Driven entirely by football up to this point, the conference reshuffling that has been occurring infrequently and discussed ad nauseum for the past 18 months now has cast its line on college basketball.
After years of building deep roots in the Big East, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are now figuratively heading south for the ACC, in a move that I believe reshapes the basketball landscape far more than that of what's played on a plot of grass.
Early adopters are already tweeting and Facebook-status-updating the reality that Duke and North Carolina will now soon be making annual trips to the Carrier Dome (pretty cool), and that Pittsburgh will now build an intense rivalry with Maryland or some other second tier team (sort of cool).
But is this move towards a super conference really what's best for all parties involved? That remains to be seen, but here's how I know it will change what we're accustomed to:
This could be the beginning of the end of for the Big East. Truly the only healthy college basketball conference, the Big East gives us the most compelling regular season and conference tournament in the entire game. It has a number of rivalries that have developed over the past three decades, and now we're looking at a potential mass-exodus of the remaining schools that boast both a reputable football and basketball program. Many have a discussed a top-flight basketball-only conference forming if the Big East were to crumble. It may be the only move for schools like Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's and Providence.
Pittsburgh may now face a serious identity crisis. As one of the most successful Big East basketball teams in the past 10 years, the Panthers have yet to sniff the Final Four in that span despite having a handful of teams with the talent to do so. The reason for this could be attributed to their style of play that gets them in foul trouble when they step out of league play. Don't be surprised if Jamie Dixon's kids struggle to adapt to a new set of referees and unspoken rules in the ACC; their high-level of physicality may be frowned upon.
- Jim Boeheim now has to schedule tougher. Syracuse has been the butt of some jokes for their often times baby-bottom soft non-conference schedule. With a rigorous January and February awaiting, the Orange much on a lot of cupcakes early in the season knowing their SOS ultimately be mitigated by strings of games, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville. Not anymore. The ACC is top heavy, folks, and with lesser chances to secure signature wins, the Orange may have to think about signing off on some more challenging games to tip off each season.
- The ACC got some much needed competition for Duke and North Carolina. Top to bottom, the conference has essentially sucked for the past five seasons, put in much nicer terms by Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway earlier today. With the addition of Syracuse and Pitt, the conference sort of bridges what has become a widening divide between the top and bottom of the conference, as shown on the right.
I'm not going to prophesize about the next axe to fall for conference realignment here. But I do know that this should be viewed as more of a basketball move than a football move, and that's sort of cool.
Meanwhile, TCU is likely freaking out down in Fort Worth.