It’s no secret that many conferences have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the teams it consists of.
As such, many schools have bolted for different leagues or stayed to take advantage of weaker opponents. (We’re looking at you, Gonzaga …)
In the 2013-14 season, the realignment impact was clear for the bigger conferences. The trickle-down effect occurred in the following 2014-15 season for many of the smaller schools and conferences, with the exception of Louisville making the move to the ACC or Davidson making its long-awaited switch to the Atlantic 10.
With the Duke Blue Devils being crowned champions this past season, here are some conference moves we’d love to see before the upcoming season.
5. Notre Dame to the Big Ten
In regards to football, which might have trickled down to its basketball team anyways with this move, Notre Dame had its chance to join the Big Ten.
Go ahead and toss football out of the discussion, though. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish made the move to the ACC in basketball, winning an ACC title in just its second season in the league.
Success-wise, it looks to be a perfect fit for the Irish. They take on historic basketball powers North Carolina, Duke and Lousiville, while also playing traditional rivals from the Big Ten in the likes of Michigan State.
But the one game it played against No. 19 Michigan State at the time, which happened to go into overtime, just doesn’t seem to do the rivalry justice.
We want to see the historic rivalries continue, and Notre Dame moving to the Big Ten to play Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin just feels right.
4. West Virginia to the Big Ten
This is another move that we would love to see, and we’re sure West Virginia would love to see it also. The Big 12 was ultra-competitive throughout the season, ending with a 25-10 West Virginia team getting put out in the first round of the Big 12 tournament for the third consecutive season that it’s been a member of the league.
They did, however, make a trip to the Sweet 16 in a cakewalk tournament schedule consisting of 12-seeded Buffalo and Big Ten member and four-seeded Maryland. The Mountaineers eventually ran into powerhouse Kentucky, suffering an abysmal 78-39 defeat that sent a trash-talking freshman into a media-avoiding bathroom trip.
A move to the Big Ten seems right for the Mountaineers. Their style of play fits into the conference, and it also helps that the conference, minus Wisconsin, Michigan State and Maryland, can potentially be a breeze next season.
At least compared to the Big 12, that is.
3. UConn to the ACC
Connecticut does not belong in the American Athletic Conference, it’s just as simple as that. Since Jim Calhoun’s retirement as longtime head coach of UConn, the Kevin Ollie-led Huskies had not shown any signs of growing pains headed into the 2014-15 season.
The Huskies underachieved at a 20-15 record this past season, missing an NCAA tournament berth and losing to Arizona State in the first round of the NIT.
Those growing pains had to arrive at some point though. But, it’s not likely they will continue given the Huskies have the 29th-ranked recruiting class for this upcoming season, composed of Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch, per 247sports.
In the end, this is a move that all college basketball fans would love to see.
The ACC will eventually realize that it is virtually impossible to match up with the Big Tens and SECs of the NCAA in football finances, which is perhaps one obstacle from this move happening given the state of Connecticut football.
Most hoop fans grew up watching the ACC and the old Big East, and the move to bring in Louisville last season has put the steps in motion.
The ACC can potentially reunite UConn and former conference rivals to cement the ACC as the go-to destination for college hoops once more.
2. NJIT to the America East
The New Jersey Institute of Technology is the lone Division I men’s basketball team without a conference to call home.
It has been like that since its previous conference, the Great West, dissolved back in July of 2013.
The biggest question surrounding NJIT isn’t if they get invited to join a conference, but when they do.
It wasn’t too long ago when the Highlanders became the first team in Division I men’s basketball to go 0-29, eventually leading to the program losing 51 consecutive games.
NJIT has made a lot of progress since breaking that losing streak back in January of 2009. Following a win over No. 17 Michigan on Dec. 6, the team has shown constant improvement, including a CIT semifinals appearance in a loss to Northern Arizona.
NJIT also announced it would be constructing a $100 million multipurpose athletic facility, with the main benefit for the men’s basketball team being an arena that seats 3,500 fans.
Come on, America East … give NJIT a chance.
They did, after all, go 4-4 against the America East conference with an 84-77 win over member New Hampshire in the first round of the CIT.
1. Gonzaga to the Mountain West
The jig is up, Gonzaga. It’s time to find some competition.
As a longtime member of the West Coast Conference, the Bulldogs, under coach Mark Few, have never missed an NCAA tournament.
That’s 15 years.
One major reason behind Gonzaga being able to reach the Big Dance with such ease is the lack of any competition in its conference schedule.
In the 2014-15 season, the Bulldogs’ overall strength of schedule ranked 84th in the country, which is due in part to having a conference schedule that ranked 143rd in difficulty in the nation.
Gonzaga is going to be a good basketball team, regardless of which conference it goes to. A move to the PAC-12 would be fantastic for college basketball fans, but that seems unlikely given Gonzaga’s lack of a football program.
One move that would be ideal for the ‘Zags is switching to the Mountain West Conference. With teams like San Diego State, Boise State, UNLV and Colorado State already in place, a move like that would instantly make the MWC a fun conference to watch.
The big question behind a move to the MWC is whether Gonzaga really seeks a competitive conference schedule given how often it makes a trip to the postseason.
It’s all about playoffs, right?