College basketball fans are sick of seeing great conferences torn apart in the name of big-time football.
The Big East used to be hoops heaven. By next season, with SMU, Houston and other GPS-defying programs coming aboard, it will have morphed into a wishful-thinking version of the Big 12. Conference USA began life as safe harbor for schools like Louisville and Cincinnati that treated football season like a four-month pep rally for basketball. With Memphis leaving next year, it becomes a clearinghouse for square pegs. Venerable Midwestern schools without major football programs are forced to pretend they are located in Connecticut. The hoops-only schools on the West Coast with national buzz consist of Gonzaga and thanks for playing.
It’s time to create a conference that gives college basketball back to college basketball fans: Let’s call it the Hoops USA Conference. There are mumblings of just such a conference taking shape from the sloughed-off Big East basketball powerhouses and some of their friends. This article corn-feeds that proposal and turns it into a nationwide basketball celebration: 14 teams, coast-to-coast, all of them with rich traditions and strong (or strong enough) current programs.