Obviously it stinks (though I suppose you can't blame them) and there are rumors that SLU and Dayton might join those jerks in the Big East too. UMass is apparently looking to upgrade football, so they might not be far behind. All of those combined means there are a lot of holes in the conference. So who should we get?
This is a tough one. One on hand, it sucks to be a conference taking schools from another conference, since it just happened to us, but you'd still have to. So here are my guesses, and feel free to add yours.
The first ones I thought of were George Mason, Old Dominion, James Madison and Delaware -- big state schools that are nearby. Mason has a decent hoops following now thanks to their Final Four a few years ago and a great arena, ODU has a good hoops program and is in a big metro area, and Delaware.. well, it's a big school. JMU is also big and just made this year's NCAA tourney.
However, ODU, JMU and Delaware all have football aspirations (the Blue Hens had this Flacco guy, too) and we might not want to grab some teams that are leaving soon. Then again, why not? They'd have to pay the conference money to leave, but it might not be worth the effort to get them and then have to get more teams a couple of years later when they leave. I think Mason would be a fun local rival but I'm not sure if the decent teams lately are just a hangover from the Larranaga years or part of a consistently good program.
So how about some other options? They'd probably have to be pretty good schools with some name recognition, probably without football, located in the east and ideally in a big city. That narrows things down a lot. Boston University comes to mind first -- while they aren't always a great basketball school, they are a good university in a big city (hey, sounds like us.) Vermont would also be a good one to grab -- they've been solid even after we yoinked their coach, and Stony Brook, with former Karl Hobbs assistant Steve Pikiell at the helm, has been good too -- however, if he leaves for a bigger school, that may end. Manhattan is a solid hoops program but not a very big school (hey, maybe we can swap them for St. Bonaventure or Fordham!) while Drexel, Northeastern, UNC-Wilmington and Hofstra also might be good grabs, though all except NU are down this year.
I'm not really interested in any MAAC, NEC or Big South teams, as most are too small, so that leaves the Patriot League and Southern Conference as other places that might be good to look at. I would have said Navy would be great, but they're going to the Big East (well, one of the Big Easts) because of football, and Army is pretty bad at sports for some reason. Bucknell is usually pretty good at hoops, but maybe not as high profile as I'd like. As for the SoCon, College of Charleston and Davidson are probably good picks -- both being traditionally good hoops places, though Davidson is quite small and in a little town. I like the idea of expanding the conferences southern roots too.
So those are my ideas. How about yours?
UPDATE: GWHoopsters mentioned Belmont, which is in Nashville. That's not a bad one either, though smallish and a bit of a hike.
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