Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Big 12 basketball only gets better with less teams


One minute, it looked like the Big 12 might be no longer. Not even a conference. Now, it will become the most dominant basketball league in the nation. Thank you, Longhorns.

When Texas decided to stay in the league, it meant the Big 12 will have 10 teams once Nebraska and Colorado depart -- sidebar: how awkward is it going to be for those two schools this upcoming season? Hey, we're playing in the league, but, um, we already ditched you -- in the summers of 2011 and '12, respectively, reports indicate.

In other words, the perfect number of teams for a college hoops league. With 10 teams, everyone can play everyone twice. No exclusions. No weak schedules. No brutal slates. Just a completely even playing surface. Could you ask for anything more?

Add to that the fact that arguably the two weakest hoops schools are the ones departing, and you're talking about an infinitely better league. Seriously -- Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri. That's one helluva top six. Then add in Texas A&M, Oklahoma State (both NCAA Tournament teams in recent years), and finally Texas Tech -- regarded as on the up-and-up -- and pesky Iowa State, which is tough to beat at home.

Wow, I don't see any easy games. That's gonna make for ridiculously exciting and chaotic regular seasons. Count on it. The league's coaches have to be licking their chops. There will be no weak RPIs, no anemic schedules. Just throw in a couple tough non-conference games, and teams will be in prime position to make the Big Dance with 18, 19 wins. Perhaps seven routinely will -- which, of course, would be a mind-boggling 70 percent of the league.

From purely an on-field perspective, this doesn't hurt the football side of things, either. Sure, Nebraska was improving under Bo Pelini, and Colorado used to be formidable (but I'm talking about the Kordell Stewart-beats-Michigan-with-a-Hail-Mary days ... uhg, don't remind me).

Anyone who's followed the league recently knows that the South has been much, much better than the North. It was a joke, really, that a team from the North got to play in the conference championship game. Now, there will be no such thing. The conference schedule can go to nine games, allowing every team to play each other -- again, the best-possible scenario -- and the champion won't be determined by a made-for-TV, Dr. Pepper-sponsored game.

Yes, dollars will be lost. But damn it -- can't we forget the business side for just 2 minutes these days?

The Big 12 will be the most fun league to follow in the entire country. Yes, even better than the ACC in hoops, the SEC in football. It still has all the incredible offenses in Texas, albeit minus Mike Leach, and all its rivalries. Nebraska and Colorado was a rivalry, so that worked out well.

There really should be nothing to complain about if you're a Big 12 fan. The stage is set for great drama -- both on the basketball hardwood and between the hashes.

Now for getting rid of those defectors ASAP...