Inside Marshall Sports

Tulane, Memphis v. Louisville: Not happenin’

Goood morning, all.

First, the absolute funniest-ever news of conference realignment: Louisville escaping the Big East for the ACC. Second, my lobbying for new Conference USA members.

The Louisville move was awesome on so many levels (though WVU fans may beg to differ). First, the Cardinals not only jumped ship, they found a better fit than they would have gotten in the Big 12. The ACC got a finer, more committed athletic program than Big Ten-bound Maryland, one that delivers its TV market better, and has better basketball pedigree. Louisville has perhaps the coolest combination of football stadium and basketball arena in America (I’ve been in both; I’m not goofing around here).

You can tell me how football-driven realignment is, but the ACC needs good basketball. Louisville will help the ACC retake the title of best basketball league, or at least outflank the Big East. (So what does a Tulane basketball jersey fetch on eBay?) And this isn’t even a consolation prize for Louisville not following West Virginia into the Big 12 — the Cards keep almost the same geographical footprint. They join the league WVU had been dying to enter for decades.

Louisville’s defection really messes over Tulane, which celebrated its shocking acceptance into the Big East with much hullabaloo on Tuesday. Messes over Memphis, which specifically celebrated its Big East invite because of the reunion with Louisville. Football-wise, East Carolina will end up having the consistently largest fan base — but do the Pirates really want to re-enter the Southern Conference in the rest of program?

ECU’s exit will hurt Conference USA football, though. As I wrote about some time ago, these guys were the most deserving of a promotion to the Big East, as it was formerly constituted.

So while the Big East ponders a pilferage of Charlotte and Tulsa, or whoever, who are the best candidates for a C-USA expansion?

I say it’s time to take the better offerings and boost basketball. You have a better chance at climbing up the food chain in that sport than you do football, no matter what the short-term economics might say.

That means Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and probably nobody else.

If you missed it, WKU made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season *despite* firing its coach after a 5-11 start. Its history includes about 22 NCAA tournament appearances, one (vacated) trip to the Final Four and a few NIT semifinal appearances. This program needs no further introduction.

Middle’s history is not quite as illustrious, but you saw what the Blue Raiders did to Marshall in the NIT, and then did to Tennessee in Knoxville. Kermit Davis’ team finished 27-7, and is currently 4-1 with a win over Central Florida.

Florida Atlantic has had Mike Jarvis on its bench and does own a trip to the 2011 NIT. But the Owls slipped to 11-19 last season and their fan base is rather Rice-like. As for the other candidate, it’s tough to put “Arkansas State” and “basketball” in the same sentence, though they did upset Middle in last season’s Sun Belt tourney. On the other hand, they hung a big 27 on Louisville.

And that’s where I end my spiel.

Finally, a basketball item from Memphis. If you’ve missed it, the Tigers are staggering out of the gate.