New-Look Conferences: Basketball Edition

We all know the seismic shifts that have happened in college football with the latest conference realignments. Basketball is usually left out of the conversation, mostly because the shifts were completely football-related. It still has to bug Kansas just a little that, despite being the hoops program of the Big 12, they weren't even considered to join what's now the new Pac-12.

So, how do the new look conferences change the basketball scene in 2011-12?

Let's start with Nebraska in the Big 10. The change? Not much. Doc Sadler will not have the luxury that Husker baseball coach Darin Erstad will have. As baseball is not huge in the Big 10, Erstad will walk into the new conference as the clear choice to win the league. Hoops reign supreme in the Big 10 though, so Sadler is entering into a much bigger spotlight. The Huskers went 19-13 last year, but finished in the bottom half of the Big 12 and were blown out of the gym by Wichita State in the NIT. While NU is a young team this year, and Jorge Brian Diaz could develop into a really good player, I don't see the Huskers making a threat to win the conference and likely will finish in the bottom half.

The Pac-12 brings in Colorado and Utah. I do think CU will make some noise in their new conference ... just not this year. Tad Boyle's team started slow last year but finished strong, playing solid basketball en route to the NIT semifinals. Without question, Boyle is a solid coach that will get results in Boulder. However, it's hard to bet on the Buffs this year when their top four scorers are done. CU returns just 27 percent of their scoring from last year, so while I think they'll do well in time, I don't think they'll rise to the occasion this year.

As for Utah, the answer is almost identical. The Utes returning nucleus brings a lot of points and rebounds to the table. However, the returning nucleus consists of four players. With 11 newcomers joining a tradition-rich program, I see Utah being tough to beat in a couple of years, but they might face a few bumps in the new Pac-12.

The West Coast Conference couldn't have asked for a better deal than BYU. Sure, the Jimmer Fredette show isn't coming to the league, but Dave Rose still brings back a load of talent that should make an immediate impact on the WCC. The difference? You won't see a Jimmer out on the court, but BYU will spread the ball around more and should have an easier time wearing down opponents defensively. Noah Hartsock's not too bad a player to have coming back, as well. Gonzaga and St. Mary's now have some added fierce competition, not to mention a brutal 22,000 seat hostile environment that BYU calls the Marriott Center (and the conference calls their dream setting for the league tournament). BYU won't have to wait to make an instant impact and should compete immediately.

Finally, we'll take a look at Boise State. The Broncos enter the new look Mountain West after finishing second in the WAC, but losing a slew of players, including leading scorers La'Shard Anderson and Robert Arnold. The Broncos should no way be in the cellar of the MWC as TCU has that spot down. However, getting past San Diego State should be a major challenge for Boise to win in their inaugural season. Boise will do good enough to make the top half of their new league, but they should pull off a surprise or two along the way.

In 2012, more changes are to come. But for now, the college basketball world seems to be much more stable than it's larger football counterpart.

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