Everything you need to know about college basketball’s place in the SEC, Big 12 shake-up

NCAABB

Texas’ and Oklahoma’s planned moves from the Big 12 to the SEC have the potential to stand as one of college sports’ most earth-shaking developments of all-time, with the league affiliations of many current Division I schools, the future of several conferences, and the future of the NCAA itself all hanging in the balance as the details develop. Though most of the focus has rested primarily on what happens in football — college sports’ leading revenue-driver by a wide margin — a downstream impact on all other collegiate sports is nearly certain to be felt. Men’s and women’s college basketball will be among the impacted, but how much, and in what ways? ESPN’s college basketball reporting team of Jeff Borzello, Myron Medcalf and Mechelle Voepel discussed what we know, and what the game’s stakeholders will be watching most closely in the coming weeks, months and years:

Texas and Oklahoma would have to move to the SEC in basketball and not just football, right?

That’s the expectation. Basketball has been mostly an afterthought in the realignment discussions, with football driving every decision and every rumor. That was the case during the last wave of realignment a decade ago, and it’s the same now. In fact, most basketball coaches — including ones in the Big 12 and SEC — were in the dark regarding last week’s developments. Multiple coaches told me they found out the same way we all did, via social media.

So Texas and Oklahoma’s men’s and women’s basketball programs do seem likely to follow in football’s footsteps when it comes to leaving the Big 12 for the SEC — and football will also be the major factor in whatever dominoes are next to fall. From an athletic resources standpoint, those two programs stand to benefit from joining a juggernaut league as opposed to staying in a league without its marquee football brands. Kansas is one of the greatest men’s college basketball programs of all time and Baylor just won a men’s national championship, but it’s their football programs that will likely dictate what happens next. — Jeff Borzello


Should we expect the SEC’s additions to touch off a new wave of conference realignment that will also impact basketball?

If the SEC’s move was the first maneuver in a new world that will feature two or three superconferences, then it’s fair to wonder how the musical chairs will affect college basketball. In the Big 12, Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas Tech and TCU, West Virginia and Kansas State could all enhance a conference if the Big 12 disappears. While the potential breakup of the Big 12 could send second-tier football programs throughout different leagues around the country, it could also strengthen those same leagues in basketball. The schools that potentially move to the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC would all boost those conferences.

For example, if the Big Ten adds Kansas, then it certainly will gain a powerhouse program. But it’s also just another bid on Selection Sunday for a league that will get a bunch of them either way. And if the fallout sends some of these schools to other leagues, such as the American or the Mountain West, then a new power conference in men’s basketball could emerge.

It is also fair to wonder if gigantic leagues might lead to gigantic conference schedules that could continue to reduce nonconference slates and the ability of non-major leagues to boost their at-large résumés for Selection Sunday. — Myron Medcalf


Is the state of the NCAA tournament as we know it in jeopardy?

I don’t think so, at least in the short-term. Even if this move is the first domino in a string that results in four superconferences with 16-20 teams apiece, and essentially operates outside the NCAA’s purview in college football, I can’t see the NCAA tournaments falling apart. The NCAA still controls and operates every postseason besides football, and the money involved in the men’s basketball tournament makes it far-fetched that it would fall apart or develop into an exclusive enclave for only the top 70-80 programs. It is also worth noting that the multibillion dollar TV deal for the NCAA men’s tournament runs through 2032.

With the introduction of Name, Image, Likeness, the Alston case and potentially another wave of realignment, the NCAA landscape is obviously changing. What will the organization’s role be five years from now, 10 years from now? We have no idea. But its ability to consistently put on flawlessly-run postseason tournaments — for the most part — isn’t in peril just yet. — Jeff Borzello

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Stephen A. Smith explains why Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC is great for the conference, but would be awful for the rest of college football.

The men’s basketball tournament is the NCAA’s crown jewel and cash cow, and the organization does indeed run that flawlessly. The same can’t be said for any NCAA tournament on the women’s side. This past school year showed that, with the embarrassing differences between amenities in Indianapolis for the men and San Antonio for the women. There also were legitimate complaints from coaches, athletes and fans about the tournaments for women’s volleyball, soccer, softball and golf this spring.

It will be 40 years this fall/winter since the NCAA held its first championships for women, taking over governance of those events in the 1981-82 school year. Texas, which is at the heart of the current conference realignment whirlpool, was an early women’s sports powerhouse and opposed the NCAA replacing the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), which had conducted women’s college tournaments since it was founded in 1971.

The debate then was whether women’s sports would be better positioned under the auspices of the NCAA, which had more money and greater perceived prestige as the men’s sports governing body, or if would be better for women’s sports to keep control with their own organization. The AIAW dissolved in 1982. And while it seems unlikely that a similar organization would come back, putting men’s and women’s sports under different governing bodies again, one thing we’ve witnessed in college sports is “never say never.” There is a thought that the NCAA has always undervalued women’s sports tournaments, including the mass-packaging of TV rights, and has never marketed them in a way that could maximize their revenue potential. — Mechelle Voepel


Which top programs could be impacted negatively by conference realignment?

When asked about what’s next at Kansas, one official simply replied to ESPN with a four-letter word. While any league that gained Kansas in men’s basketball would benefit, it’s not certain that the Jayhawks would maintain the same allure if they ended up in a league other than the Big Ten. Kansas-Oregon State on Feb. 12 certainly doesn’t have the same pizazz as Kansas-Texas or Kansas-Oklahoma.

I don’t see a world where Kansas, no matter what happens in the Big 12, is not a powerhouse program, but the fact that its fate is tied to its football product puts the program in a powerless spot. If Kansas basketball alone could make its pitch, every league in America, including the SEC, would be interested. But it doesn’t control its fate. Any league that gets Kansas basketball is a winner. But it might be a lopsided exchange with KU giving more than it gets, if it does not end up in the Big Ten.

It’s also fair to wonder what will become of Baylor, which doesn’t have Kansas’ history or blueblood status but is the reigning national champion and has become an annual Final Four contender under Scott Drew.

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Mike Greenberg reacts to Texas and Oklahoma announcing they won’t renew their Big 12 media rights.

On the flip side, if a Duke, North Carolina or Florida State — in the next wave or alignment — were to somehow end up in the SEC or Big Ten, it would be a win for everyone. To me, any top program that finds a home in the SEC, ACC or Big Ten right now is in good shape. Any other scenario might not be viewed the same way. — Myron Medcalf

This spring, Baylor lost the coach that put the women’s program on the map with three NCAA titles, Kim Mulkey, who went to her home state of Louisiana to take over LSU. Now Baylor might also lose power-conference status, depending on what happens with the Big 12.

Baylor’s success over the past decade blotted out the sun for other programs in the Big 12, claiming the league regular-season title every year since 2010-11 (tying for it once) and every conference tournament title but one during that stretch. Nicki Collen left the Atlanta Dream just before the WNBA season to take over at Baylor, but it’s now looking like a different job. Baylor won’t just fall apart, but the recruiting challenges for Collen seem like they will be tougher. Baylor also built one of the stronger fan bases in women’s hoops under Mulkey, another thing Collen will have to try to maintain.

Iowa State is another program that has had one of the more engaged fan bases for women’s basketball the last 25 years. Will the Cyclones find a good home if the Big 12 dissolves? Kansas State and Oklahoma State have had their moments over the years in women’s hoops, but now have the same concerns as all the other sports at their schools in terms of their future conference home and how it impacts their relevancy. — Mechelle Voepel


Which basketball rivalries are now in jeopardy? Which new basketball rivalries could be created?

The demise of Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State is the first that comes to mind. “Bedlam” is one of the biggest intrastate rivalries in college sports, and that could end up disappearing — especially if Oklahoma State is unhappy about the way Oklahoma left the Big 12. Texas vs. Texas Tech hasn’t been a great basketball rivalry, but with Chris Beard leaving Lubbock for Austin, there are plenty of eyes on the two matchups during the 2021-22 campaign.

Texas vs. Arkansas has been a football rivalry for more than 100 years, but with both programs likely to be national factors in basketball in the next few years, it could become a consistent basketball rivalry when those programs are reunited in the same league. Beard and Eric Musselman could go head-to-head a number of times for transfers in the coming years. Texas A&M will likely be unhappy about Texas’ arrival into the league, but that could end up being an important in-state rivalry in basketball, too. — Jeff Borzello

The Sunflower Showdown with KU and K-State, and Bedlam with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could be jeopardized, but those were always of in-state interest that never translated nationally in women’s basketball.

Vic Schaefer’s Mississippi State program developed a rivalry in the SEC with South Carolina, and Schaefer and Staley met again in the Elite Eight this year, with South Carolina beating Texas in what will now turn into a conference rivalry. As will LSU with Texas. The Longhorns struggled mightily to beat Mulkey when she was at Baylor, and usually didn’t. Will they do any better against her at LSU? Also, even though he is still loved by Mississippi State fans for taking the Bulldogs to two NCAA championship games, Schaefer did leave the program for Texas. So the Longhorns’ visits to Starkville, Mississippi, will be emotionally charged. — Mechelle Voepel


What would the addition of Texas and OU do to the strength of the SEC in basketball? How do the Longhorns and Sooners fit?

More than anything, Oklahoma and Texas expand the recruiting potential for the entire league. SEC schools have recruited that part of the country for a long time — there was a stretch when John Calipari seemed to get every star from the state of Texas — and you now have a geographic footprint and a brand that enhances the appeal for athletes who want to both win big and capitalize on their name, image and likeness rights. The SEC is clearly going to be a top destination for talent in this new world.

Texas and Oklahoma give the SEC two schools that, in their most fruitful years, have been legitimate contenders. It’s an opportunity for more quality wins and subsequently, additional berths. Kentucky-Texas could become the premier matchup in college basketball in the years ahead, with both Duke and UNC going through their respective coaching transitions. Chris Beard might have the top team in America entering the season. And Porter Moser added a number of transfers to help his team in first year after leaving Loyola Chicago. Oklahoma is a consistent program that’s produced players named Buddy Hield and Trae Young, while reaching seven of the last eight NCAA tournaments. This is a total win for the SEC in men’s basketball. — Myron Medcalf

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Heather Dinich says we could see a snowball effect of teams switching conferences in college football.

The SEC has long been at the forefront of women’s basketball. For many years eight-time national champion Tennessee was at the top of the mountain, but that changed with the tragic illness and death of coach Pat Summitt. Lady Vols fans still want to see a return of the glory days, a tough ask when South Carolina has claimed that league-leading mantle, and one that gets tougher with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma.

Schaefer’s success at Mississippi State means he returns to an extremely familiar situation in the SEC. Texas gives the SEC another potential national championship contender. Sherri Coale took Oklahoma to the women’s Final Four three times in her 25 seasons and became a Sooner legend, but the program had been trending downward in recent years before Coale’s departure. Going to the SEC’s kind of power is a challenge, but energetic new OU coach Jennie Baranczyk, 39, is a strong offensive mind who, with solid recruiting, can establish her style in what has traditionally been a more defensive-minded league. — Mechelle Voepel


What does the subtraction of Texas and OU do to the strength of the Big 12?

The Big 12 can stake a claim to being the most consistently successful men’s basketball conference in the country, receiving at least five bids to every NCAA tournament since the addition of TCU and West Virginia — and earning seven bids in five of the last seven seasons. For a league with only 10 teams, that’s the most impressive rate among power conferences. The Big 12 also has the most recent national champion in Baylor.

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Paul Finebaum says Texas and Oklahoma moving to the SEC is pretty far down the road and will be devastating for the Big 12.

Without Texas and Oklahoma, the league undoubtedly takes a hit — especially with Beard loading up on talent in Austin. The bigger concern might be what happens to the resources of the athletic departments as a whole if the Big 12 takes a sizable hit in stature or loses even more schools. It might be difficult for some of the schools, namely the ones without marquee football programs, to keep up in the resources arms race.

If the Big 12 stays together and adds a Houston or a UCF or someone like that, then the league is still going to be a consistent factor in the national discussion. Having Kansas and Baylor will do that on their own, but Oklahoma State is on the rise, West Virginia is always competitive and Texas Tech can look to continue its recent success. — Jeff Borzello

It hurts. Texas under Schaefer is poised to return to being a Final Four threat, having last made it that far in 2003. As mentioned, Oklahoma had waned in recent years, last going to the Final Four in 2010. But both programs have fan bases that are eager to get excited again under new leadership.

As much as Baylor’s success was difficult to counter for other Big 12 programs, Mulkey’s larger-than-life personality always drew attention to the league, even from fans who didn’t like her. Now she has already gone to the SEC, with Texas and Oklahoma likely to follow. Big 12 women’s basketball is losing a lot of what has seemed most interesting from a national standpoint. — Mechelle Voepel

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