The Mountain West Should Form Western Version Of The Big East
Craig Thompson has an opportunity to create an excellent basketball conference out west.
The west is seeking a powerhouse conference in college hoops
If there’s one thing BYU fans love, it’s conference expansion talk. Sadly for those same fans, conference expansion usually ends up being chalked up as an ‘L’ for BYU more times than not. BYU’s quest to go independent and form a new WAC anyone? We know how that worked out. BYU is in the situation they are in now, and one could argue that the branding and image of BYU Men’s Basketball have regressed since joining the West Coast Conference.
If Gonzaga all teams would want to leave the WCC, a conference that they dominate similar to Kansas domination in the Big 12, why would any program that feels they can be an NCAA Tournament team would want to stay in the WCC?
The Zags are keeping their options open and BYU is likely following suit.
According to Mark Zeigler from the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson has discussed with six different university presidents and/or athletic directors since August inquiring about potential expansion in the MWC. One of those teams was Gonzaga.
Adding a basketball-only institution like Gonzaga and possibly BYU as an Olympic sports-only member would have a feel similar to that of the Big East Conference.
The Big East folded as a football entity but they’ve found success going back to their roots with basketball-only members. The new Big East has already produced an NCAA Tournament champion in Villanova back in the 2016 season and they have two teams that could find themselves on the 1-line in the upcoming NCAA Tournament later this March in Villanova again and Xavier.
If the Mountain West was to form a western version of what the Big East currently has, here is how the league should look.
- San Diego State
- New Mexico
- Colorado State
- Boise State
- Air Force
- Utah State
- Fresno State
- San Jose State
- BYU (Basketball Only)
- Grand Canyon
- New Mexico State (Basketball Only)
That would be a stellar 14-team conference. The current KenPom rankings of those 14 teams would be the following:
Gonzaga – No. 7
Nevada – No. 19
Boise State – No. 51
New Mexico State – No. 57
San Diego State – No. 60
Fresno State – No. 70
BYU – No. 75
UNLV – No. 98
Grand Canyon – No. 109
Wyoming – No. 111
New Mexico – No. 112
Utah State – No. 146
Colorado State – No. 220
Air Force – No. 243
12 of the 14 teams in the top 150 of the KenPom rankings. That would make for an excellent basketball conference and it would position the likes of Gonzaga and BYU to be in a league that would possibly be the best out west.
If Gonzaga was to go 27-4 and 17-1 in that league, they wouldn’t have to worry about getting a top-16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They’d be earning high bids along with anyone else in that league.
The question becomes does Craig Thompson have the vision and power to bring a conference like this together? This spring and summer look to be an exciting one to see if it happens.