Conference maze leaves even hoop fanatics in haze


There is someone out there with a handle on college basketball.

"Yeah, Nevada is leaving the Big Sky Conference for the Big West. But not until next year."

Someone who knows the details -- all of them.

"You see, Davidson left the Southern Conference for the Big South last year, but they're going back to the Southern next year."

Someone who can answer every question. Not so much who is going to win, but who is playing whom.

"This year the Mid-Continent Conference is adding Wright State, which used to be an independent, and losing Northern Iowa to the Missouri Valley Conference, and then next year it's losing Akron and adding Youngstown State."

There is someone out there who knows this.

"The American South Conference didn't really die, see, it just got taken over by the Sun Belt Conference. It was sort of a merger, so now it's all one big 11-team conference called the Sun Belt."

All of this.

"The Metro Conference, which is not the MAC or MAAC, lost its automatic NCAA tournament bid because Cincinnati and Memphis State went to the Great Midwest Conference, Florida State went to the ACC and South Carolina went to the SEC, so the league was down to four teams."

Yes, there is someone somewhere who can explain all this.

"But the Metro is adding North Carolina-Charlotte, South Florida and Virginia Commonwealth from the pre-merger Sun Belt, so it should get the automatic bid back in 1993."

Someone who can explain it without resorting to cheat sheets.

"Rider College is leaving the East Coast Conference for the Northeast Conference, but not until next year."

And without blinking.

"Augusta College dropped out of Division I. Liberty is taking their place in the Big South."

A person who has time for nothing else.

"Arkansas played football in the Southwest Conference this year, but they'll play basketball in the SEC this year."

A person who will watch 250 games on cable this winter.

"Delaware and Drexel are leaving the ECC for the North Atlantic, and Brooklyn College and Buffalo are taking their place."

Two-fifty, minimum.

"That's the University of Buffalo, which is moving up from Division II. The Buffalo Bulls."

It could be a man or a woman.

"Old Dominion is replacing Patriot-bound Navy in the Colonial."

Someone with the time to memorize 25 200-page preseason magazines.

"The Trans-American Athletic Conference lost Arkansas-Little Rock and defending champion Texas-San Antonio, but it's adding Florida International and Southeastern Louisiana."

It isn't Dick Vitale. The famous hoopaholic had Northern Iowa listed in two conferences in his preseason magazine.

"College of Charleston will join the TAAC next year."

Dickie V was stumped.

"Penn State was in the Atlantic 10 last year and they'll be in the Big Ten next year, but they're an independent this year."

What a concept: someone who knows more ball than Mistah T-O bay-bee.

"The Midwestern Collegiate Conference lost Marquette and St. Louis to the Great Midwest, which is a new six-team conference that also has DePaul, Memphis State, Cincinnati and Alabama-Birmingham."

Of course, the tough part isn't knowing why all this conference-hopping is occurring.

"Yes, DePaul isn't an independent anymore."

Teams move because they think their new conference either a) gives them a better shot at making the NCAA tournament or b) gives them more television exposure or c) will help raise the standards of their program or d) makes sense geographically.

"It looks like the West Division of the new 12-team SEC is the loaded one, with Arkansas, LSU and Alabama."

No, it isn't hard to figure out why it's happening.

"The Patriot gets an automatic bid this year."

What's impossible is keeping it all straight.

"Missouri-Kansas City? Why, the Kangaroos aren't in a conference. They're one of the few independents left."

But there is someone out there who has it all nailed down.

"Nicholls State will go from independence to the Southland this year."


"New Orleans is a co-favorite in the Sun Belt after winning the American South last year. That was before the merger."

There must be someone saying all this, right?

"Southeast Missouri State, the traditional Division II power, is joining the Ohio Valley Conference."

Anyone raising a hand?

"Remember, the MAC isn't the MAAC."


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