Posted on: September 22, 2011 1:49 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 9:47 am
By Matt Norlander and Chip Patterson
Conference realignment has temporarily slowed down. With Texas A&M leaving the Big 12, and Syracuse making a move to the ACC with Pittsburgh, it seems we have seen most of the moves for 2011. But the threat of a complete shift in the college landscape got us at CBSSports.com thinking: "How will this all look in 2014?"
We selected that end date because that is when the current agreement between the BCS and the AQ conferences expires. At that point, each conference will be re-evaluated to determine its status as an automatic qualifier for the Bowl Championship Series. In a meeting of the minds between the college football and college basketball writers and bloggers, we mapped what we believe to be the most likely landscape for the six major conferences in 2014 for both sports. For some explanations on how the moves have/might come to be you can check out these realignment columns from Brett McMurphy and Jeff Goodman.
With the future conference rosters set, we took on the task of ranking the six leagues in our future conference power rankings. Here's the hoops angle and power rankings; Chip looked at the football side at the Eye on College Football.
Based on the projected movements, here are the CBSSports.com Future Conference Power Rankings:
1. BIG TEN (FOOTBALL RANK: 2, BASKETBALL RANK: 2) - One of our criteria for the joint power rankings was stability, and it is hard to get more stable than the oldest Division I conference. From a football perspective they already had a history of greatness on their side, and then in their most recent expansion boosted their stats even more with the addition of Nebraska. By 2014 Ohio State and Michigan will be out from the cloud of uncertainty in football, joining the Cornhuskers, Michigan State, and Wisconsin to lead the Big Ten elite.
Norlander referred to Indiana as a "sleeping giant" in basketball and I think he's absolutely correct. The Big Ten fields the second-most NCAA tournament bids in this future conference landscape, only trailing the ACC. Tom Izzo hasn't discussed retirement anytime soon, and the Spartans will lead the way on the court while a slew of football powers will try to end the SEC's streak of national championships. The reason Delany is not stressed about quantity is because this conference does have the most quality. -- Chip Patterson
2. SEC (FOOTBALL RANK: 1, BASKETBALL RANK: 6) - You see the power that football has in our overall conference rankings evidenced right here. Because for as amazing as the Southeastern Conference is on the field, it’s downright dour on the maple. No matter, the league is arguably the most stable of any conference because it’s so comfortable with its identity. Winning half a hundred football titles will do that. The SEC will continue to dictate the tempo and story of college football so long as its storied programs keep outrunning the rest of the country with that Es Eee Cee Speed.
Kentucky can carry the load in hoops, and all will be well. –- Matt Norlander
3. ACC (FOOTBALL RANK: 5, BASKETBALL RANK: 1) - From a football perspective, the ACC is adding three schools that combine for only three Top 25 finishes in the last decade. Additionally Virginia Tech's projected exit takes away four of the last seven conference championships. But in hoops? The expansion gives them 9 of the last 13 national champions and arguably five of the top programs in the nation. The increase in membership to 14 schools also adds stability to the conference, should there eventually be a shift to the 16 team superconference model. Losing Virginia Tech is a huge blow to the conference's football strength, but that fall-out is overshadowed by the new dominance in basketball. The combination puts them in the middle of the road for both sports, but opposite ends of the spectrum in each. -- CP
4. PAC-12 (FOOTBALL RANK: 3, BASKETBALL RANK: 4) - The Pac-12 is poised to eventually climb higher on this list thanks to its leadership and foresight into how to expand its brand and make loads of billions in the next decade. For now, the conference falls fourth in our overall rankings because its across-the-board quality in football and basketball, while solid, lacks the true dominance the SEC has in football, the ACC in basketball, and the utter balance the Big Ten owns in both.
But the league is secure. That we know. And no matter what happens down the road with conference tectonic-plate shifting, the West Coast will always need and demand representation. The Pac-12 will never fold. It may change names, but the conference will exist so long as we’re turning on the lights and rolling the ball out there. -- MN
5. BIG 12 (FOOTBALL RANK: 3, BASKETBALL RANK: 5) - The stability of this conference relies on Texas and Oklahoma. As the last several weeks have shown us, that is not a very comforting situation for the rest of the conference. But Longhorn Network be damned, this conference survived the Realignment Scare of 2011. With schools reportedly content with a 10-team football roster, BYU will bring some intrigue with their first opportunity in a BCS conference. The exit of Texas A&M does cause the conference to lose some of the traditional rivalries college football fans have come to know and love, but the Cougars will have a chance to carve their niche in the conference's history. Kansas is the cornerstone of Big 12 basketball, but it has been hard for any other teams to remain dominant over an extended period of time. Texas and Oklahoma will have to play nice with the new leadership in the conference office for this conference to survive past 2014. -- CP
6. BIG EAST (FOOTBALL RANK: 6, BASKETBALL RANK: 3) - Just as the SEC hangs near the top of our power rankings because of football, the Big East lives down below because its football side is not only dismal, it’s on the verge of barely qualifying as a major-conference worthy. Plenty would argue that’s already the case. And with Syracuse and Pitt now gone, in addition to the fact we’re envisioning UConn bolting for the ACC any time now, the basketball product takes a tremendous hit.
While the Big 12 and the Big East really seemed to wobble for a week or so there, the possibility of both leagues collapsing into each other becoming more likely until the Pac-12 stopped that, we rank the Big East lower than the Big 12 based off football alone. Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman talked about with me on the podcast Wednesday, and we discussed when the Big East will eventually come to accept that it’s not a football league, it’s never been a football league, and it’s never going to be one. And no matter how good your basketball schools are, if you can’t even look worthwhile compared to the rest of the big boys, then you probably shouldn’t even be at the table. -- MN
Photos: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: September 22, 2011 1:23 pm
By Matt Norlander
The rattle and hum of conference realignment hasn’t fully died off, but we are seeing promising signs of a halt. At least for the short-term. With that in mind, we’ve taken poetic liberty here at CBSSports.com and projected out the six –- that’s right, we’ve still got six -– major conferences in a form we believe they can or will coagulate to.
We want make the most of this team-juggling imbroglio by ranking the six big leagues, best to worst, purely from a hoops perspective. (Quick, someone say “footprint” and “money grab” again!)
So, here’s the deal. By our best guess, no conferences are doomed … for now. We have done some expanding here, some shrinking there, and in the Big East, we’ve gone ahead and completely jumbled up its arrangement. Here are our projections for further conference realignment once this current wave of transition is complete.
With that, we’ve got six conferences ranging in size from 12 to 16 programs. So, which is strongest? Deepest? Most top-heavy? Let’s take a look. You absolutely should overreact and get bent out of shape because over this, of course. I’m ranking the figmental leagues by putting value on NCAA tournament appearances, Final Fours made and national titles won in the past 20 years. Why? Because those are the things that get coaches fired. Those are the metrics used to determine which programs are great; are good; are average; are sub-par; are DePaul.
The vital stats from the past 20 seasons is a large enough data set to justify rankings and broad program statistical evaluations. Also, I have ignored the NCAA’s toothless vacated-seasons penalties and counted all tournament and Final Four appearances from that time period.
As for my somewhat-subjective “top-tier” qualification, I’ll simply say, if a program is constantly bringing in four- and five star recruits; if it’s winning national titles or reaching Final Fours; if it’s making the majority of NCAA tournaments the past two decades, it’s top-tier.
1) ACC. Eleven national titles, 24 Final Fours, 151 tourney appearances (10.8 per team). Five top-tier programs.
Unequivocally becomes the best conference in basketball with its new neighbors. No other conference even comes close in Final Fours the past two decades. The addition of Syracuse and UConn gives the ACC five of the top 10 programs in the nation when those programs are performing at their apex. That alone makes the conference the best, let alone untouchable at the top -- in the history of the sport. Pittsburgh is also a riser, and arguably a top-20 program right now.
There is a precipitous drop beyond Wake, Georgia Tech and Pitt, though. In researching this, I was shocked to discover how infrequently N.C. State and Virginia Tech had made the Big Dance since the ’91-92 season. Then again, every league needs little brothers.
2) Big Ten. One national title, 13 Final Fours, 116 tourney appearances (9.7 per team). Four top-tier programs.
I’m going with the Big Ten at No. 2 because its dense in quality, has a sleeping national giant in Indiana, and has a higher teams-in-tournament average than those below it. Perhaps without coincidence, it has the second-highest number of top-tier teams. Don’t consider Big Ten upper-echelon when it comes to basketball? Time to reevaluate.
What really keeps the Big Ten above everyone else: the lack of fat. Yeah, the bottom three or four teams aren’t cutting-edge, but no conference can find that in its cellar. The absence of stale add-ons keeps this league stronger.
3) Big East. No national titles, six Final Fours, 108 tourney appearances (6.8 per team). Two top-tier programs.
The Big East takes a massive hit by losing Syracuse, Connecticut and Pittsburgh. But I'm still only moving it from first -- where it stands today -- down to third. Even if this conference is on shaky ground and doomed to one day part with its affiliation in football, Big East basketball is never dying. And it's always going to be around fertile recruiting beds. The league will be relevant so long as it continues to survive, and I think it always will.
The lack of a national title the past two decades is dampening, though. Just goes to show you how vital Syracuse, Pitt and UConn were/are to the Big East. Still, everyone from Louisville to West Virginia to Villanova is nationally relevant right now (and Cincinnati's been to 15 tourneys the past 20 years). These are programs with Final Four runs in them nearly each year. The Big East’s problem is all the garbage covering the floor. Providence, Seton Hall, Central Florida, South Florida, TCU, DePaul: these are all non-factors and really bring the cache of the league down. Bigger is most certainly not better, but may be necessary for the sake of survival.
4) Pac-12. Two national titles, nine Final Fours, 102 tourney appearances (8.5 per team). Three top-tier programs.
UCLA and Arizona carried along the Pac-10 for years. Had Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State come ot the conference, then it's third-best league, no question. But this is still a group that's been lousy as of late, one that's failed to populate the NCAA tournament in recent years. The Pac-12 has potential, especially with Larry Scott as commish, to thrive. But from a basketball perspective, both in product and recruiting, the league doesn't have as much to work with.
It can pass the Big East in the coming years if one or two teams outside UCLA and Arizona really makes a run of it. Until then, the mediocrity as of late keeps it in the bottom half.
5) Big 12. One national title, seven Final Fours, 109 tourney appearances (10.9 per team). Two top-tier teams.
A tourney-per-team ratio higher than even the ACC! But that's what you get when you're league only has 10 teams, and one of those teams is a top-three all-time program. And that's why the Big 12 has to be here. There's too much instability. Yes, Kansas is an amazing program. Texas is certainly a powerhouse, too. Baylor and Kansas State are chic right now, and perhaps those two coaches can build legacies at schools that had none in regard to good basketball prior to their arrival. But, overall, the Big 12 sits on topsoil, not the granite and rock of the earth. And when you get down to it, this league's size hurts it, makes it susceptible.
6) SEC. Five national titles, 13 Final Fours, 109 tourney appearances (7.8 per team). Two top-tier teams.
The SEC gets the lowest ranking and least respect because, inversely, they’re so much interest in football. Loving two women at once is nearly as impossible as having dominant, tradition-laden, nationally appealing football and basketball teams across the board. The SEC has put its stake in football. It’s more than OK with that decision.
But from a basketball standpoint, there’s not a lot of inspiration. Arkansas isn’t half the program it should be … and it’s third here. What's that say? It says exactly what you know: the league will always be inferior, long-term, even if it houses arguably the best program in the history of the sport. Virginia Tech and Texas A&M as hoops additions don't bring much. In fact, they further dilute the product in many ways. The Hokies have only made two NCAA tournaments the past 20 years, and A&M is one of the most boring TV products major college hoops has to offer. Take Kentucky away, and I can’t even include this conference with the rest above it. The SEC's deal with the devil is football. Again, it's a deal they gladly live with every day.Photo: AP
Posted on: September 21, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 4:42 pm
By Matt Norlander
With his school safely through the foyer of the Pac-12's new house, second-year Colorado coach Tad Boyle is thrilled his conference isn't letting anyone else through the door.
"Selfishly, as the head coach at Colorado, staying at 12’s a good, good thing," he said. "I don’t think it would’ve been the end of the world if we expanded, but I'm happy where we are."
Colorado and Utah made the jump last summer, the Buffaloes leaving the Big 12 and the Utes abandoning the Mountain West. Imagine that, though: the Pac-12 welcomes in Colorado but denies Oklahoma and Texas. Strange times, indeed. Boyle openly admitted to being nothing but an afterthought when it came to these decisions. Still, he's as optimistic about the conference's future as anyone inside it.
“I’ve got 100 percent confidence in our conference’s office," Boyle said. "Larry Scott has done an unbelievable job since he got here. Those are decisions that are obviously made way above coaches’ heads and even above athletic directors’ heads. That’s for our university presidents to look at for the league as a whole."
With no former Big 12 brethren heading over, why is Colorado better off? Boyle's not a fan of the voluminous leagues that do exist and still threaten to form throughout the college landscape down the road.
“Any time you have fewer teams in your league, it’s easier for you to differentiate yourself," he said. "When you get into 16-, 18- and 20-team leagues, sometimes you’re not even playing everybody, and they’re in your conference. I don’t know how that’s even a true league. A league means a relatively balanced schedule. Even with a 12-team league in basketball you can’t play everyone home-and-home.”
Boyle said he didn't have any expectations regarding what the conference would do. Though he's happy it dodged going to 16, he never cared throughout the past month or so, when speculation and predictions came from the media by the minute.
“If I read everything’s that written in the media, I would've believed it’s going to 16. But I didn’t spend a lot of time and a lot of effort on that because, until something happens, I like to spend my days and my time and energy that are going to help Colorado basketball get better,” Boyle said, smoothly tossing in a PR-flavored endorsement for his program, which could have some rough days ahead.
Colorado finished its final season in the Big 12 last year by going 24-14. But Doyle's inaugural year with the Buffs was blessed by having Alec Burks on the roster. The sophomore sensation left for the NBA this past spring. In the team's first Pac-12 campaign, it's not likely to be as smooth or fortuitous. The team loses 75 percent of its scoring. Five seniors and Burks are gone. Much re-tooling will take place.
"I don’t know if I can with a straight face tell you we’re going to be better," he said. "I do know our program is headed in the right direction. But we lost so much."
The team gets back a big piece in Shane Harris-Tunks, a 6-11 player coming off a right ACL injury from last November. Additionally, Carlon Brown will likely lead the team in scoring. Recognize the name? He played with Utah for three years and was the team's leading scorer. He only has one year of eligibility, but the Buffs will soak up as much offense from him as possible this year.
“Carlin was a perfect fit for what we’re going to be losing,” Boyle said.
Sabatino Chen, a University of Denver transfer, is another player who will pick up minutes. On the freshman front, Boyle did get two L.A. guards to commit to living in Boulder, Co. Dinwiddie (what a name!) Spencer is 6-4 and plays the point. Askia Booker is a 6-1 combo guard. Both will work their way into the rotation by mid-year, Boyle surmised.
Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: September 21, 2011 12:56 pm
By Matt Norlander
The Pac-12 is staying put, and that means there's a whole lot of confusion going on. Naturally, conversation must be had, so Goodman and Parrish hopped on the podcast with me today. Topics addressed:
Posted on: September 21, 2011 9:05 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 9:07 am
By Jeff Goodman
The Pac-12 may have just saved the Big 12.
League commissioner Larry Scott announced late last night that the Pac-12 would remain a 12-team conference.
"While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve," Scott said in a statement. "With new landmark TV agreements and plans to launch our innovative television networks, we are going to focus solely on these great assets, our strong heritage and the bright future in front of us."
There was a possibility that Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were headed from the Big 12 to the Pac-12, which would have triggered wholesale changes on the conference landscape. That would have left the Big 12 extremely vulnerable with just Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Baylor and Iowa State.
Certainly, Texas and its new Longhorn Network had something to do with the fact that the Pac-12 opted against expansion. The league was adamant that the revenue would be split equally.
However, this decision by the Pac-12 doesn't mean this game of league musical chairs is over. They'll be more maneuvering, whether it be the ACC and Big East adding a couple more teams, the SEC grabbing one or even the Pac-12 - down the road - opting to expand.
But it's no longer complete mayhem.
The Pac-12 is still a league on solid footing without the four schools under consideration. Obviously, Texas would have heightened its profile - but the financial risk didn't outweigh the reward.
The Big 12 has nine members after Nebraska and Colorado already left and Texas A&M is headed to the SEC. It will likely try and pluck another school in order to get to 10.
The Big East would then likely stay together as a football-basketball league despite the impending losses of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The conference sits at 15 schools with the addition of TCU, but there's still a possibility that a couple of its members - UConn and Rutgers being the prime candidates - go elsewhere.
So, while there's still movement on the horizon, the Pac-12's decision brought a little clarity to an arena in which it's clearly needed.
Posted on: September 20, 2011 8:49 am
By Jeff Goodman
The Pac-12 - or whatever the league will wind up being called at the end of this re-alignment fiasco - is back.
Well, not quite yet.
But it will be.
When Kyle Anderson opted to travel 3,000 or so miles away and chose UCLA on Monday night, it not only signified that Ben Howland and the Bruins will return to national relevancy.
But also the the league on the west coast, the one that has been college hoops' whipping boy over the last few years, will have its flagship programs - UCLA and Arizona - back.
UCLA can win a national title in 2012-13.
Arizona can win the national title in 2012-13.
Washington can also contend for the Final Four in 2012-13.
That's three elite-level teams.
Obviously, things need to fall into place.
Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1 player in the country, committing to the Bruins put them squarely in the national championship picture. But even if he doesn't show up, Howland still could trot out a powerful group that includes a frontline of Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson and the Wear Twins - with Anderson, point guard Dominic Artis, Tyler Lamb and Jordan Adams on the perimeter.
That's pending Nelson and Smith don't leave after this year.
Arizona coach Sean Miller has stockpiled two consecutive recruiting classes to the point that he's also got Arizona to where the Wildcats will considered an elite team a year from now. This year's group is led by guards Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson while he'll add two of the top big men in the nation in 2012: Brandon Ashley and Grant Jarrett. Arizona is also in a battle with Kansas for talented 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski.
Then you've got Washington. Lorenzo Romar's starting unit could look like this in 2012-13: Senior point guard Abdul Gaddy, junior wings Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox, talented sophomore Tony Wroten and senior big man Aziz N'Diaye.
There hasn't been much reason lately to watch west coast basketball. Sure, Arizona went to the Elite Eight last year - but the Wildcats overachieved. The only times I went out were to see The Jimmer and/or San Diego State.
The last time I was in Pauley Pavilion was when Lute Olson was roaming the opposing sideline. It seems like an eternity ago.
My guess is I'll be there again in 2012 - and it won't be my only Pac-12 destination, either.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 1:03 pm
By Matt Norlander
Who better to have on Monday's podcast than the man responsible for so much of the newsbreaking over the weekend? Our Brett McMurphy hopped on with me to talk about his reporting of the ACC/Big East mess and who/what/why is next. This conference talk is as much about reaction as it is prediction, so we ride both sides of that seesaw.
For instance, isn't the SEC a little too quiet right now? The conference sits at 13 teams. That can't last for long. Is the Pac-12 going to become the Pac-16 by week's end? How is Texas holding all of this up, and is the Longhorn Network just an albatross at this point?
McMurphy's blog should be in your daily rotation at this point. And follow him on Twitter. Guy's practically doubled his follower count in the past week. Love it. The 'Stache is mighty powerful these days.
If you please, here's the link for iTunes subscription. The podcast goes up a few minutes after it's live here on the blog, so be sure to subscribe. Or, if you're just hanging out, click the player below and enjoy.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:10 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 9:25 am
In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.
By Jeff Goodman
Some have begun to throw Dana Altman's Oregon Ducks in the equation for the upper-echelon for the Pac-12, along with the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Cal.
Altman has eight new faces - including a trio of fairly well-known transfers - and after talking to him following the team's recent trip to Italy, it's clear he isn't quite ready to bestow those expectations on his squad.
"We've got a long ways to go," Altman said.
What Altman learned: "I don't know if there was one major thing, but the overall sense is that we've got to improve our passing and catching. Our skill level has to get better. Our guys have got to get familiar with our scheme and what we want to do. Basically, we found out that we've got a lot of work to do."
Who stood out: Jabari (Brown) scored the ball well for us and was the leading scorer on the trip. He also averaged about five rebounds a game. The first three games he scored fairly easy and then the scouting report got passed around and he forced a few shots the last two games. But for a freshman, it was a decent start. E.J. (Singler) was solid and freshman Brett Kingman came off the bench and made shots. He was 11-of-24 from 3 and really shot it well."
What is the biggest concern: "Just trying to get everyone on the same page, blending in the new guys."
On the expectations some have placed on his team: "I didn't know they were there with all the new guys we have. Cal is going to be good with all the guys they have back, Stanford has a lot back, UCLA lost a couple of good players, but they have a lot back - look how Arizona finished last year. We've got a lot of new players. If Devoe (Joseph) and Olu can make a quick transition and Tony Woods can get the rust off and get back into shape. ..."
- Only five players return from last year's team: starters E.J. Singler and Garrett Sim, part-time starters Tyrone Nared and Johnathan Loyd and Jeremy Jacob - who only played 17 games due to a knee injury.
- Altman sounded concerned with who will pick up the leadership role following the graduation of seniors Joevan Catron and Jay-R Strowbridge. "They got everyone else to play," Altman said. "Everyone knew Joevan was all about team - and that's why they followed him."
- Altman admitted that he has upgraded both the depth and athleticism. Remember, there were plenty of defections after he replaced Dana Altman - guys like Michael Dunigan (overseas), Matt Humphrey (BC) and Josh Crittle (Central Florida) left and Altman had nine scholarship guys a year ago.
- Altman said that one-year transfer Olu Ashaolu is as adept a 6-foot-6 rebounder as he's been around, but that the ex-Louisiana Tech forward will need to be patient and work on developing his perimeter game.
- Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph didn't play on the trip because he isn't eligible until after the first six games. The only other player who didn't play was freshman Bruce Barron, who suffered a knee injury in a pickup game this summer. "He'll be fine for the start of practice," Altman said.
- Altman said that Woods, the Wake Forest transfer who was kicked out of school following an incident with his girlfriend, needs to develop a go-to move in the post. "He was easy to work with on the trip and has tremendous upside," Altman said. "He's a talented young man."
- Altman said he doesn't want to get into the habit of taking "quick fixes" such as Joseph and Ashaolu. "Would you like to do that on a regular basis? No. But we were in a situation where we wanted to compete and we had already taken four freshmen. Sometimes adding six or seven freshmen isn't good, either."
- Altman's team went 2-3 on the trip, but he spoke highly of the competition. The Ducks played pro teams in Italy - many of them boasting former NBA players.
- Jeremy Jacob, who was injured much of last season, is healthy - according to Altman. "He's in really good shape and should help us this season. He can score on the block and plays physical."