Mike Aresco Big East commissioner

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.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.