The SEC and Big 10 sucked the oxygen out of the conference realignment conversation following a pair of seismic moves that are driven by two primary factors: television exposure and football.
There were however a bevy of college hoops-centric realignment moves that have transpired over the calendar year that will have repercussions this coming season and for the 2023-2024 season.
The A10 Moves West and Moves Up the CBB Hierarchy
The A10 expanded its geographic footprint west into Chicago, adding Loyola to
compliment the mid-western flank alongside Saint Louis and Dayton, a collection of schools separated by approximately 4-5 hours apiece.
How much better did the A10 get with the addition of the Ramblers? Here's a look at last season's NET rankings, perhaps the most important measurement tool in determining NCAA Tournament worthiness.
Average NET Rating w/o Loyola
NET Rating with Loyola
135.86 (9th of 32 leagues)
Loyola's addition paired with teams like Dayton and Saint Louis give the A10 a surefire chance at securing three NCAA tournament berths this coming March.
"Adding another strong program combined with the league's investment in new coaches positions it well to compete for 2-4 bids per year," Kevin Sweeney of SI Now said.
The Ramblers will get an early test to prove their A10 mettle as they'll square off against Tulsa in the Myrtle Beach Invitational on November 17th. The tournament will also feature Boise State and Charlotte. Wins against this group will go a long way in securing Loyola's third consecutive tournament appearance, a feat never accomplished in the program's history.
Pre-conference tournaments like the Myrtle Beach Invitational are certainly important for Loyola but they'll have plenty of built-in tests against NCAA tournament level competition within their own league now. Last season's A10 champion, Davidson, had four Quad 1 opportunities. For contrast, Loyola had just one Quad 1 opportunity in the Missouri Valley, a matchup at Missouri State on February 6th.
Conference strength and interleague competition matters. It may very well extend Loyola's tournament run even further.
AAC's Multi-bid Relevance Wanes
This coming season will be the AAC's swan song as currently constructed. The league will lose Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF in 2023 as all three will join BYU in joining the latest permutation of the Big 12.
Losing three of the league's largest brands isn't just a revenue gut punch but a move that would have nearly dropped the conference outside of the sports' top 10 leagues (a common line of demarcation for which conferences are likely to receive multiple at-large NCAA Tournament bids).
The additions of UAB, North Texas, Rice, Charlotte, UTSA, and FIU were made with football in mind, and save for UAB (NET 49th) and North Texas (NET 55th), the other four schools would serve as a major blow to the league's hoops stature.
Of the AAC remnants, only Wichita State (2015), Memphis (2009), Temple (2001), and Tulsa (2000) have ever seen the Sweet 16. None of those programs were members of the league when they made their tournament run. Only five of the league's upcoming formation have appeared in the tournament since the league was formed prior to the start of the 2013-2014 season.
NET Rating Currently ('21-'22)
NET Rating w/ New Schools
107.36 (7th of 32 leagues)
148.64 (10th of 32 leagues)
The good news? The exodus of power programs from the AAC opens things up for a teams like Memphis, a school that finds itself in a league looking eerily similar to its former home in Conference USA following the departure of Louisville, Marquette, DePaul, Cincinnati, and USF to the Big East in the mid-2000s.
Immediately after those schools left the Tigers went 61-1 in CUSA over the next four seasons. Memphis will always schedule aggressively out of conference and as long as they can pummel their AAC competition a la the CUSA days, the program will be just fine.
WCC Moored by a Pair of Heavyweights
We've now entered a third consecutive decade of Gonzaga's empire in the West Coast Conference. The Bulldogs own a 306-31 record in the WCC since the turn of the century and, beginning next year, one Gonzaga's most formidable opponents will depart for the Big 12.
Translation: Gonzaga's tear through the WCC will soon have even less resistance.
BYU has been a veritable sparring partner for Gonzaga, knocking off the Zags four times in the last twenty meetings (no, really, that's how good Mark Few's program has been). BYU's tepid results against Gonzaga might not sound impressive, but they're only outdone by St. Mary's five wins in their previous twenty meetings against the Zags.
"The BYU loss feels impactful because it takes away a potential quality win for WCC foes who need them," Sweeney added regarding the state of affairs in the WCC. "I still think it will be a multi-bid league more often than not, but the WCC can't easily add another program with as strong a history and financial backing as BYU."
For those willing to buy into the rumblings of Gonzaga's eventual exit, the WCC's eight remaining members would have registered as the 12th best collection of schools, behind the Missouri Valley and SoCon--and that's using data from a strong year from the league that placed four teams in the Big Dance.
NET Rating Currently ('21-'22)
NET Rating w/o BYU
NET Rating w/o BYU & Gonzaga
136.70 (10th of 32 leagues)
145.33 (10th of 32 leagues)
170.75 (12th of 32 leagues)
Rumor of Gonzaga's exit is nothing more than it is: mere speculation. Losing BYU hurts the league but Gonzaga will counteract and manufacture more opportunities outside of the WCC just like they did last week in scheduling a home-and-home battle with Kentucky that will begin this year.
Conference expansion hasn't expanded the amount of leagues that have a bite at the NCAA Tournament apple. If anything it's filtered historically strong programs together and left mid and small size leagues to flounder.