NCAA realignment has made its triumphant return with the notion of a superconference in mind!
The best part of this joyous occasion is always the wild speculation. Said speculation can range from the possible to the “what are they smoking,” but it is always entertaining. Let’s enjoy some of that now, shall we?
All Hail The Superconference
With Texas and Oklahoma firing off the opening salvo of this round of realignment, becoming the 15th and 16th members of the Southeastern Conference, the topic of the times has been superconferences. Is the SEC one? Should other leagues expand into superconference territory as a reaction?
So, what would happen if the best mid-major college basketball programs in the country decided to say, “Avengers Assemble!” and build the best basketball league they possibly could?
Behold, the Best of Intercollegiate Greatness Mid Major Athletic Conference, or the BIG MMAC for short. For the purposes of this piece, a “mid-major” is defined as any program not in the Power Five, AAC, or Big East. Anyone else is fair game.
Before you all come at me with the rage of a thousand Bobby Knights, this is purely hypothetical. I have no inside sources, I do not “have the texts,” and this is not coming from leaked documents. Sometimes you just have to ask yourself, “What if?” And that, my friends, is where I come in.
So, without further ado, here’s your 16-team, four-pod Avengers-esque, mid-major superconference: The BIG MMAC
Gonzaga- Duh. The Bulldogs are far and away the most successful mid-major program, and to not include them among the best would be simply idiotic.
San Diego State- The Aztecs have been on a 15-year long hot streak. San Diego State has brought home nine NCAA Tournament appearances since 2006. On the surface that may not seem too impressive, but that’s not including a couple of deep NIT runs and the 2020 tournament that never was. Throughout that entire run, they won less than 20 games just one time. That year they won 19 instead. With that kind of record, Aztec basketball is the best thing to come out of San Diego since Ron Burgundy.
Saint Mary’s- Over the past two decades Randy Bennett has built a consistent and potent mid-major power. They might not have the most impressive postseason resume, but nearly all of their modern success has been during Gonzaga’s reign of terror in the West Coast Conference. Which puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Plus, the inclusion of both the Gaels and the Bulldogs gives the BIG MMAC a major basketball rivalry (and one not overshadowed by football).
UNLV- Oh how the mighty have fallen. UNLV currently is wading through a sea of seasons that can only be described as “meh.” So why are they being included? Well, the Rebels won a national championship in the modern era. And they are quite possibly the biggest sleeping giant in all of mid-major college basketball. Because when UNLV is good, UNLV is really, really good. Ten Sweet Sixteens, four Final Fours, and the 1990 National Championship is enough to put UNLV in the upper echelon of college basketball as a whole. Of course, there’s been over a decade of pure mediocrity since then, but the rewards outweigh the risks.
Dayton- Two words: historical power. Eighteen NCAA Tournament appearances, seven Sweet Sixteens, three Elite Eights, and a title game appearance are clearly nothing to scoff at. But it’s not all dusty trophies and past glories. The Flyers’ recent success with their 2014 Elite Eight run and absolutely incredible 2020 season safely secure their spot.
St. Joseph’s- One does not simply talk about the most successful mid-majors and not bring up the Hawks. Sure, times have been tough lately, but the BIG MMAC would be salivating at the thought of picking up one of Philly’s Big five—especially one with the historical success and fanbase of St. Joe’s.
Loyola Chicago- The Ramblers bring a mix of historical highlights and recent success. Sure, there were decades of mediocrity in between the two, but Loyola Chicago is saved by recency bias. And Sister Jean, of course.
VCU- Much like San Diego State, VCU’s recent extended success is the main reason they are included in the BIG MMAC. The Rams’ 2011 Final Four run is their most notable success, but let’s not overlook their streak of seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2011 to 2017. Throw in an extremely passionate fanbase and adding VCU is a no-brainer for the BIG MMAC.
Belmont- The Belmont Bruins have had incredible success over the past 15 years, with 12 regular-season conference championships since 2006. They’ve also had dreadful postseason luck. They’ve never made it past the opening round of the Big Dance, but Belmont’s sheer consistency is the key to a spot in the superconference.
Davidson- Davidson is more than just Stephen Curry. The Wildcats can boast 24 regular-season conference titles, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, and nine postseason appearances since 2010 between the NCAAT, NIT, and CBI combined. Of course, that legendary 2008 run doesn’t hurt either, but Davidson has proved that they aren’t just a one-hit-wonder.
Western Kentucky- The Hilltoppers are one of those teams that never seems to suck. They’re already a historical power boasting 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and an incredible 33 conference tournament titles. But, like so many other teams in this pod, their real strength is consistency. It’s been over 20 years since the Hilltoppers have won less than 15 games.
Murray State- The Racers are one of the few mid-major programs that has proven they can consistently win big no matter the leadership, with NCAA tournament appearances under a whopping nine coaches. And there’s rivalry potential with Western Kentucky.
New Mexico State- The Aggies have been the kings of the Western Athletic Conference for the past decade. Eight NCAA Tournament berths in ten years from 2010-2019 along with another eight WAC tournament titles. Combine that with a surprisingly prestigious basketball history, and the BIG MMAC welcomes itself to Las Cruces.
Stephen F. Austin- The Lumberjacks have had little to no historical success, but they’ve dominated the Southland over the past decade. You may remember SFA from that time they beat top-ranked Duke. Or third-seeded West Virginia in the big dance. Or fifth-seeded VCU two years earlier. You get the point.
BYU- Two words: national fanbase. Sure, the Cougars have plenty of success on the court, more than enough to deem themselves worthy of consideration on that alone. But the Cougars also bring plenty of fans. And that means lots and lots of money. And the members and executives of the BIG MMAC, as with any other conference, love money.
Texas Southern- I can already hear the raising of eyebrows. Sure it might surprise some people, but Texas Southern deserves a spot in the mid-major superconference. Say what you will about the Southwestern Athletic Conference as a conference, but the Tigers are the winningest Division I HBCU program since 2010. And if it weren’t for their insane (albeit, born out of necessity) non-conference scheduling practices, the record would show just how good Texas Southern has been in recent years.
Enjoy this piece? Or feel like throwing a chair at me? Either way, find me on Twitter @Texiancurtis. Be sure to follow @lastwordonsport for all your sports needs and @LastWordHoops for more basketball content.
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