Starting Five: Big 12 shouldn't give up so easy

6/10/10 in NCAABB

Sporting News college basketball columnist Mike DeCourcy addresses five topics currently in his sport's headlines.

1. Kansas basketball in the Mountain West — is that the biggest crime that likely will result from this expected nationwide conference realignment?

DeCourcy: The biggest crime is the apparent failure of imagination on the part of the remaining Big 12 membership and particularly its leadership.

Kansas coach Bill Self awaits news of whether his Jayhawks will stay in the Big 12.
Kansas coach Bill Self awaits news of whether his Jayhawks will stay in the Big 12.

When the Big East lost three essential members in Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech, the league did not simply take the media's advice and go fishing. Mike Tranghese, then commissioner, went to work and found eager new members who preserved the league's BCS status — and then negotiated new television deals better than those in place.

The Big 12 loses Nebraska and Colorado, and everybody quits? That's appalling. That's like giving up a touchdown pass before halftime and choosing not to come out of the locker room for the final two quarters.

The Texas schools are not going to find more suitable homes elsewhere. If they're on board — and certainly Kansas, K-State and Iowa State want the Big 12 to keep going — then there's a league. There are plenty of schools that could replace Nebraska and keep the conference moving forward.

Memphis presents a great opportunity for the Big 12: large market, untapped football potential, great basketball program and a strong, new recruiting region for the current league members. If they and their leaders can't see that, they deserve a few bus rides to Pullman and Corvallis.

2. If the Pac-10 gets Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado and Texas Tech, how does that league stack up?

DeCourcy: It'll be a heck of a baseball league. That's not what you're asking, though, is it?

Basketball? It certainly will be great for the Pac-10 if it adds Texas, because Texas is one of the premier basketball programs in the country. Texas A&M is a very efficient operation in which the players consistently devote themselves to the system and perform with extraordinary effort.

It's hard to know what to expect from the others. The OK State program has done extremely well under Travis Ford, but it's still a new operation. Oklahoma's in a bit of a crisis. Texas Tech is still a question mark. Colorado has never really tried that hard.

I'm sure with the Pac-10 as down as it was this season and is likely to be again, there are a lot of presumed Big 12 refugees pleased at the thought of escaping those games against KU, K-State and Mizzou.

3. Does Nebraska have an easier path to the NCAA Tournament in the Big Ten than it did the Big 12?

DeCourcy: Certainly not. The Big Ten is a consistently rugged basketball league with power programs that — Michigan State being a possible exception pending Izzo's decision — only figure to grow stronger in the coming years.

Wisconsin will be great as long as Bo Ryan wants to coach. Purdue and Ohio State have young coaches who already have their programs rolling. Illinois has a fantastic young roster and a coach in Bruce Weber who can make good use of those players.

Indiana remains near the start of its reconstruction, and Iowa is just getting going, but Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery are terrific and can solve their programs' issues given time.

No, Doc Sadler's job at Nebraska just got that much tougher. But all this is not really about basketball, is it?

4. Because of the time it is taking Michigan State coach Tom Izzo to decide if he wants the Cleveland Cavaliers' job, is that an indication it's likely to happen?

DeCourcy: I think it's an indication Izzo doesn't really know if the car he's being sold has an engine.

I can't imagine why Izzo would even consider taking the job without LeBron James under contract. Yahoo! Sports reported Izzo is going over Cleveland's post-LeBron rebuilding plans. There's a scientific term for those plans: ignominy.

Without James, Cleveland does not have a playoff roster. It doesn't even have the youthful hope New Jersey could embrace through its winter of misery. The Nets had young talent such as Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Are the Cavs planning to build around Anderson Varejao's 8.6 points per game?

I understand Izzo, at age 55, feels this is a now-or-never circumstance for him, so he wants to be sure he gives it proper consideration. But given the opportunity being presented, I'd vote "never."

5. If Izzo bolts East Lansing, who should Michigan State call first?

DeCourcy: Athletic director Mark Hollis is extremely bright and creative, and he said he would be ready to hire Izzo's replacement immediately. If that's the case, he must be thinking former MSU assistant Brian Gregory, now coaching Dayton.

Gregory is a fine coach with a great demeanor. Dayton has two NCAA appearances in his seven years, and he has won consistently: an average of 21 victories per year. The Flyers won an NCAA Tournament game in 2009 and won the NIT championship this season.

Mike DeCourcy is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at decourcy@sportingnews.com.

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