With the Big 12 reportedly on the verge of expansion, the college sports landscape could be changing again. Because of that it begs the question, will the Big East also consider expanding?
(Editor's Note: Even if they don't, let's just say they do for the sake of this discussion)
Through three seasons, the "new" Big East’s basketball-centric format has resulted in a television deal with Fox Sports, 15 NCAA tournament bids, and the reigning national champion. The league has proven it can survive without football and with so much TV money being thrown around the conference would likely at least consider the scenario if the right situation were to present itself.
If the league does expand, don’t expect much. The Big East coaches like the round-robin scheduling, the basketball-only focus, and they'll certainly want to bring in competent programs. Adding one team and creating an 11-team, 20-game schedule - like the ACC is implementing - could make sense. Here are five schools that could fill that spot:
Connecticut (4-year KenPom: 38.25)
This is the dream scenario and something that the Big East is definitely interested in. The appeal for the conference is clear: it gets a storied old member with a rich basketball tradition that can compete immediately for a national championship. The Huskies also boast a strong alumni network and can help bring big, loud crowds back to the Big East Tournament.
Of course, there’s that pesky football program that complicates this. Unless that goes away (when pigs fly, apparently) or they find a suitable Power 5 home for it, this remains a pipe dream.
Dayton (4-year KenPom: 49.75)
Dayton also has a strong basketball tradition. The Flyers’ program has made three-straight NCAA Tournaments, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon as long as Archie Miller sticks around. That's a big upside for Dayton, as Xavier's success since joining has convinced Chris Mack to sign a long-term deal. Miller's name is always floated when Power 5 jobs open up. Holding on to him is key for the program.
But outside of a solid program, it’s unclear what Dayton does for the Big East. It doesn’t have a huge enrollment and it doesn't bring a new lucrative TV market being just 50 miles outside of Cincinnati.
St. Louis (4-year KenPom: 146)
The big problem with the Billikens - other than the terrifying mascot (wait that fits in) - is that they just aren't that consistent in terms of on-court success. Historically, they've been to the Elite 8 just once, and after looking upstart 3 years ago they fired Jim Crews after two down years. They're starting fresh with Travis Ford this year, so their future remains to be seen.
If money rules all, the value is there. St. Louis provides the league with a new footprint in a major city, is the #21 TV market and creates further expansion West to connect things with Creighton.
Wichita State (4-year KenPom: 10)
There would be a lot of appeal here for both sides. For the Wichita State, it’s obvious. The Shockers would gain set league games against top competition and wouldn’t have to worry about needing an impressive non-conference schedule to earn an at-large bid - something that was a worry for them this year.
For the Big East, it gets a thriving program that has made the NCAA tournament the last five seasons, including a Final Four berth. It also gets a geographical rival & travel partner for Creighton (as well as a better, albeit still small TV market). The Shockers also have a large enrollment and alumni network, a 10,000-seat arena and give the Big East a foothold in another basketball-crazy state.
One outstanding problem? Wichita State is apparently exploring reinstating the football program.
VCU (4-year KenPom: 23.75)
With six-straight NCAA tournament appearances including a Final Four appearance, VCU is the type of program that could improve the overall quality of the Big East from day one.
Richmond isn't much of a TV market though, and it's hard to imagine Georgetown wanting to prop up another DMV school given how competitive that recruiting territory is already. Like Wichita State, it's a very large public university as well which doesn't mesh with the rest of the conference - though that hasn't stopped the conference from wanting UConn back.