Very early on Wednesday morning, ESPN's Andy Katz posted some blog points that included this very interesting piece of information:
Sources say the Zags would love to part with the West Coast Conference and be a member of a national, branded basketball conference.
This bit comes in the context of the recent meeting of the Big East's non-football schools to discuss the possibility of severing ties with its football members and creating a new conference. This would give those schools control of their future, disassociating with the revolving door of football programs. More from Katz:
There is one school that would love to be a part of any new conference or conglomerate: Gonzaga ... The Zags are looking out for themselves and would like to be positioned with fellow national Catholic-based schools instead of regional ones in the WCC. Gonzaga might not have a choice, but is starting to be a bit more proactive if an opportunity arises.
From Gonzaga's perspective, it makes sense. The Bulldogs are really, really close to having outgrown the West Coast Conference, if they haven't already. Before a loss to undefeated Illinois, Gonzaga was undefeated and in the top 10. This year's schedule sees the Bulldogs play West Virginia, Clemson, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State. It's very clear Gonzaga wants to be a big boy in college basketball.
The WCC is no slouch as a conference, right there with the Atlantic 10 as the best of the mid-majority (with the common holding that the Mountain West is not a mid-major.) But last season the Zags were 25-6 and lost to ranked Saint Mary's in overtime in the WCC tournament title game ... and received a 7-seed. I can see at least some reason to be displeased with that.
The new Big East hoops conference would consist of Marquette, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, Saint John's, DePaul, and Villanova. Those seven schools would probably have an interest, especially if creating a basketball-centric conglomerate, in trying to poach the likes of Xavier, Butler, Dayton, and maybe Richmond from the A-10.
If Gonzaga got involved, it would definitely be among a stronger set of hoops schools than are in the WCC, moving from a 2.5-bid (2 in down years, 3 in good years) conference to a 4-bid (maybe 5 in good years) conference. Access to the tournament and possibility of better tournament seeding would be the appeal.
But how does a school in Washington fit in a conference full of teams in the Midwest and East coast? I suppose that's for the Zags to decide and figure out. As Katz points out, travel is twice the issue in hoops than it is in football, playing mid-week games and multiple times per week.
For the WCC: What would be it's next step? The big winner in this scenario would probably be Seattle, as the Redhawks would likely be saved from the waffling WAC and return to its original home in the WCC by replacing Gonzaga, who is said to be a perma-block to Seattle's return as long as its around.
As for BYU: Do the Cougars stick around and roll with a Gonzaga-less WCC?
Or could/should they try to tag along? I assume this new conference would be interested in picking up a few powers in the West to help Gonzaga make the transition. I bet San Diego State would be interested in such a conference over the Big West. And maybe ... Saint Mary's? I recently read John Infante (of Bylaw Blog fame) on Twitter discusshow Gonzaga and Saint Mary's hold all the cards in the WCC, and for the first time I entertained the thought of the two schools leaving.
What other options would BYU have? It could try to negotiate its way back into the MWC as a non-football member to balance Hawaii's football-only presence. This would mean a change in stance from Craig Thompson, who has previously said he is not interested in non-football members. But a MWC hoops league with New Mexico, UNLV, Nevada, Utah State, BYU, and Colorado State would be quiet awesome.
Or say Gonzaga bolts, but San Diego State isn't involved in the new conference. Would the Big West be better than the new WCC?
Needless to say, this would cause a lot of angst in BYU land once again. Football has run the realignment show, but perhaps basketball is about to stake its claim.