Conference realignment within college sports has mainly been driven by football over the last few years. USC, UCLA, Oklahoma, and Texas all made the decision to leave for new conferences based mainly on reasons relating to their football programs.
However, conference realignment will have a massive impact on college basketball. Two of the best basketball conferences, the ACC and the Big 12, could see major changes in the next few months.
The ACC and the Big 12
Over the last several years, the ACC and the Big 12 have been two of the best conferences in college basketball. Now, the Big 12 is reportedly entering discussions with multiple Pac-12 schools about joining the conference, and the ACC is dealing with the possibility that multiple members of the conference could leave in the next few months or years.
Oklahoma and Texas’ departure from the Big 12 will have an effect on basketball within the conference. Despite that, programs like Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas, among others, will ensure that the conference is still exceptional in basketball.
Now, the Big 12 is reportedly looking into the possibility of adding programs from the Pac-12 to the conference, including Arizona. Adding Arizona to the conference would add another consistent program to the Big 12, and further strengthen the conference when it comes to basketball.
Meanwhile, the ACC, arguably the best conference in college basketball over the last decade, is facing the potential of losing several members. Miami, Clemson, and Florida State may be the most likely programs to leave the conference. While none of those three are among the most marketable basketball programs in the conference, Miami reached the Elite Eight last year and Florida State has been a consistent Top 25 program under Head Coach Leonard Hamilton.
The most significant development for ACC basketball would be UNC departing the conference, which looks increasingly possible. North Carolina is in an interesting position as compared to other teams who could potentially switch conferences. UNC’s most valuable program is undoubtedly its basketball team, but the football program has potential and has started to find success under Mack Brown.
As a result, UNC could move to either the SEC or the Big Ten. They would bring one of the best basketball programs and largest basketball fanbases in the country to their new conference, while also adding a solid football program with the potential to develop even further.
Miami, Clemson, or Florida State leaving the ACC would be disastrous for the conference in football, and UNC departing would have a similar effect in basketball. The conference would lose the media revenue from annual UNC vs Duke and UNC vs N.C. State basketball games, which would become non-conference matchups. In addition, the conference would also lose the revenue from other marquee games such as UNC vs Virginia, along with NCAA Tournament revenue.
Impacts on College Basketball
There will be more news about conference realignment in the next few weeks and months, and it is unlikely UCLA and USC will be the last two schools to change conferences. While many of the conversations taking place in athletics departments and conference headquarters surround football, college basketball will be significantly impacted as well.
The Big 12 could become a significantly better basketball conference over the next few months if Arizona does join the conference, which could have an important effect on the Big 12’s upcoming negotiations on a new television contract after their current deal ends in 2025.
If UNC does depart the ACC it will have a massive impact on college basketball. If North Carolina joins the Big Ten or the SEC either conference would instantly become arguably the best college basketball conference in the country.
It is unclear when the conference realignment will end or how many teams will be in each conference at the end of the process. However, it is likely that the process is not anywhere close to ending. College basketball will almost certainly see dramatic changes due to conference realignment in the next few years.
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