The Big 12 and SEC are both power conferences in college basketball, but the two leagues have been at odds for years. Now that the SEC has announced it will be adding a conference championship game, the Big 12 is reportedly considering following suit.
The college basketball conferences is a question that has been asked for years. With the SEC and Big 12 shake-up, it will be interesting to see what happens next.
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With many current Division I schools’ league affiliations, the future of several conferences, and the future of the NCAA itself all hanging in the balance as the details develop, Texas and Oklahoma’s planned moves from the Big 12 to the SEC have the potential to be one of college sports’ most earth-shaking developments of all time. Though the majority of the attention has been focused on what occurs in football, which is by far the most lucrative activity in college athletics, a downstream effect on all other collegiate sports is almost likely to be seen. College basketball, both men’s and women’s, will be affected, but how much and in what ways? Jeff Borzello, Myron Medcalf, and Mechelle Voepel of ESPN’s college basketball reporting team addressed what we know and what the game’s stakeholders will be monitoring most carefully in the coming weeks, months, and years:
Isn’t it true that Texas and Oklahoma would have to join the SEC in basketball as well as football?
That is the standard. Basketball has been mostly ignored in the realignment debates, with football dominating every decision and rumor. That was true during the last round of realignment a decade ago, and it is true today. In reality, most basketball coaches, including those in the Big 12 and SEC, were unaware of the events of last week. Several coaches informed me they learned about it the same way we did: via social media.
So the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Texas and Oklahoma seem to be following football’s lead in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, and football will be a key role in whatever dominoes fall next. Those two schools will profit from entering a powerhouse conference rather than remaining in a league without big football brands in terms of athletic resources. Although Kansas has one of the best men’s basketball programs in history and Baylor has recently won a men’s national title, it is their football programs that will likely determine what happens next. Borzello, Jeff
Should we anticipate the SEC’s acquisitions to spark a new round of league restructuring that affects basketball as well?
If the SEC’s move is the first in a new world with two or three superconferences, it’s reasonable to speculate on how the musical chairs will impact college basketball. Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas Tech, and TCU, as well as West Virginia and Kansas State, may all benefit from the Big 12’s demise. While the possible collapse of the Big 12 may disperse second-tier football teams throughout the nation, it could also boost those same conferences in basketball. The institutions that might join the Big Ten, Pac-12, or ACC would benefit all three leagues.
If the Big Ten adds Kansas, for example, it will undoubtedly acquire a strong program. However, it’s simply another bid on Selection Sunday for a league that will receive a slew of them anyway. And if the backlash forces any of these institutions to join other conferences, such as the American or the Mountain West, a new men’s basketball power conference might emerge.
It’s also reasonable to question whether massive leagues will lead to massive conference schedules, further reducing nonconference slates and non-major leagues’ potential to improve their at-large résumés for Selection Sunday. Myron Medcalf is a writer who lives in the United States.
Is the NCAA tournament in its current form in jeopardy?
I don’t believe so, at least not in the near future. Even if this is the first domino, resulting in four superconferences with 16-20 teams each and operating basically beyond the NCAA’s jurisdiction in college football, I don’t see the NCAA playoffs collapsing. Apart from football, the NCAA still supervises and runs every postseason, and the money involved in the men’s basketball tournament makes it unlikely that it will disintegrate or become an exclusive enclave for just the best 70-80 teams. It’s also worth remembering that the NCAA men’s tournament has a multibillion-dollar television contract that extends through 2032.
The NCAA environment is clearly shifting, with the inclusion of name, image, and likeness, the Alston case, and the possibility of another wave of realignment. What will the organization’s function be in five, ten, or twenty years? We don’t know. But, for the most part, its ability to put up perfectly executed postseason tournaments isn’t in jeopardy just yet. Borzello, Jeff
Stephen A. Smith discusses why Texas and Oklahoma entering the SEC would be good for the league but bad for collegiate football as a whole.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the organization’s crown jewel and cash cow, and it is handled perfectly. On the women’s side, the same cannot be true for any NCAA tournament. This last school year demonstrated this, with the glaring disparities in amenities between men and women in Indianapolis and San Antonio. Coaches, players, and fans have valid concerns about the spring competitions for women’s volleyball, soccer, softball, and golf.
This fall/winter will mark the 40th anniversary of the NCAA’s inaugural women’s championships, which it took over in the 1981-82 school year. Texas, which is at the center of the current conference realignment frenzy, was a pioneer in women’s athletics and fought the NCAA’s replacement of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), which had run women’s college tournaments since 1971.
The argument at the time was whether women’s sports would be better served by the NCAA, which had more money and a higher perceived prestige as the governing body for men’s sports, or whether it would be better for women’s sports to maintain control with their own organization. In 1982, the AIAW was disbanded. While it seems improbable that a comparable organization will resurface, separating men’s and women’s sports once again, one thing we’ve seen in collegiate athletics is that “never say never.” The NCAA is said to have traditionally devalued women’s sports events, including the bulk bundling of television rights, and has never promoted them in a manner that maximized their financial potential. Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle
Which of your top programs may be harmed by league realignment?
When questioned about Kansas’ future plans, one official simply responded with a four-letter slur to ESPN. While any conference that acquired Kansas in men’s basketball would prosper, it’s unclear if the Jayhawks would retain their appeal if they were to leave the Big Ten. Kansas vs. Oregon State on Feb. 12 isn’t quite as exciting as Kansas vs. Texas or Kansas vs. Oklahoma.
I don’t envision a scenario where Kansas isn’t a great program, regardless of what happens in the Big 12, but the fact that its destiny is linked to its football product puts the program in a helpless position. Every conference in America, including the SEC, would be interested if Kansas basketball could make its case alone. However, it has no influence over its destiny. Kansas basketball is a winner in any league that has it. However, if KU does not make the Big Ten, it may be a lopsided trade, with KU giving more than it receives.
It’s also reasonable to ask what will happen to Baylor, which, although lacking Kansas’ heritage and blue-blood reputation, is the reigning national champion and has been a perennial Final Four contender under Scott Drew.
Mike Greenberg responds to the news that Texas and Oklahoma will not renew their Big 12 media rights.
On the other hand, it would be a victory for everyone if a Duke, North Carolina, or Florida State — in the next wave of alignment — ended up in the SEC or Big Ten. Any elite program that can find a home in the SEC, ACC, or Big Ten at this time is in excellent condition in my opinion. Any other situation may be seen differently. Myron Medcalf is a writer who lives in the United States.
Kim Mulkey, the coach who placed Baylor’s women’s program on the map with three NCAA championships, left to take over LSU in her home state of Louisiana this spring. Depending on what happens with the Big 12, Baylor may now lose its power-conference designation as well.
Baylor’s dominance in the Big 12 over the last decade has blotted out the sun for the rest of the conference, winning the regular-season championship every year since 2010-11 (tied once) and every conference tournament title but one during that time. Nicki Collen departed the Atlanta Dream shortly before the start of the WNBA season to take over at Baylor, but it now seems that she may be doing something else. Baylor isn’t going to break apart, but Collen’s recruiting problems seem to be more difficult. Under Mulkey, Baylor developed one of the strongest fan bases in women’s basketball, which Collen will have to sustain.
In the last 25 years, Iowa State has had one of the most enthusiastic supporter groups in women’s basketball. Will the Cyclones be able to find a new home if the Big 12 folds? Kansas State and Oklahoma State have had their moments in women’s basketball throughout the years, but they now share the same worries as all of their other sports about their future conference home and how it will affect their relevance. Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle
What basketball rivalries are in danger right now? What new basketball rivalries might emerge?
The first game that springs to mind is Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State. Bedlam is one of college football’s most storied intrastate rivalries, but it may go away if Oklahoma State is dissatisfied with the way Oklahoma exited the Big 12. Texas vs. Texas Tech hasn’t always been a strong basketball rivalry, but with Chris Beard’s departure from Lubbock for Austin, the two teams will get a lot of attention for the 2021-22 season.
Texas vs. Arkansas has been a football rivalry for over a century, but with both schools poised to be national contenders in basketball in the coming years, it may become a regular basketball rivalry if they are reunited in the same conference. In the future years, Beard and Eric Musselman may have to compete for transfers several times. Texas A&M will most certainly be displeased with Texas’ entry into the conference, but the basketball rivalry between the two schools may develop into a major in-state rivalry as well. Borzello, Jeff
Nelson Chenault is a sports reporter for USA TODAY.
The Sunflower Showdown between KU and K-State, as well as Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, may be endangered, although both were always of in-state importance in women’s basketball, which never transferred nationally.
Vic Schaefer’s Mississippi State team established a rivalry with South Carolina in the SEC, and Schaefer and Staley met again this year in the Elite Eight, with South Carolina defeating Texas in what will now become a league rivalry. LSU will face Texas, just as Texas will face LSU. When Mulkey was at Baylor, the Longhorns battled hard to defeat her, and generally didn’t. Will they be able to hold their own against her at LSU? Also, despite the fact that Mississippi State supporters still adore him for leading the Bulldogs to two NCAA championship games, Schaefer did depart the school for Texas. As a result, the Longhorns’ trips to Starkville, Mississippi, will be laden with emotion. Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle
What impact would the inclusion of Texas and OU have on the SEC’s basketball strength? What is the relationship between the Longhorns and the Sooners?
Oklahoma and Texas, more than anybody else, increase the league’s recruiting potential. SEC schools have long recruited that region of the country — there was a time when John Calipari seemed to recruit every star from Texas — and you now have a geographic footprint and a brand that appeals to athletes who want to win big while also profiting from their name, image, and likeness rights. In this new environment, the SEC will undoubtedly be a top destination for talent.
Texas and Oklahoma would offer the SEC two schools that have been genuine competitors in their most productive years. It’s a chance for more high-quality victories and, as a result, more spots. With both Duke and UNC undergoing coaching changes, Kentucky-Texas may become the top game in college basketball in the coming years. Chris Beard may have the best squad in the country heading into the season. In his first year after leaving Loyola Chicago, Porter Moser recruited a lot of transfers to assist his squad. Oklahoma has produced players like as Buddy Hield and Trae Young, as well as reaching seven of the past eight NCAA tournaments. In men’s basketball, the SEC had a resounding victory. Myron Medcalf is a writer who lives in the United States.
In college football, Heather Dinich believes there may be a snowball effect if teams move leagues.
Women’s basketball has traditionally been a stronghold for the SEC. For many years, Tennessee, the eight-time national champion, was at the top of the mountain, but everything changed when coach Pat Summitt died tragically. Lady Vols supporters still want to see a return to the glory days, which is a tall order given that South Carolina already has the conference lead, and one that will become much more difficult with the arrival of Texas and Oklahoma.
Due to Schaefer’s success at Mississippi State, he will be returning to an SEC environment that he is quite acquainted with. Texas adds another possible national title challenger to the SEC. Sherri Coale became a Sooners legend after leading the team to the women’s Final Four three times in her 25 seasons, but the program had been on the decline in recent years until Coale’s retirement. Going to a major conference like the SEC is difficult, but enthusiastic new OU coach Jennie Baranczyk, 39, has a strong offensive thinker who, with good recruitment, can establish her style in a league that has historically been more defensive-minded. Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle
What effect does the loss of Texas and Oklahoma have on the Big 12’s strength?
The Big 12 may lay claim to being the most consistently successful men’s basketball conference in the nation, having received at least five NCAA tournament invitations in each of the past seven seasons since the addition of TCU and West Virginia. That’s the highest percentage among major conferences for a league with just ten clubs. Baylor, the Big 12’s most recent national champion, is also a member of the conference.
Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, according to Paul Finebaum, is a long way off and will be disastrous for the Big 12.
The league will certainly suffer without Texas and Oklahoma, particularly with Beard stockpiling talent in Austin. The larger worry may be what happens to sports departments’ resources as a whole if the Big 12 loses additional institutions or suffers a significant drop in status. Some schools, particularly those without nationally recognized football teams, may find it challenging to stay up in the resource arms race.
If the Big 12 remains intact and adds a Houston or a UCF or someone like, the conference will remain a constant force in national debate. Kansas and Baylor will take care of that on their own, but Oklahoma State is on the rise, West Virginia is always a threat, and Texas Tech can build on its recent success. Borzello, Jeff
It’s excruciating. Texas, led by Schaefer, is set to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2003. Oklahoma’s fortunes have dwindled in recent years, with their last appearance in the Final Four coming in 2010. Both programs, though, have fan groups who are ready to be enthralled once again under fresh leadership.
Mulkey’s larger-than-life presence always attracted attention to the league, even from fans who didn’t like her, as much as Baylor’s success was tough to match for other Big 12 schools. She has already committed to the SEC, and Texas and Oklahoma are expected to follow suit. Women’s basketball in the Big 12 is losing a lot of the appeal it once had on a national level. Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle