Just when you thought the Big East Conference was about to fall apart, they go and do something like this —and totally redeem themselves!
Since they are losing Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia after this season, the Big East had to do something big to stay at/near the top of the college basketball stratosphere. Enter Memphis. The Conference-USA powerhouse is set to join the Big East in 2013, adding a bit of life to a conference that needed a jolt.
They have already added Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist — but none of those teams can provide the star-power that the Tigers will provide. It is a great move for both sides, certainly as far as revenue is concerned. And Memphis will no longer have to beef up their non-conference schedule to impress the NCAA come March.
Memphis entering could be a big move in trying to keep Louisville from joining the Big 12 as well. Rick Pitino has publicly vouched for the Tigers entering the conference, and now the Louisville-Memphis rivalry can possibly get back to what it used to be in the mid-2000’s, when the Cardinals were a member of the C-USA. They played this year for the first time since Louisville defected, and this really has a chance to be one of the premier Big East rivalries.
With Connecticut, Georgetown and Villanova, the Big East was already going to be a top conference even with the departing teams, but it was likely that the Atlantic Coast Conference or Big 10 could have overtaken them. With Memphis coming in, they will still have a strong chance to be near the top still.
Right now, Memphis would not be a top-tier Big East school, but that’s no fault against the Tigers. The guys they have on their team were recruited to play in the C-USA. Think about the new, different recruiting pitches Josh Pastner and his staff can make with his team now being able to play at Madison Square Garden every year for the Big East Tournament. It’s a win-win for every party. They should be a top five team in the conference in the foreseeable future.
But what happens to the C-USA? They already had three schools leave, and now their most relevant school is on its way out. You’d think this would kill them, but with a scheduled merger with the Mountain West Conference on the way, this will still be one of, if not the top, mid-major conference. After the merger, their conference will span literally the whole country.
C-USA will lose much of its exposure in the key markets of Memphis, Houston, Orlando and Memphis — that’s why a merger is. necessary. Memphis leaving won’t be the end of the world for the C-USA, just as it was not when Louisville and Marquette left in 2005.