Now that conference realignment is finally a reality, fans from all over the country are slowly learning new league opponents and the other subtle nuisances of being in a new league if their team made some sort of conference switch.
One of the more intriguing cases to watch in the newest conference realignment will be Connecticut moving from the Big East to the American. Since UConn has won national titles, produced numerous NBA Draft lottery picks and built themselves into a perennial power, not much should change, but now that the backing of the Big East and its tremendous conference scheduling opportunities are no longer in-place, the Huskies will have to seek out a tougher non-conference schedule according to an Associated Press story.
Men’s coach Kevin Ollie said his program understands there would be a drop-off in the quality of league opponents, and looked toward improving its RPI by putting together a very tough non-conference schedule for the upcoming season that includes Washington, Maryland, Florida, Stanford and possibly Indiana.
Will UConn and new coach Kevin Ollie remain a powerhouse program in the American? History says that given their track record that it’s likely they’ll be fine, but little wrinkles like this make for questions as we go towards college basketball’s new conferences. Non-conference games against a group such as Washington, Maryland, Florida and Stanford will certainly help as well.
UConn lost games with Syracuse, Georgetown, Pittsburgh and other Big East — and former Big East — powers, but they’ll still have Memphis, Temple and Cincinnati in the American to compete with and the conference will likely have another upstart or two that eventually challenges that initial lead pack of American basketball powers.
The biggest difference might come in television revenue and as Connecticut athletic director Warde Manual mentions in the story, the program will need to raise money in other ways to make up for the difference, but that’s of little concern to the quality of the actual teams playing this season.
If Kevin Ollie can keep the product on the floor competitive, it’s tough to imagine Connecticut basketball falling from the nation’s elite, regardless of current conference affiliation but it will be fun to see their non-conference schedule in the coming years.