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Big 12 expansion: where does BYU stand in Men's Basketball?

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Much of the discussion surrounding BYU and Big 12 expansion relates to the football aspect. While a big deal has been made over BYU's success against Texas (2013 & 2014) and Oklahoma (2009) in football, how does the Cougars men's basketball team stack up against the conference?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The BYU Cougars men's basketball team hasn't been ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for a single week since the 2010-11 seasons. How would they fare if Brigham Young University athletics was invited to the Big 12 Conference for all sports, not just football? Let's compare the Cougars alongside the Big 12 schools in four categories: size of fan base, recruiting, ovverall team performance, and NCAA Tournament success.

Size of Fan Base

Home attendance is one aspect where BYU is markedly better than most of the current teams in the Big 12. Despite the capacity reduction to the Marriott Center, the Cougars still have one of the largest on-campus arenas in college basketball. Given the weak home slate in the West Coast Conference consisting of many sub-200 RPI conference games, it could be argued that there is even room to build on their already impressive attendance figures. Here is a five-year attendance average for the Big 12 and BYU, taken from the yearly attendance reports at stats.ncaa.org:

School Home Attendance Average (2011-12 through 2015-16)
Kansas 16,428
BYU 15,622
Iowa State 13,833
Kansas State 12,378
Texas 11,432
Oklahoma 10,015
West Virginia 9,606
Oklahoma State 8,641
Texas Tech 7,816
Baylor 6,897
TCU 4,766

In addition to home attendance, BYU fans are spread out across the country and would show well to many road games in the Big 12 conference like they currently do for the West Coast Conference.

Recruiting

Another area where BYU stacks up well against the Big 12 is recruiting. As I mentioned in my last post, Dave Rose has been consistently brining top-100 level players to Provo over the past few seasons to set up a bright future for his basketball team. Here are the four-year averages of the team recruiting rankings according to the 247 Sports Composite list.

School Team Recruiting Class Ranking Average (2013 through 2016)
Kansas 9.75
Texas 26.75
Oklahoma State 39.25
Baylor 40.50
West Virginia 48.75
BYU 50.75
Oklahoma 51.00
Kansas State 63.50
Iowa State 66.25
TCU 71.25
Texas Tech 95.25

It is worth pointing out that BYU had three top-40 classes in that time span, but they were weighed down by the 2015 class that ranked 117th in the nation because it only had one commit (Zac Seljaas). In most years, the Cougars are recruiting just as well or better than all Big 12 teams except Kansas, so they would most certainly improve the overall talent of the league.

Overall Team Performance

When looking at the on court success of BYU and the current Big 12 teams, win-loss records or RPI is not enough to make an accurate comparison. However, Ken Pomeroy's College Basketball Ratings take into account strength of schedule to make adjustments when calculating their rankings, so it is a more ideal metric to use. Here is the five-year Kenpom ranking average, which isn't quite as favorable for the Cougars.

School Kenpom Ranking Average (2011-12 through 2015-16)
Kansas 8.4
Iowa State 21.2
Baylor 22.8
Oklahoma 43.4
Texas 43.8
Kansas State 45.6
BYU 52.2
West Virginia 55.4
Oklahoma State 58.4
Texas Tech 155.8
TCU 173.2

As all BYU fans know, the Post-Jimmer Fredette era has brough many ups and downs over the past five years.  Nevertheless, BYU would be an addition that would deepen the Big 12 without hurting the quality of play.

NCAA Tournament Success

This last category is one that BYU fans would rather not read about, but it is a necessary one to include. National attention on college basketball is at its highest by far in March and early April, during the NCAA Tournament. Here is how BYU has fared in March Madness over the past five years compared to the Big 12 schools.

School 2012-2016 NCAA Tournament Victories (Appearances)
Kansas 12 (5)
Iowa State 6 (5)
Oklahoma 6 (4)
Baylor 5 (4)
West Virginia 2 (3)
Texas 1 (4)
BYU 1 (3)
Kansas State 1 (3)
Oklahoma State 0 (3)
TCU 0 (1)
Texas Tech 0 (0)

Conclusion

It is clear that BYU Basketball has their strengths and weaknesses as a Big 12 expansion candidate. It should be pointed out that the Big 12 does not schedule conference games for men's basketball on Sundays, so that is not an additional obstacle for the Cougars. With the incredible size of the fan base and the potential the program has to be successful based on recent recruiting, BYU's basketball program does a great job of supplementing the football team's resumé in the eyes of the Big 12.