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Archive for May, 2010

As the Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC and Pac-10 again have expanded their conferences, the ACC has sat back and watched.  The most important thing for the ACC at this point is that none of their current programs have been taken away by the other quickly growing conferences. 

While the ACC was the league that caused all of the tremors of expansion earlier this decade they will be the last conference to grow this time.  Initially I said that I expected that the final result of expansion would be four 16-team mega conferences.  As I’ve gone through this exercise, my thinking has changed.  The reason is that similar to what I said about the Pac-10 expansion, I don’t see four legitimate candidates available for the ACC at this point.  If the league moves more quickly, or if the Big Ten only grabs one of the Big East schools, I could see four legitimate candidates (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia).  But I firmly believe that the Big Ten will grab two of those schools (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) and take that option away from the ACC.

So that leaves Connecticut and West Virginia.  The case for both schools is complicated. 

First, let’s look at Connecticut.  Traditionally the Huskies have had an excellent men’s basketball program, but they are currently under a great deal of scrutiny by the NCAA.  And according to SI’s Seth Davis, that is just the beginning of UConn’s issues.  Their candidacy with the ACC is certainly helped by the inclusion of the premier women’s basketball program in the nation.  Their addition would also solidify a rival for Boston College in the Northeast and bring some access to the New York City market.  Their academics (#66 ranking by the U.S. News and World Report) don’t match up with the ACC elite, but are still solidly in the range of the other schools.

The biggest challenge for West Virginia to overcome will be their academics.  They are ranked as a Tier 3 school by the U.S. News and World Report.  That means they are not good enough to be ranked among the top 133 colleges and universities in the country.  That fact will not sit well with the ACC whose lowest current ranking school is Florida St. at #102.  Otherwise they have a strong football program with a passionate fan base and a very solid basketball program.  In fact, they have a lot of depth in their athletics program as they currently stand at #15 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.

Will the ACC be willing to overlook Connecticut’s NCAA violations and West Virginia’s less than ideal academic ratings?  I say yes.  I believe that the pressure to expand will be great because there is nothing saying that the Big Ten and SEC have to stop at 16 teams.  You could just as easily see them jumping up to 20.  So the ACC will react and add the Huskies and Mountaineers believing that their only way to ultimately survive is to strengthen their own ranks.

What are your thoughts?  Would Connecticut’s NCAA issues keep them from being invited to join the ACC?  Does West Virginia’s academic ranking make them a no-go?

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After the Big Ten and SEC max out their conferences with major expansions that take them to 16 programs, the Pac-10 will get back into the game.  I’ve already predicted that the Pac-10 will execute a modest two program expansion that includes Colorado and Utah.  I think they will pursue a second expansion, but after further thought I do not think it will be to a maximum level of 16.  I think they will add two more teams to get to 14.

Part of my reasoning is that I don’t think there are four more candidates that would be good fits in the conference.  As Schmolik over at the bleacher report writes, it is difficult to find six ideal candidates for a Pac-10 expansion.  One school that he doesn’t include in his evaluation is Nebraska.  That’s because he’s assuming Nebraska will be invited to join the Big Ten.  I do not believe that will be the case.  I believe Nebraska will be invited and will join the Pac-10.

The Cornhuskers would be a big coup for Pac-10 football.  They will instantly be one of the top three programs in the conference, will bring some more national attention to the league and also have an excellent athletics program that has them currently ranked sixth in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.  While Nebraska’s culture and academics are not a perfect match for the conference, their athletics are ideal.  And since the Pac-10 has already moved inland with the addition of Colorado and Utah, their location will not be a problem.  Their move to the Pac-10 will also reignite their rivalry with Colorado.

The other school I believe will join the Pac-10 is Kansas.  The Jayhawks certainly don’t have the depth of sports programs that most Pac-10 schools have, nor are they a major power in football.  But I believe their incredible basketball history will carry the day and appeal greatly to the Pac-10.  The chance to have UCLA and Kansas compete for league titles year after year will be too much for the conference to pass on the Jayhawks.

So the Pac-10 will swoop in and grab a pair of the “remaining” Big 12 schools and greatly enhance their conference membership.  Would they consider additional schools to get to 16?  Sure.  But, I don’t think they’d have a lot to gain from adding Baylor, Kansas St., TCU or any of the other possible candidates.  Their only reasons for expanding further would be to keep up with the SEC and Big Ten or to expand into the Texas market.

What do you think of the new 14 team Pac-10?  Would Colorado, Utah, Nebraska and Kansas be good additions to the conference?

Photo source: beatboxbadhabit

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Shortly after the second phase of the Big Ten’s expansion you can expect the action to be fast and furious.  Everybody will be waiting for the SEC, the highest revenue grossing conference, to make their move.  They will do so, and it will be huge.

To maintain its place as the top conference in the country the SEC will be compelled to act.  With Notre Dame committed to the Big Ten, Texas is the remaining big prize.  They are also the only university that can add a significant number to the SEC’s bottom line, and would certainly shift the balance of power.  The SEC will be smelling blood after Colorado and Missouri leave the Big 12 and will go right for the kill.

Much of the speculation on long term expansion has the SEC looking at ACC schools Florida St., Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech.  However, I don’t think they’ll be looking to solidify the ground they’ve already got covered in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  I think they’ll be looking West.  By doing so, they can eliminate all questions as to who really is the best college football conference in the country while greatly expanding their footprint and revenue potential. 

They will start the wooing of Texas early and will be willing to take on their state rival Texas A&M as well.  While the Texas A&M football program may not be at the top level right now, the school has an excellent overall athletics program and a strong passionate fan base.

And then, to add the cherry on top, the SEC will also expand to the Sooner state bringing in Oklahoma and Oklahoma St.  This addition will enable the SEC to own the Red River Rivalry, further expand into new territory and bring in two more programs with huge alumni support bases.

To me the addition of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. sounds much more impressive than the group of Florida St., Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech.

And since the SEC is already divided into two geographically-based divisions it is easy to imagine a new alignment:

East
Alabama
Auburn
Florida
Georgia
Kentucky
South Carolina
Tennessee
Vanderbilt

West
Arkansas
LSU
Mississippi
Mississippi St.
Oklahoma
Oklahoma St.
Texas
Texas A&M

Wow…so the SEC will have spoken and made a huge impact on the college sports landscape.  Will they have solidified their spot at the top of the college football mountain?  What do you think about this potential SEC expansion?

What conference will make the next move?  Will the Pac 10 or ACC strive to match the SEC and Big 16?  Will the Big East or the conference formerly known as the Big 12 make a move for survival?

Photo sources: dherrera_96 and SD Dirk

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Over at DraftExpress they have posted the pre draft measurements for NBA hopefuls.  It’s always fun to take a look at these details to see what surprises they hold, as well as guess at how they may affect the draft position for some of the prospects.  Here are some observations and interesting tidbits:

  • Solomon Alabi measures 6′ 11.5″ without shoes.  This should help solidify Alabi as a mid-round pick somewhere in the 15-25 range.  His strength is defense and every NBA team is always on the lookout for a 7-foot defender.  Also helpful – his wingspan measured 7′ 5″.
  • Hassan Whiteside is a name that you may not have heard.  But, the 6′ 10.5″ freshman from Marshall is almost a guaranteed lottery pick.  His athleticism has NBA execs drooling and the fact that his wingspan measured 7′ 7″ will make them need an even bigger towel.
  • I’m not sure Greg Monroe’s stock will drop, but his measurements are not likely to help it rise.  He measured just under 6′ 10″, which isn’t bad, but his wingspan was just above 9′.  When compared to other prospects of a comparable size that he may be competing with for draft order (DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors and Cole Aldrych) that is not good.  Also concerning, his 11.2% body fat puts him in the bottom 10 in that category and may show a lack of preparation and determination.
  • Derrick Favors is a beast.  He’s just under 6′ 9″ and 245 pounds with only 6.5% body fat.  His wingspan is 7′ 4″. 
  • Luke Harangody is actually shorter than Wes Johnson – just thought that was funny.
  • Jon Scheyer’s wingspan (6′ 3.25″) is less than his height without shoes (6′ 4.75″).  This is very rare and not a good thing.
  • Dominique Jones and Jordan Crawford are both only 6′ 3″.
  • Syracuse fans who watched him all year won’t be surprised to read this – Wes Johnson’s body fat is only 4.6%.

Anything jump out at you?

Photo source: D Sharon Pruitt

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Easy to miss among all of the expansion hubbub during the Big Ten meetings was a not so subtle jab at the ACC, and probably other conferences as well.  When questioned about why the early processes of expansion are taking so long Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany had this to say:

“A lot of these things that we’ve studied have been, in my view, improperly studied [by other leagues].  Didn’t understand the logistics, didn’t understand the culture, didn’t understand the academic fit, didn’t really understand whether they were doing a merger or whether they were doing an expansion. Expansion is very difficult, and we’re learning how to do it better, I think.”

With so much at stake the Big Ten is trying to do their due diligence and to ensure that when they make their final decisions the execution goes smoothly.  Clearly they’ve learned from the way the ACC botched their expansion earlier this decade by letting the information get out too soon, not being prepared to deal with the ramifications, inviting and then uninviting a program and then having a school jammed down their throat that they had absolutely no desire for.  Although in all fairness to Virginia Tech, they’ve carried the ACC banner much better than any of the 11 other members have in football.

In addition to navigating the choppy seas of politics, the Big Ten also has to be sure that they can drive revenue to the Big Ten Network.  They are going to do everything they possibly can to keep it all under wraps until they are ready to make an announcement.  That is why Delany keeps throwing all of the smoke screens up.  And when that announcement is made, I expect it to be an announcement of a done deal.

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The biggest thing that came out of the Big Ten meetings today was the reference by conference commissioner Jim Delany to the shifting U.S. population. 

“As far as the shifting population, that is reason, by itself, enough, to look at the concept of expansion,” Delany said. “In the last 20, 30 years, there’s been a clear shift in movement into the Sun Belt. The rates of growth in the Sun Belt are four times the rates they are in the East or the Midwest.”  What does this statement that seems to have come from left field mean?  Here are four possibilities:

  1. The Big Ten is going to make a huge push for Texas.  Many folks, including me, have discussed the fact that their are two potentially huge prizes to be won in expansion, Notre Dame and Texas.  While Texas was mentioned briefly as a Big Ten target, most of the speculation is that the conference will push Notre Dame to move.  Maybe their main target is Texas.
  2. ACC schools like Maryland and Virginia may be expansion candidates.  On May 13 Tom Dienhart of Rivals tweeted that those two programs were included in the latest buzz he was hearing.  First of all, based on the ridiculous happenings in the state of Virginia during the ACC expansion earlier this decade I don’t see UVA going anywhere.  Secondly, the ACC is on the cusp of signing an impressive deal with ESPN that will significantly increase the revenue each member will receive.  A week ago this may have been a much greater possibility.  The Big Ten may grab Maryland but I’d expect it to take a lot of hard work to do so.
  3. Delany is simply firing a shot across the bow of the SEC and their commissioner Mike Slive.  It seems clear that the major battle for supremacy that awaits college football will feature the Big Ten versus the SEC.  Delany is trying to make the SEC a little less comfortable.
  4. It’s a complete smokescreen.  All of the talk about the South is simply to open up the possibilities and take some of the pressure off the Big East schools they are likely to invite along with Notre Dame.

In my mind the most likely option is the fourth one.  However, if there is any reciprocal interest from Texas (and I have to believe somebody somewhere in the Big Ten knows if there is) then the first option is a no brainer. 

Please, share your thoughts.  What other options do you see?

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Nothing will show that the Big Ten’s initial bold move to add three Big East programs was more successful than the follow on addition of Notre Dame.  With Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse jumping to the Big Ten the Irish will have no choice but to follow suit.  My prediction is that the football season after the three former Big East schools join the Big Ten, the conference will expand again.  This time it will be two teams, Notre Dame and Missouri.

Notre Dame will have fought expansion as much as possible, but as the Big East searches for answers to keep afloat, the Irish must make a move to solidify their standing and revenue.  Independence will no longer be an option. 

Of course, Notre Dame will be a great addition to the Big Ten.  While they are not a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), I don’t think that fact will hold the university presidents back from offering an invitation.  The school had an excellent ranking by the U.S. News & World Report (#20) and will bring a great many dollars to its new conference.

Missouri is already politicking for Big Ten membership and I believe they would be a solid addition.  They are an AAU member, have quality sports programs and would help expand the Big Ten Network in the midwest, specifically into Kansas City.  Working against Missouri is their #102 ranking by the U.S. News & World Report.  I believe a pledge by the university to improve that ranking would be enough to convince the presidents that Missouri will live up to every part of the Big Ten’s brand.

The Big Ten’s fast and forceful expansion to 16 schools will bring a whole bunch of questions.  How will teams be grouped?  Two divisions seems inevitable but ESPN’s Pat Forde has even suggested four pods.  Will the groups be effective in football and basketball?  Where will the annual Big Ten football championship be played?  Will the conference name finally be changed?

As far as dividing the teams, here’s my stab at two divisions:

East Division
Indiana
Northwestern
Ohio St.
Penn St.
Pittsburgh
Purdue
Rutgers
Syracuse

West Division
Illinois
Iowa
Michigan
Michigan St.
Minnesota
Missouri
Notre Dame
Wisconsin

Yes, I realize I put Ohio St. and Michigan in two separate divisions.  In football, I think their rivalry can be resumed through scheduling.  Each team will play the seven other teams in their division plus one game against a team from the other division.  That team may always be the same team, like in the case of Michigan and Ohio St., or the team may vary.  Of course, you may have a situation where Michigan and Ohio St. play early in the season and then matchup in the conference championship game at the end of the season.

What I was really shooting for in creating the divisions was competitive balance.  But that’s like throwing darts at a moving target.   What are your thoughts on my proposed divisions?  Any specific schools that must be in the same division?

So, the third phase of expansion is complete and the Big Ten is now the Big 16.  Will the other power conferences stand still or will they look to pick up some of the pieces that remain?  I certainly don’t think it ends here…I’ll be posting the next phase in a few days.

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