Conference realignment is a continuously hot topic in college sports, with the potential for massive shakeups seemingly bubbling beneath the surface at all times. In reality, big shifts — like the massive restructuring earlier this decade — are rare.

But there are smaller shakeups on an annual basis. And while they may not register on college football's radar, they almost always carry implications for college basketball. 

Take Northern Kentucky, for example. The Norse joined Division I as members of the Atlantic Sun in 2012 and only became eligible for the NCAA Tournament in 2016. They have already moved to the Horizon League, qualified for two NCAA Tournaments and produced a rising star in the coaching profession in John Brannen, who is now at Cincinnati.

The school's moves to Division I and then to a new league generated little national attention at the time but have generated a tangible impact on the sport. As we prepare for the 2020-21 athletic calendar — whatever that ultimately looks like — here are the college hoops realignments going down in the sport.


New conference: Big East
Old conference: AAC

UConn's first season after the dissolution of the old Big East brought it a national championship. But it did not set the tone for a long and fruitful relationship between the Huskies and the American Athletic Conference. After seven years in the AAC, the Huskies are going back to a drastically different Big East. The old rivalry with Syracuse won't be there anymore. But the chance for the Huskies to compete in one of the nation's top basketball conferences will be. There is no question this is a step up in basketball prestige for a proud program that appears to be on its way up again under Dan Hurley.

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New conference: America East
Old conference: ASUN

NJIT set an NCAA record by losing 51 straight games during its transition to Division I from 2007 to 2009. But the Highlanders grew into a competitive program by posting a 34-42 league record during five seasons in the ASUN. Now, they are off to the America East. Geographically, the move makes sense for NJIT as playing in the ASUN meant the Highlanders spent a lot of time and money traveling through the southeast. In the America East, they'll be able to take reasonable bus rides to many games while facing only marginally tougher competition.

Robert Morris

New conference: Horizon League
Old conference: Northeast Conference

The Colonials are moving up in the mid-major world after more than three decades in the Northeast Conference that saw the program qualify for six NCAA Tournaments. Robert Morris closed its tenure in the league on top with a conference tournament championship that would have propelled the program to yet another Big Dance appearance if the event hadn't been cancelled. Now, it's onto the Horizon League, which has seen its automatic qualifier secure No. 14 seeds in the past two NCAA Tournaments, compared to the NEC, which has seen its last two champions get No. 16 seeds.

Purdue-Fort Wayne

New conference: Horizon League
Old conference: Summit League

After 13 seasons in the Summit League, it's onto a new Horizon for Purdue-Fort Wayne. The Mastodons put together some nice seasons in the Summit League but never qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Getting there from the Horizon League won't be any easier as the league expands from 10 to 12 by also adding Robert Morris. The move makes great logistical sense for the school for Purdue-Fort Wayne, though, as the program will no longer have to travel to the Dakotas.


New conference: Big West
Old conference: WAC

The Roadrunners will be traveling shorter distances now as they leave the WAC and its geographic diversity for the Big West, which is comprised entirely of California teams with the exception of Hawaii. CSU-Bakersfield won the WAC Tournament title in 2016 and the regular season championship in 2017 but struggled to an 18-28 league record over the past three seasons.

Kansas City

New conference: Summit League
Old conference: WAC

Missouri-Kansas City finished with a winning record three times during its seven seasons in the WAC, which constituted an upgrade in performance over the last several years of its first run in the Summit League. But the move did not pay big enough dividends to keep the Roos from going back. They are rejoining the Summit League, which is better suited geographically for the school.


The following teams are reclassifying from Division II to Division I and will play a Division I schedule in 2020-21, but won't be eligible for the NCAA Tournament until 2025:


New conference: ASUN 

 The 2011 NCAA Division II national champions are taking their game to the next level after making three additional Final Four appearances since their Division II title. The Louisville-based university will join the Atlantic Sun and start traveling to the south and east for most of its games after playing mostly against Midwestern schools in the Great Lakes Valley Conference while in Division II.

Dixie State

New conference: WAC

The Trailblazers have been regulars in the D-II NCAA Tournament and will now seek to translate that success to Division I, where they will play in the WAC. Dixie State becomes the seventh Division I basketball school in the state, joining BYU, Southern Utah, Utah, Utah State, Utah Valley and Weber State.

Tarleton State

New conference: WAC 

Dixie State won't be the only newbies in the league, as Tarleton State also joins the WAC. The Texans will be coached by Billy Gillispie, the 60-year-old former coach of Texas A&M, Kentucky and Texas Tech. Gillespie will have plenty of tradition to draw upon as Tarleton State was perennially one of the top teams in the Lone Star Conference.

UC-San Diego

New conference: Big West 

The Tritons will seek to translate their strong basketball legacy to Division I as they join the Big West following four straight Division II NCAA Tournament appearances as members of the California Collegiate Athletic Association. As the name of its former conference suggests, UC-San Diego was already used to playing all of its conference games in the state. The only difference now will be an occasional trip to Hawaii, which is on the only non-California member of the Big West.