There's a ton of chatter on the Internet these days about expansion, and in the last couple days, a lot of noise has picked up about the Big Ten and Virginia.
After going to several different places on the Interwebs, it looks like Virginia is set to become team 15 in the Big Ten, maybe as early as Monday morning, with either North Carolina or Georgia Tech team 16.
Or it could be North Carolina and Duke. Or North Carolina and Virginia. Or it could be a 4 team combination of UNC, UVA, Duke, Georgia Tech, and Florida State. Or it could be all five of those teams, add Notre Dame, and now you've got 20 teams.
Or, it could be something else entirely.
Some people are saying that the B1G and Big 12 have each offered two ACC teams each, but has not said what teams they were.
Are these stone cold, lead pipe locks? No, not really. I don't think either of these guys are as plugged in as they say they are, because if you look back to what they've said before, it's not all that accurate. It's more 'let's throw something on the wall and see what sticks' kind of thing. But it does make some sense, once you add in this column by Dave Miller of the National Football Post.
All that said, I don't think anyone felt that the B1G would stand pat at 14 teams, though, and further expansion was just a matter of time once Maryland and Rutgers were added. Timeframes were debated, but the inevitability of further expansion has not. Even Jim Delany himself said as much, without actually saying it.
"We'll see what happens around the country," he said. "If the shift continues, I can tell you we’ll be strategic about responding to it."
So now it comes down to not 'should the B1G further expand', but 'how much more should the B1G expand'?
There's a case to be made for 16, but there's also a case to be made for 20 (but strangely, not about 18. Odd). And none of this has anything to do with the current product on the football field or the basketball court; this is all driven by TV dollars. As in Big Ten Network TV dollars. Adam Rittenberg has a good outline about what to look for when you hear rumors about the B1G and further expansion.
Virginia fits all of those requirements.
So, let's say the B1G goes to 16 teams, and let's assume the tweet from Greg Swaim is correct about two ACC teams being offered.
That would mean the death of the ACC is upon us, as the SEC would almost certainly move in and grab a couple teams. From what I've read, the two ACC teams attached to each conference are:
B1G: UNC and UVA
Big 12: FSU and Miami
SEC: NC State and Va Tech
If that's true, that guts and effectively kills the ACC. All that would be left would be:
Syracuse and Pitt (effective July)
Louisville (in 2014)
Notre Dame (except kinda sorta football)
Could the schools that are big basketball schools go with the 'Catholic 7' Big East schools that left that conference to form a hoops-only conference? I don't think so, because the only school that really fits that mold of those teams is Duke, and they are on the uptick in football.
And with historically strong football programs like Clemson, Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame out there (along with 'new money' power Louisville), there would have to be be more expansion, as there is no way they would be left out of the playoff format. They just won't be. And could the Pac-12 decide to try and move east and raid the Big 12? It almost happened two years ago, and the Big 12 damn near died when Texas, Oklahoma, and four other schools nearly pulled the trigger.
I am of the opinion that if the B1G is going to expand further, go big or go home. Take 6 teams: UNC, UVA, Duke, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Notre Dame. The first four schools are AAU members, and Notre Dame's academics are good enough that AAU membership could be overlooked.
Put Florida State on a 7 or 8 year probationary period to qualify and enter the AAU. By then, their academics will be up to the standards of the B1G, whether AAU membership is granted or not. But if that's not realistic, I have an alternate plan.
If Florida State doesn't cut it academically and Notre Dame stays independent, grab Kansas from the Big 12, and see if Missouri would jump to a conference they are more of a cultural fit in. They're both AAU schools, they both have strong brands in one major sport, and they are bitter rivals that would be renewed in the B1G.
That seems to be a big longshot as well, at least Missouri does. They probably have some pride issues over getting passed up by the B1G the last time, and they're in a very stable conference. There is no need for them to move.
Or maybe Delany just grabs Virginia initially, and that turns out to be the first move in ACC Jenga. And when the ACC starts to fall, he swoops in and picks up a couple more schools.
Now, I'm not saying all or any of this will happen, but I do have a feeling something is afoot. If we go by the rule that B1G schools have to be connected to each other, Virginia and North Carolina make the most sense here, assuming the two school invite is true. And if they go to 16, they might as well keep going to 20, because that will cement the BTN as a major cable sports channel, and bring in crazy money for the conference.
Whatever it is, something seems to be going on.