This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Conference realignment wouldn't be good for Big Ten basketball

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches Updated: September 19, 2011 - 2:59 PM

The last few weeks of collegiate sports banter and activity have proven to any doubters that the only thing that matters in amateur, uh, professional-amateur athletics is college football and the money it commands. That's all.

Yep, the NCAA tournament captivates the nation. It's worth billions.

But college basketball is the prince, not the king of the college sports landscape.

Most of the rumors and reports about the Pacific-12, SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference adding new teams center on college football.

So discussions about the impact of the Super Conference Era's effect on college basketball are usually brief.

But it would change things, especially for the Big Ten.

The ACC is set to become the best league in college basketball. It's either been in the discussion or held the post for many years in the past. By adding Syracuse and Pitt (UConn, too?), however, the ACC will operate like North Korea's recent rulers: it'll be the lifelong dictator of college basketball.

Are you serious? The ACC will be an even bigger monster now. Think "Transformers." Or a Justin Bieber/Lil' Wayne/Beyonce/Adele/Lady Gaga supergroup. (Not promoting the latter, just saying it would be a big deal.)

If the Pac-12 grabs Oklahoma and Texas, the league will enhance its overall talent pool and marketing power.

Why does that matter? 

Because college basketball is about politics and bias, as much as RPI and signature victories. Yes, the NCAA tournament's selection committee locks itself in an underground doomsday capsule while deliberating the 68 picks for the Big Dance every March. 

Perception, however, is important even for committee members. The teams in the new Pac-12 and ACC will earn more street cred based on their affiliation. The media powers that control the pre-NCAA tournament chatter will be forced to apply more resources and time to the bigger, badder conferences.

And the TV reach of both the ACC and Pac-12, which are already anchored in regions that act as hubs for college basketball, will expand. We'll see even more of both conferences, especially since the moves will diminish the influence of the leagues that lose teams.

Last season proved as much. The Big East was stacked. Really, a great league.

But casual discussions about the number of Big East teams that deserved NCAA tournament spots were comparable to the talks that TV execs must have when considering a new Kardashian reality show:

Exec 1: "Rob?" 

Exec 2: "Yeah, Rob." 

Exec 1: "Why does he need a show?"

Exec 2: "Does it matter? He's a Kardashian."

Expansion could help the Pac-12 and ACC in terms of exposure, postseason bids and overall significance in college basketball.

What about the Big Ten? Well, the 12-team league didn't exactly make a splash on the hardwood when Nebraska entered the league.

It's still one of the country's best conferences. For now. But sheer volume could elevate the Pac-12 and it'll be hard to dethrone the ACC. Plus, the Big East could gobble up teams from other conferences to maintain a post as a top basketball conference.

Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor need homes. Think Memphis will get a few invitations soon? 

The point is that the Big Ten is relaxing while the collegiate sports landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, one that could propel the new superconferences in both college basketball and football.

The power (super)conferences will rule. The concentration of clout in recruiting, talent, TV and media exposure that already grants schools on the West and East coasts various advantages will be limited to three or four conferences. That could affect the longterm outlook of the Big Ten. 

The latter is certainly formidable in its current arrangement. But things are changing. Boy, they are changing. And that's probably not a good thing for the conference's basketball brand. 

 

 

 

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