Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How will Texas A&M's move to the SEC affect hoops?

This post can also be found at Beyond The Arc.

Its not a secret what the end game is in conference realignment.

At this point, it appears as if four 16 or 18 team super-conferences are unavoidable. With the billion-dollar -- and, yes, I do mean billion -- TV contracts that those conferences are going to generate, its difficult to imagine a scenario where, at best, the power conference schools gain an even larger advantage over the mid-majors or, at worst, the four super-conferences secede from the NCAA.

As both Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com and Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com wrote yesterday, that is a very bad thing for college basketball and will, in all likelihood, permanently change the NCAA Tournament for the worse. What makes the situation even more frustrating is that, despite providing a massive portion of the NCAA's budget with its 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS, the NCAA Tournament is a complete afterthought. These college commissioners and school presidents are going to ruin the sport we love and the world's greatest sporting event and they simply don't care.

But, hopefully, that inevitability won't happen for a number of years.

Until then, what we should be concerned about is how Texas A&M, the SEC, and the Big 12/10/9/whatever will be affected if the Aggies do happen to jump ship. There's no doubt in my mind that A&M will immediately become the best basketball program in the SEC West. While they haven't had a ton of postseason success over the last six years, in the words of the esteemable DJ Khaled, all the Aggies do is win. Every year, they seem end up with around 24 wins overall, 10 or 11 wins in league play, and a five in the NCAA Tournament regardless of who they lost the year before.

Now imagine what will happen when the Aggies get to play LSU, Ole Miss and Auburn twice every year.

This past spring, Mark Turgeon left College Station to take over for Gary Williams at Maryland. He was replaced by Billy Kennedy, whose hiring was considered a homerun when it happened and now looks even better. Kennedy is a southerner through and through. He was born and raised in New Orleans, he coached at just about every school there is in Louisiana and he spent the past five years coaching at Murray State in Kentucky.

"It's premature to talk about it, but I'm more familiar with the SEC since most of my players have been from Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama," Kennedy told Andy Katz of ESPN.com.

Kennedy should still be able to recruit Texas as well, particularly if the Big 12 disintegrates. College Station is about two hours from Houston and a little more than three hours from Dallas. Its the second best hoops program in the state, and depending on where Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and even Houston end up when all the pieces stop spinning, the Aggies may end up being the only other high-major program in the state, behind the Longhorns.

Kennedy brought in ace recruiter Glenn Cyprien as his associate head coach. He's already earned commitments from top 100 players in the Class of 2012 (J-Mychal Reese from Houston) and 2013 (Kendrick Nunn from Chicago).

As far as SEC hoops is concerned, its continuing to get stronger. Alabama is on the rise under Anthony Grant, potentially being a top 15 team nationally this season, while Arkansas should experience a resurgence under Mike Anderson. The SEC East is stacked, with Kentucky and Florida sitting atop the league and Georgia, Tennessee and Vanderbilt sitting a notch below them. Adding another top 25 program to the weaker western division will only help the league's balance.

The Aggies football team may end up being permanently mediocre playing in the same division as the likes of LSU and Alabama, but their basketball program should be able to thrive.

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