting trail -- and it's a fertile recruiting ground in Houston.
14. DePaul: Oliver Purnell has his work cut out for him -- but he's got Chicago.
15. South Florida: Stan Heath needs more guys like Dominique Jones.
16. TCU: I don't envy Jim Christian.
|The Jayhawks and Bill Self plus the Longhorns will keep the Big 12 relevant in hoops. (Getty Images)|
1. Kansas: The Jayhawks may be down this year, but KU has dominated the league and also possess the history and tradition.
2. Texas: Ever been to Austin? It's a gold mine -- and not just for football, either.
3. Kansas State: Love the job Frank Martin has done -- and he's done it in Manhattan freaking Kansas.
4. Baylor: Scott Drew can get players -- and that isn't likely to change.
5. Missouri: Frank Haith inherited a Top 25 team, but it'll be tough to keep it at that level -- especially with Nevin Shapiro's allegations.
6. Oklahoma State: Travis Ford has been able to get a few big-time players, but there's just not enough in the tank.
7. Oklahoma: It'll take Lon Kruger some time, but he can coach -- and the Sooners have won in the past.
8. BYU: This isn't the Mountain West or the WCC -- and Jimmer Fredette isn't walking back through that door.
9. Iowa State: The Mayor loves his transfers, but there's a reason all these guys didn't work out at their first stops.
10. Texas Tech: Billy Clyde Gillispie will improve the talent, but it's still Lubbock, Texas.
Jim Delaney and the league added Nebraska for this year, which doesn't do a whole lot on the basketball front. In fact, it hurts the conference since the Cornhuskers are either at the bottom or right near it in terms of programs. The Big Ten is at a dozen teams and it's considered a strong basketball league as long as guys like Tom Izzo, Thad Matta and Bo Ryan are in it.
1. Michigan State: As long as Tom Izzo is in East Lansing, the Spartans remain in front of Ohio State.
2. Ohio State: Thad Matta has it rolling. He knows how to get players -- and there are plenty of them in Ohio.
3. Wisconsin: Bo Ryan is consistent. The Badgers just win.
4. Indiana: Tom Crean hasn't won enough, but it's still IU. There's tradition, support and tons of talent in the area -- and Crean has locked up a bunch of them.
5. Michigan: John Beilein can coach and Michigan State can't get everyone in the state.
6. Illinois: They have rabid fans and there is plenty of talent to pluck from in the state.
7. Purdue: Tough job, but Matt Painter has done a tremendous job. New facility will help.
8. Minnesota: Tubby Smith is proven and there is enough talent in the state.
9. Iowa: Fran McCaffery has to get players. He got a local big man, but it's still a difficult task to win in Iowa City.
10. Penn State: Pat Chambers will bring energy, but it's still a football school.
11. Northwestern: Bill Carmody has done about as much as you can do in Evanston, Illinois.
12. Nebraska: I feel bad for Doc Sadler. He can coach, but there are no players in his state -- and no one cares about Cornhusker hoops.
The league certainly appeared on the verge of expanding to 16, but Larry Scott put out the memo on Tuesday night that the conference was sticking at 12. That meant no Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. The league certainly didn't improve itself with the addition of Utah and Colorado for this season, but the only way it regains its cache is with the success of UCLA and Arizona -- which should come a year from now.
1. UCLA: Ben Howland will soon have a renovated arena, still has the tradition and there are plenty of players in his backyard.
2. Arizona: Sean Miller has quickly gotten the Wildcats back with his recruiting prowess.
3. Washington: Lorenzo Romar has found a way to keep most of the local talent home -- and he also sells a style that kids love.
4. California: Mike Montgomery has proven he can really, really coach -- and that's what separates this job from some of the others below.
5. USC: Location, arena and being able to sell a former NBA coach gives the Trojans the nod despite fact they are a football school.
6. Stanford: While some look at it as a drawback, it's academic profile can also be a major asset.
7. Oregon: Dana Altman can coach and having Phil Knight and Nike in your backyard certainly helps.
8. Utah: It's a niche job, but Rick Majerus showed you can get it done in Salt Lake.
9. Arizona State: Herb Sendek was fortunate with James Harden, but the talent level just isn't what it needs to be in Tempe.
10. Oregon State: Craig Robinson overachieved immediately, but the bottom line is this is a mediocre program -- at best.
11. Washington State: This is a tough job anyway -- and now Ken Bone will have to do it without Klay Thompson.
12. Colorado: Not much talent resides in the state and there's not much history here, either.
With the addition of Texas A&M, the league improved from a hoops standpoint. New Aggies coach Billy Kennedy inherited a strong program from Mark Turgeon and he's already proven he can lure players to College Station. With Mike Slive needing a 14th member, we're banking on the fact that Virginia Tech is the choice. Seth Greenberg's Hokies aren't a powerhouse, but he's had them knocking on the door of the NCAA tourney the last few years in the ACC -- and that profile should fare well in the SEC.
1. Kentucky: John Calipari and Lexington. This one can't even be argued.
2. Florida: Billy Donovan has won a couple of national titles in Gainesville.
3. Arkansas: Mike Anderson was in Fayetteville when Nolan Richardson had it going. He'll get it going again -- with a strong recruiting class left from John Pelphrey.
4. Vanderbilt: Kevin Stallings is a heck of a coach, but this isn't an easy job.
5. Tennessee: Bruce Pearl has proven it can be done, but who knows with Cuonzo Martin.
6. Alabama: Anthony Grant has it going and the Crimson Tide have enjoyed success in the past.
7. Mississippi State: Rick Stansbury has attracted plenty of talent to Starkville over the years.
8. Texas A&M: Billy Kennedy inherited a Top 25 team and he and his staff have already done well recruiting.
9. Georgia: Ton of talent in the state and Mark Fox can coach.
10. Virginia Tech: Blacksburg is a difficult place to recruit; it's also a tough place for opponents to play.
11. South Carolina: Darrin Horn has a difficult task ahead.
12. LSU: You need to lock down the state, something Trent Johnson has yet to do.
13. Mississippi: Tough job and Andy Kennedy has done as well as he could with the lack of support.
14. Auburn: Tony Barbee should upgrade the talent, but history suggests Tigers are dead last.