What’s next for the Big East if they lose more members?


Unless you’ve been away from all forms of technology over the last 24 hours, you’ve heard reports that Maryland is in the process of deciding which conference would be best for the Terps’ future.

Is it the ACC, of which they’ve been a member since its inception in 1953, or the Big Ten, with its lucrative conference television network and a first tier media rights deal that’s due to be renegotiated in the near future (current deal expires in 2017)?

A Maryland move would set off a chain of events that would once again leave the Big East in a tenuous position.

Those reports have Rutgers as the Big Ten’s 14th member should Maryland make the move, not to mention the general thought that the ACC would grab Connecticut to be its 14th all-sports member (not counting Notre Dame here since they will remain a football independent).

The question for Big East commissioner Mike Aresco and the presidents he represents: what course of action will they take should Rutgers and Connecticut leave?

First, this news comes at the worst possible time for the Big East as its in the process of negotiating a new television deal. A big reason why Rutgers would appeal to the Big Ten in this scenario is also why their departure would deliver a major blow to the Big East: television sets.

Feel free to argue about just how many people in the NY/NJ area “care” about Rutgers athletics, but that’s not the point. If the Big Ten can take its network to cable/satellite providers in the area with Rutgers in tow, it becomes easier to convince providers to make the Big Ten Network even more accessible to subscribers.

Losing Rutgers, and by extension Connecticut, puts the Big East in a tenuous position when it comes to those television sets. They’ll need to make additions with football in mind, as the departures would drop the conference to 11 football members (including Navy). So who would they go after? Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports offered up the following:

BYU and Air Force both remain potential additions either for football only or even full membership. Army could be a possibility – Navy is already coming in 2015. A western school such as Nevada, UNLV or Fresno State could be a football-only candidate to balance things geographically.

Or maybe in an effort to replace UConn’s presence in New England, the league goes after the University of Massachusetts or attempts to bolster its basketball by adding Xavier or Virginia Commonwealth or, well, at that point just about anyone and anything and anywhere is on the table.

It was one thing to sell the fact that adding Memphis and Temple will help lessen the blow of losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC. But if UConn, which has won three national titles as part of the Big East, were to hit the road the Big East would have to address the basketball side of things with at least one of the spots.

Do they look to the Atlantic 10? You’d almost have to if you’re the Big East, given who remains in Conference USA, and UMass would help as they would bring both basketball and football to the table.

And it would be foolish to expect the remaining schools in the conference (meaning primarily Cincinnati, Louisville and USF) to sit around and merely hope for another league to come calling; those backchannels are likely already being worked. Good luck selling a “stable” conference to prospective members.

Realignment has left the Big East in the position of picking at the leftovers in hopes of putting together a solid menu. But at this point it’s tough to see many attractive choices left on the table.

And if conference commissioners were to fully engage in a race to form those “superconferences” that were rumored to be on the way? The Big East model would most likely end up looking quite similar to what the Atlantic 10 has, and while that’s not “death” you’ll have a hard time convincing fans otherwise.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Reports: Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley mulling UConn, Pitt options

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Even before Rhode Island’s NCAA tournament came to an end Saturday in the Round of 32 against Duke, speculation was running wild about the future of Rams coach Dan Hurley.

Stay or go. If it’s go, where to?

There was no clarity, but maybe some progress Monday.

Both Connecticut and Pittsburgh, the prime candidates to pry Hurley away from Rhode Island, spoke with the coach, but no decision had yet been reached, according to multiple reports.

Hurley was set to meet with Rams athletic director Thorr Bjorn on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Heart Connecticut Media’s Jeff Jacobs reported that UConn was “closing in on an agreement” with Hurley but that Pitt was continuing its pursuit.

Hurley has led the Rams to the NCAA tournament the last two years and signed a seven-year contract with Rhode Island worth approximately $1 million per year last off-season. UConn was paying Kevin Ollie, who led the team to the 2014 NCAA title before being fired after this season, an average of $3 million per season while Kevin Stallings reportedly was due a buyout of nearly $10 million when he was fired by Pitt this season.

What Hurley will have to weigh beyond the financial circumstances will be his ability to win at either UConn or Pitt, should he decide to move on from Rhode Island.

Ollie – well, really Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright – showed you can win a national title out of the AAC at UConn. The league adding Wichita State only strengthens that point. Pitt, meanwhile, may be a tougher job now than it was when Jamie Dixon had it rolling since their move from the Big East to the ACC.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.