Conference Realignment: A Look At The New League Lineups For 2011-12

Right about this time last summer, the normally lazy and quiet college sports offseason was rocked by a wave of realignment. While a transformation of the six BCS leagues into four 16-team megaconferences never got past the rumor stage, the landscape did change significantly, and those ripple effects will first be felt this season.

This summer, college blogs across SB Nation have realigning conferences in their own way. Over at our Wyoming blog, Cowboy Altitude, they've envisioned a semi-post-apocalyptic world where rising fuel costs and budget cuts force schools to align themselves in more geographically-compact groups.

However, most of our other blogs have thrown reality out the window by creating completely new conferences based on what each program delivers from a competitive and financial standpoint in our SB Nation Conference Re-Draft Project (1st and 2nd Round results).

Here at Blogging the Bracket, I'd like to bring you back to reality for a moment (or two) with a pair of posts. In Part One, I'll take a look at the conference changes that go into effect for the upcoming basketball season, with a look at 2012-13, when there are still more moves afoot, in Part Two tomorrow.

First, let's recap the changes that just about everyone knows about, the membership shifts in three of the six BCS conferences.

The Big Ten added a 12th member, former Big 12 school Nebraska, simultaneously bolstering its football roster and weakening its basketball lineup. While the Cornhuskers aren't Northwestern, six losses in six NCAA appearances, with the last coming in 1998, means they're nearly as lacking in the postseason history department.

The conference slate will consist of 18 games with each team playing seven home-and-home series and four opponents just once.

Here's the revamped conference lineup.

2010-11 2011-12
Illinois Illinois
Indiana Indiana
Iowa Iowa
Michigan
Michigan
Michigan State
Michigan State
Minnesota
Minnesota
Northwestern Nebraska (from the Big 12)
Ohio State Northwestern
Penn State Ohio State
Purdue Penn State
Wisconsin                
Purdue

Wisconsin

 

Colorado also departed the Big 12, joining former Mountain West power Utah, in the renamed Pac-12. Commissioner Larry Scott had to settle for a two-team move after a six-team expansion, centered on the Big 12's Texas and Oklahoma schools failed to pan out.

From a basketball perspective, the addition of the Buffaloes and Utes aren't blockbusters by any means. Colorado just missed the NCAAs in 2011, which would have been their third trip since the expansion to 64 teams in 1985. On the other hand, Utah has a plenty of tradition (1944 National Champions, 1998 National Runners-Up, 2005 Sweet Sixteen), but recent performances have been lacking. New coach Larry Krystkowiak, formerly of Montana and the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, will look to change that.  

In terms of scheduling, the new Pac-12 will play 18 games, much like the Pac-10, but the double round-robin goes away. Based on the press release, the new formula will not be based on divisions, a format currently employed in the SEC and formerly used in the Big 12.

As in previous years, the conference schedule is comprised of 18 games for each institution and will maintain the travel partner in a non-divisional format. The annual schedule will include games against an institution's traditional rival both home and away. In addition, each institution will play six other opponents both home and away (for two consecutive years), and four opponents on a single-game basis - two at home and two away. The single-play opponents will rotate every two years.

This is how the old Pac-10 compares to the new Pac-12.

2010-11 2011-12
Pac-10 Pac-12
Arizona
Arizona
Arizona State
Arizona State
California
California
UCLA
UCLA
Oregon
Colorado (from the Big 12)
Oregon State
Oregon
USC
Oregon State
Stanford
USC
Washington
Stanford
Washington State           
Utah (from the MWC)

Washington

Washington State

 

With the departure of Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 should really have swapped names with the Big Ten. (And, yes, I know they never would, thanks to the concept of branding and the potential for further expansion.) Even though the name isn't accurate at all, the new 10-team loop will be one of the most competitive in the country, particularly with teams playing a true double round-robin.

2010-11 2011-12
Baylor
Baylor
Colorado Iowa State
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas
Kansas State
Kansas State
Missouri
Missouri
Oklahoma
Nebraska Oklahoma State
Oklahoma
Texas
Oklahoma State Texas A&M
Texas
Texas Tech
Texas A&M               
Texas Tech

 

Since Utah left the Mountain West for the new Pac-12, it's no surprise that conference (which even has a new, underwhelming logo) is in this post. But the Utes aren't alone in departing, as their archrival, Sweet Sixteen team BYU, decided that Jimmer Fredette's graduation was the right time to explore football independence and membership in the West Coast Conference for most other sports. (OK, perhaps it was just a coincidence.)

So, the Mountain West loses two, but gains one, Boise State. That's an equation that may temporarily damage the conference's hoops fortunes, though you'd expect Leon Rice's team to contend sooner rather than later. The basketball Broncos have been strangers to the NCAA Tournament, making their fifth trip (with no wins to their name) in 2005.

You'll need to return for Part Two, as there are more Mountain West changes coming in 2012-13.

2010-11 2011-12
Air Force
Air Force
BYU
Boise State (from the WAC)
Colorado State
Colorado State
UNLV UNLV
New Mexico New Mexico
San Diego State San Diego State
TCU TCU
Utah
Wyoming
Wyoming                       

 

With BYU's arrival, the West Coast Conference now boasts three programs that have won at least 25 games in each of the last four seasons, as Gonzaga and St. Mary's join the Cougars in that elite club. With San Francisco and Santa Clara emerging from the doldrums last season and Portland's continued consistency, the WCC will indeed be a race to watch during the 2011-12 campaign.

2010-11 2011-12
Gonzaga BYU (from the MWC)
Loyola Marymount Gonzaga
Pepperdine Loyola Marymount
Portland Pepperdine
St. Mary's
Portland
San Diego St. Mary's
San Francisco San Diego
Santa Clara San Francisco

Santa Clara

 

While the WCC can be viewed as a winner in this wave of conference realignment, the WAC--the former home of BYU and most of the current Mountain West--has to be viewed as the big loser. This will be more evident in 2012-13, as the MWC continues its transformation into a sort of WAC 2.0, courtesy of some defectors from the initial release.

Boise State is the only team to depart this year, dropping the WAC to eight teams. One thing that won't change: it's still probably Utah State's race to lose.

2010-11 2011-12
Boise State Fresno State
Fresno State Hawai'i
Hawai'i Idaho
Idaho Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech
Nevada
Nevada New Mexico State
New Mexico State San Jose State
San Jose State Utah State
Utah State

 

The WCC and WAC weren't the only mid-majors affected by this wave of conference realignment. The Atlantic Sun will lose a member in each of the next two seasons. The first team to go is Campbell, who returns to the Big South, a better geographic fit for the school from Buies Creek, North Carolina. As the Fighting Camels have only made the NCAA Tournament once, back in 1992, next year's departure, Belmont, will be a bigger blow. 

The Atlantic Sun does gain two full members this season, as both Florida Gulf Coast and USC Upstate will be eligible for the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

2010-11 2011-12
Belmont Belmont
Campbell East Tennessee State
East Tennessee State Florida Gulf Coast (eligible for conference title)
Florida Gulf Coast (transitional member)
Jacksonville
Jacksonville Kennesaw State
Kennesaw State Lipscomb
Lipscomb Mercer
Mercer North Florida
North Florida USC Upstate (eligible for conference title)
USC Upstate (transitional member)
Stetson
Stetson

 

Here's the revamped Big South lineup. Campbell was a charter member of the conference when it formed in 1983, but departed for the former Trans-America Athletic Conference 11 years later.

Presbyterian was supposed to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament this season, but issues with their transition from Division II mean they will need to wait until 2012-13.

2010-11 2011-12
Charleston Southern Campbell (from the A-Sun)
Coastal Carolina Charleston Southern
Gardner-Webb Coastal Carolina
High Point Gardner-Webb
Liberty High Point
UNC Asheville Liberty
Presbyterian (Ineligible for conference title) UNC Asheville
Radford Presbyterian (Ineligible for conference title)
VMI Radford
Winthrop VMI

Winthrop

 

Over the next two years, the Summit League will continue a process of geographic consolidation, which began with Southern outlier Centenary's decision to drop down to Division III. South Dakota's move from the Great West for this season solidifies the conference's position within the Missouri River Valley. The Coyotes earned their former conference's bid to the College Insider Tournament in 2010, and they'll look forward to renewing their rivalries with longtime North Central Conference rivals South Dakota State and North Dakota State in their new loop.

2010-11 2011-12
Centenary IPFW
IPFW IUPUI
IUPUI UMKC
UMKC North Dakota State
North Dakota State Oakland
Oakland Oral Roberts
Oral Roberts
South Dakota (from the Great West)
South Dakota State South Dakota State
Southern Utah Southern Utah
Western Illinois Western Illinois

 

The Great West's future is in peril, thanks to the departure of South Dakota this year and North Dakota in 2012-13. The path to an NCAA Tournament automatic bid was already a long one, ending in 2020. Membership changes may make that goal a pipe dream.

2010-11 2011-12
Chicago State Chicago State
Houston Baptist Houston Baptist
NJIT NJIT
North Dakota North Dakota
South Dakota UTPA
Texas-Pan American Utah Valley
Utah Valley

 

The Ohio Valley sees a membership change, but not one that will impact the championship race. SIU Edwardsville will play a full OVC schedule in 2011-12, but won't be eligible for the conference's automatic bid for another year, when a more serious contender, Belmont, also happens to join the league's ranks.

2010-11 2011-12
Austin Peay
Austin Peay
Eastern Illinois
Eastern Illinois
Eastern Kentucky Eastern Kentucky
Jacksonville State
Jacksonville State
Morehead State Morehead State
Murray State Murray State
Southeast Missouri
Southeast Missouri
Tennessee-Martin
SIU Edwardsville (from Independents,
ineligible for OVC title)

Tennessee State              
Tennessee-Martin
Tennessee Tech
Tennessee State

Tennessee Tech

 

Similarly, the MEAC also gains members in 2011, as former independent Savannah State will play a full conference schedule and North Carolina Central, gains championship eligibility. However, the Tigers' eligibility for the conference title is up in the air, as the school needs to meet certain requirements to gain full league membership.

2010-11 2011-12
Bethune-Cookman
Bethune-Cookman
Coppin State
Coppin State
Delaware State
Delaware State
Florida A&M
Florida A&M
Hampton
Hampton
Howard Howard
Maryland-Eastern Shore Maryland-Eastern Shore
Morgan State
Morgan State
Norfolk State
Norfolk State
North Carolina A&T North Carolina A&T
North Carolina Central (provisional member)
North Carolina Central (championship-eligible)
South Carolina State Savannah State (from Independents, provisional member)

South Carolina State

 

With SIU Edwardsville's and Savannah State's moves into conferences, the ranks of teams playing an Independent schedule drops from five to three for 2011-12.

2010-11 2011-12
Cal State Bakersfield
Cal State Bakersfield
Longwood
Longwood
Savannah State
Seattle
Seattle

SIU Edwardsville

 

For reference, I've listed these conference changes on a separate page. Check back tomorrow for Part Two, looking ahead to the changes you'll see for the 2012-13 season.

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