SALT LAKE CITY — Before we wrap up another college basketball season here in the hinterlands — and by this I mean the largely ignored schools/outposts in the West — I have a proposal that makes so much sense that I am absolutely certain ... no one will do it.
During the last two football seasons I suggested that college football’s non-Power Five conferences (aka Group of Five) should revolt and form their own national championship playoff (another idea that makes so much sense that nobody has done it). In that same vein, I am proposing another revolution, this one in college basketball. This idea comes courtesy of a reader via email who wants to remain anonymous.
The idea: Why not create a new basketball-only conference made up of the best non-Pac-12 teams in the West?
To create this new conference, we will handpick — OK, steal — a dozen teams from various conferences to create a super conference — well, as super as it can be in the West. We will not be picking teams from the Pac-12, because a) they’d never join our new league; and b) who needs ’em.
Let’s face it: If the West Coast and Mountain West conferences are the best of the other conferences the West has to offer, then the West is in trouble (but we knew that already, right?).
So let’s create the best conference made up of The Best of the Rest from the West (I think I just found our league slogan). We’re looking for schools that meet some of the following criteria: They win a lot of games, they’re big, they have money and a good following (attendance), and/or they’re a “regional anchor.”
Let the pilfering begin. Here are the schools we will target for the new league:
From the West Coast Conference: Gonzaga, BYU.
They are no-brainers. Gonzaga, one of the best programs in the country, seems ready to bolt. The school talked openly of leaving the WCC a year ago before getting talked out of it. The league ranks at the bottom nationally in attendance and only three of its 10 schools are competitive. The WCC just doesn’t have much to offer schools with national aspirations. For all of those reasons, BYU should leave the WCC, as well. The union between BYU and the WCC never made sense on any level.
From the Mountain West Conference: Nevada, Utah State, Fresno State, UNLV, San Diego State.
Under Stew Morrill, Utah State averaged 25 wins over a 14-year period. After Morrill’s retirement, the Aggies were a .500 team for three seasons until first-year coach Craig Smith led them to 28 wins this season. Fresno State has put solid teams on the floor for several years. UNLV was mediocre this year, but has a proven track record and tradition and, besides, Vegas is a regional anchor. San Diego State is an enigma; the Aztecs look like a sleeping giant, given their size and location, the climate, the rich recruiting base in their back yard, but they always disappoint. Still, they are a must for the new league.
From the Big West Conference: UC Irvine.
UCI might seem like a surprise choice, but the school has a lot of potential — a large enrollment (30,000 students) and a growing school located in a wealthy California suburb. The Anteaters are a team on the rise (31-6 this season).
That’s eight schools, all of whom should eagerly accept an invitation to join the new league. The selection of the last four teams is more difficult, but the candidates are New Mexico, Boise State, Colorado State, Wyoming and, surprise, New Mexico State and Utah Valley. Any four from this group will be fine.
Boise State has a solid, if unspectacular, basketball program, and the school does have some cachet because of its football team. New Mexico State don’t have a lot to offer but the Aggies do win games — an average of 26 for eight years, including 30 this season.
So there it is. All we need is a name: The West 12 Conference.49 comments on this story
The new league is a big improvement over anything else in the West. The new conference has seven teams in the top 100 of this year’s Pomeroy rankings, same as the Pac-12. Those top seven teams in the new conference had an average ranking of 50 in Pomeroy, compared to the Pac-12 at 65.
All of those schools will be better served by the new affiliation than their current leagues. It restores a lot of old rivalries that were lost, it improves the quality of basketball, and it raises the prestige of the West (only three teams from the West have won the NCAA basketball championship since 1975).
The West 12 Conference — it just makes sense. And you’re welcome.