November 12, 2013
By Bruce Marshall
In all sports, whenever a team makes wholesale changes from the previous season, it's popular to note that someone "needs a game program" to figure out the new-look roster.
Well, college basketball as a whole now requires a "look at the game program" to figure out the myriad changes and conference shifts since last season. Which have been happening with more frequency in recent years, but nothing like we are witnessing for the 2013-14 campaign.
Following is a quick overview of the "new look" 2013-14 college hoops conference lineup, including brief analysis of which programs might benefit (or which might get hurt) by the new-look associations. We will also provide a quick glimpse ahead to already-announced moves for the 2014-15 season.
AMERICA EAST: Who's in...U-Mass Lowell (from Division II, transitional member). Who's out...Boston University (to Patriot).
AMERICAN ATHLETIC: As in football, the leftover (and non-Catholic) members of the old Big East have a new name this season, but the real difference is going to be felt in hoops, as the departing schools (save Notre Dame) all did not participate in FBS-level football. We've seen this league alignment already on the gridiron the past few months, but as a reminder, the remaining Big East entries have been joined by various entities from around the college sports map. Still, don't get too used to the first-year lineup, as changes are already in motion for 2014-15. Who's in...Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU (all from Conference USA); Temple (from Atlantic Ten); Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida, Louisville, Rutgers (all from Big East). East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa all join from Conference USA in 2014. Who's out...Louisville (to ACC in 2014), Rutgers (to Big Ten in 2014). Who benefits? Probably the former C-USA entries, especially Memphis, which will get more exposure for its top-tier program. Who doesn't benefit? Long-term, this move figures to hurt UConn, because the Huskies (who have lived on NYC-area recruits for years) have much less exposure in the Big Apple these days, especially with the conference tourney (this year at least) in Memphis. Look for the "American" to get its conference tourney back into the New York area at some point in the future (perhaps the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which currently has a deal to host the A-10 event, or maybe across the Hudson River in Newark's Pru Center, although that does not have nearly the hoops panache of Madison Square Garden, or even the new and gleaming Barclays Center).
ATLANTIC COAST: Who's in...Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse (all from Big East). Louisville (from American) arrives in 2014. Who's out...Maryland (to Big Ten) in 2014.
ATLANTIC 10: Who's in...George Mason (from Colonial); Davidson (SoCon) joins in 2014. Who's out...Butler & Xavier (both to Big East), Charlotte (to Conference USA); Temple (to American Athletic). Who benefits? Obvious step up for George Mason, which had become a big fish in the smaller Colonial pond and now joins former CAA defector VCU and also reignites some old state rivalries with the Rams and Richmond. Charlotte's move had more to do with its new football program that will soon have FBS status in C-USA. Who doesn't benefit? Butler was only in the league for one season, so its departure is not much of an event. Temple was a flagship program for the league, however, and its presence could be missed.
BIG EAST: Who's in...Butler and Xavier (both from Atlantic 10); Creighton (from Missouri Valley). Who's out...Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida (all to American); Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pitt (all to ACC). Who benefits? All of the former Big East schools still aligned and not burdened any longer by the football-playing institutions. Who doesn't benefit? The Big East is a step up exposure-wise for Creighton, but being the farthest geographical outpost in a league is not always the most desirable. After developing a brand in the Midwest, will the Bluejays be as easy a sell to recruits in the Eastern Time Zone?
BIG SKY: Who's in...Idaho (from WAC) arrives in 2014.
BIG WEST: Who's out...Pacific (to West Coast).
COLONIAL: Who's in...College of Charleston (from SoCon). Who's out...George Mason (to Atlantic 10), Georgia State (to Sun Belt), Old Dominion (to Conference USA). Who doesn't benefit? The league as a whole, which has been stripped of what had been its three marquee programs (VCU, George Mason, and ODU) for the past decade. Georgia State and Old Dominion made moves elsewhere to accommodate their rather new football programs.
CONFERENCE USA: Who's in...Charlotte (from Atlantic 10); Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, North Texas (all from Sun Belt); Louisiana Tech, UTSA (both from WAC); Old Dominion (from Colonial). Western Kentucky (from Sun Belt) joins in 2014. Who's out...Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU (all to American Athletic). East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa will all be moving to the American Athletic in 2014. Who benefits? Charlotte and Old Dominion now have a home for their football programs (brand new in the case of the 49ers) at the FBS level, which their former conferences didn't provide. All of the Sun Belt refugees have taken a step up (though perhaps not a big step) from their former league. When the smoke clears, the newly-configured C-USA will look a lot like the old Sun Belt.
GREAT WEST: Conference disbanded!
HORIZON: Who's in...Oakland (from Summit). Who's out...Loyola-Chicago (to Missouri Valley).
METRO-ATLANTIC: Who's in...Monmouth & Quinnipiac (both from Northeast). Who's out...Loyola-Maryland (to Patriot).
MISSOURI VALLEY: Who's in...Loyola-Chicago (from Horizon). Who's out...Creighton (to Big East). Who benefits? Loyola, at least in the longer term, with a bigger platform than it had in the Horizon. The Ramblers also allow the Valley to at least plant its flag in Chicagoland. Who doesn't benefit? Short-term, also Loyola, which was an also-ran in the weaker Horizon and figures to take its lumps (at least this year) in the Valley. Hoops-wise, for the time being, Creighton-for-Loyola is a significant net negative for the MVC, although the Ramblers have some long-ago hoops history (the 1963 NCAA Championship in particular) to add to the league. But trading the Bluejays for the Ramblers is going to hurt the league's RPI in the short run.
MOUNTAIN WEST: Who's in...San Jose State, Utah State (both from the WAC). Who benefits? Both the Spartans and Utags escape the burning building known as the WAC and ascend to a higher elevation. Who doesn't benefit? Although Utah State is an established basketball force, the league's RPI could take a big hit in the short term with the addition of San Jose, which was a bottom-feeder in the lesser WAC in recent years and is starting over with a new HC (Dave Wojcik) this season.
NORTHEAST: Who's out...Monmouth and Quinnipiac (both to Metro-Atlantic).
PATRIOT: Who's in...Boston University (from America East), Loyola-Maryland (from Metro-Atlantic).
SOUTHERN: Who's out...College of Charleston (to Colonial). Davidson (to Atlantic 10) in 2014. Who doesn't benefit? The SoCon will be without two of its flagship programs by next season when Davidson exits, a year after Charleston's move.
SOUTHLAND: Who's in...Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word (from Division II; ineligible for conference title); Houston Baptist (from Great West); New Orleans (from independent).
SUMMIT: Who's in...Denver (from WAC). Who's out...Missouri-Kansas City (from WAC), Oakland (to Horizon). Who benefits? Acquiring Denver in place of UMKC and Oakland is probably a net win for the league, as it adds a major metro market to the loop.
SUN BELT: Who's in...Georgia State (from Colonial), UT-Arlington and Texas State (both from WAC). Who's out...Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, North Texas (all to Conference USA). Western Kentucky moves to C-USA in 2014. Who benefits? Georgia State and Texas State now have longer-term homes for their newly-minted FBS football programs. There is also talk that UTA might revive its football program that has been dormant since the end of the 1985 season. The Movin' Mavs also allow the league to keep an entry in the Metroplex after Denton-based North Texas (on the northern fringe of the Dallas-Fort Worth area) moved to C-USA.
WAC: Who's in...Cal State Bakersfield (from Independent), Chicago State, Texas-Pan American, Utah Valley State (all from Great West); Missouri-Kansas City (from Summit); Grand Canyon (from Division II, ineligible for conference title). Who's out...Denver (to Summit); La Tech & UTSA (to Conference USA); San Jose State & Utah State (to Mountain West); Texas State, UT-Arlington (to Sun Belt). Idaho to Big Sky in 2012. Who benefits? The league is still alive and has an automatic qualifier spot in the Big Dance. New Mexico State, Idaho, and Seattle are the only holdovers from last season. Idaho moves its hoops to the Big Sky and football to the Sun Belt in 2014; NMSU moves its football to the Sun Belt in 2014. Who doesn't benefit? Wagerers, as the WAC teams will not be listed on any of the big boards at the sports books this season.
WEST COAST: Who's in...Pacific. Who benefits...Pacific, a better geographical fit in the WCC with its many Northern California entries. Long ago, UOP was a member of the WCC until 1971 when it moved to the old PCAA in a football-influenced switch in 1971, although the Tigers dropped their gridiron program after 1995.
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