Snubbed by the Big 12, here’s why Memphis now needs to go all-in on becoming a college basketball power

The Large 12 is anticipated to formally vote Friday to simply accept the functions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF as the following 4 members of the convention, sources confirmed to CBS Sports activities. It is a vital save-face for the league, which can lose its two most essential members — Oklahoma and Texas — by 2025 on the newest. 

Bearing in mind a very powerful elements — services, historic efficiency in soccer and basketball, alumni base, to call just a few — the 4 faculties not solely make sense, it is simply controversial that they are the 4 greatest choices the Large 12 may have landed. The league will regular itself in soccer, whereas probably strengthening itself in basketball. 

Kudos to league commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the Large 12 presidents/chancellors for getting it achieved so shortly. This maneuver not solely saved Bowlsby’s job, it saved the power-conference construction as we all know it, and within the course of, presumably helped in finally making a 12-team College Football Playoff a actuality.

However for all of the acclaim Bowlsby, the Large 12 and its 4 new members will get, there’s one perceived massive loser in all of this: the College of Memphis. Since including BYU (as soon as it was content material with leaving its valuable independence in soccer), Houston and UCF have been no-brainers, the Tigers primarily misplaced out to Cincinnati in a detailed race. The Bearcats are higher traditionally in males’s hoops and soccer. Their media market ranks No. 37 to Memphis’ 51. Critically, Cincinnati is in Ohio, which is likely one of the 5 greatest soccer states. 

The Large 12’s choose of UC is greater than comprehensible — it is accountable. Whereas on the similar time being an enormous blow to Memphis. (There after all stays the likelihood the Large 12 is not achieved with its growth. However it’s achieved for now. And we may nicely search for in a decade and see that the Large 12 — this is a novel thought — continues to be contently buzzing together with 12 groups.) 

Kentucky, Mark Few and the new-look Large 12. All that and extra are mentioned on the most recent ep of Eye on School Basketball

Regardless of the blow to Memphis’ ego, there’s greater than a silver lining right here. There is a tempting alternative for the varsity — which must be spearheaded by its basketball ethos — to capitalize on being left behind. Memphis, most clearly, was handed over as a result of it’s traditionally a foul soccer college. There have been latest pockets of soccer success, however that college is a basketball college by and thru. And if it needs to take care of its relevance going ahead — no matter its convention affiliation — it must lean into its basketball infatuation and by no means look again. 

Go and attempt to be Gonzaga-lite. 

Push all-in on hoops. Be what you are greatest at and relentlessly pursue it, even past the degrees you have been at below John Calipari. Embrace your pure habitat: a basketball-first/basketball-second/basketball-third college in a basketball-loving metropolis that is wealthy with expertise and all too desirous to compete in opposition to the most important groups within the sport. There are however just a few faculties exterior the ability convention construction who can actually compete on a nationwide stage and attempt for top-10 standing almost each season. Memphis is one in every of them. 

I am not suggesting Memphis can duplicate the convention dominance and absurd consistency that Mark Few has instituted at Gonzaga and inside the WCC. However the basketball program at Memphis is clearly greatest geared up to be the closest factor to it. (Coincidentally, Gonzaga will quickly be negatively impacted as nicely, as BYU has confirmed to be an essential convention opponent for the Zags within the WCC since 2011.) 

With Penny Hardaway teaching the Tigers, Memphis has a window proper now to change into the closest factor to Gonzaga that we’ll most likely ever see. It is a college with the sources — along with a superior expertise base and somebody who has already confirmed to be one of many two or three greatest recruiting head coaches — to dominate its league going ahead. The American Athletic Convention has unquestionably taken a devastating hit amid all this and shall be downgraded throughout the board. However it’s nonetheless a multi-bid league. Memphis is the undisputed greatest crew left. 

There’s loads to be stated for lording over a convention. That has an enchantment, and when you hit it proper, it might develop into one thing virtually automated. 

If Hardaway is nearly as good of a coach as Memphis hopes/thinks he’s (and an enormous, perhaps defining test of that awaits this season), then the Tigers can overcome this bitter loss in convention realignment by turning right into a perennial top-10 powerhouse in males’s faculty basketball. Meaning one thing. Would possibly imply one thing extra in Memphis than all however 5 or 6 different faculties in America. If Hardaway, 50, needs to information this program for the following decade at minimal and throttle up, the upside is spectacular. 

There shall be some who resist this and demand on chasing soccer glory. I am not saying Memphis must shutter its soccer program or go impartial like UConn. However about that: there’s something to be realized from UConn. The parallels are attention-grabbing. UConn was a non-factor in soccer without end. Hit just a few actually good years within the late 2000s, then chased the almighty soccer greenback.

It went miserably. The college pulled the rip twine a half-decade into its AAC affiliation, in no small half as a result of the fan base was regularly irate with UConn for alienating its Large East roots and basketball selfhood. There’s loads to be realized from a whole lot of faculties who chased soccer opulence, have been put within the blender of convention realignment, and have little or no to point out for it since. 

Boston College. Miami. Maryland. Rutgers. Nebraska. Missouri. Texas A&M. An preliminary record of casualties from the previous 20 years alone. None are extra profitable nor extra related in the present day than they have been of their prior leagues, earlier than soccer and bigger-league pipe goals led them to destroy traditions and tread new trails towards a spot the place, certain, the cash is larger. However at what price to the status and repute of your program, your college? 

The realignment success tales of the twenty first century are … Colorado’s … principally no totally different from the place it was? So is Syracuse, however with worse intra-conference rivalries? Utah’s achieved nicely for itself, I suppose. Louisville’s in a greater spot, for certain (despite the scandals). Level is, the record of colleges the previous 20 years who’re higher off after realignment on the power-league league is way shorter than the record of colleges who’re simply kind of blandly bobbing about and current as middle- or below-the-pack fodder. 

Assets solely take you to this point. Success in faculty sports activities is rooted in ardour, custom and embracing the id of what you do greatest. Is there any doubt about how this is applicable to Memphis? It is a basketball college. 

Memphis could make up on the tens of millions it should miss out on by shamelessly turning into one of many largest, boastful, brazen basketball entities in faculty hoops. That, in flip, will flip income. Develop into the bully of the AAC, or no matter league it’s in. As a result of at this level, Memphis has received to be probably the most enticing athletic entity not in a Energy 5 convention. It is positioned in the midst of the nation, based mostly in a culture-rich metropolis that additionally has a pro-sports franchise. Memphis has a giant enchantment to the South, however tentacles touching the Midwest.

There’ll by no means be one other Gonzaga in faculty basketball. But when there’s ever going to be one thing simply as shut, Memphis may be that. At greatest, it may be a decent soccer college right here and there. However in basketball? It may be elite — with sustainability. Ask anybody in faculty sports activities about being elite; there isn’t any changing that feeling or momentum. It may not pay as a lot as a Energy 5 affiliation, however in some ways it is value much more. | Snubbed by the Large 12, this is why Memphis now must go all-in on turning into a university basketball energy


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