Nebraska is officially a member of the Big Ten… or whatever it will end up being called after all the dust has settled. While the move makes sense both financially and to improve the quality of football in the conference, the switch does absolutely nothing for college basketball.
Football and Financial gain; every rumored mega-conference creation revolves around those two items. In the process, college basketball is being treated like an overweight groupie and just thrown to the side in favor of the sexier friend.
Nebraska has a long and storied football tradition which should make the Big Ten more competitive; one of the major reasons both sides wanted to join forces. However, the Huskers basketball program rivals soon-to-be conference mate Northwestern as two of the least successful teams in college hoops. In fact, the two schools join South Florida as the three major BCS basketball programs to have never won an NCAA Tournament game. At least Nebraska has made six trips to the dance whereas the Wildcats are still waiting for their inaugural appearance in the tourney.
The struggles for Nebraska date back some sixty years. Their last conference title was in 1950 when they were co-champs of the Big 8 along with Kansas and Kansas State; two programs which sadly might be massively screwed when all the jockeying of conferences is complete. You have to go all the way back to 1916 to find the last time the Huskers won an outright conference title. But hey, they did win the NIT in 1996!
School officials are hoping brighter days are on the horizon for the Nebraska basketball program though. Plans are underway to build a new arena in downtown Lincoln that will seat 16,000 fans, it’s scheduled to open in time for the 2013-2014 season. Upgrades in their practice facilities are also on tap which should help their recruiting. Until then, the Huskers figure to be nothing more than a mirror image of their 2009-2010 squad that was a doormat of the Big 12 finishing in last place with a 2-14 conference record.
No Big Ten basketball fan is excited about Nebraska’s arrival into the conference except maybe Iowa because they might actually win a game or two more per year. I don’t know anybody who will be rushing to the ticket office or standing in long lines to make sure they pick up a pair of seats for when Nebraska comes to town or road tripping to Lincoln to catch their club play on the Huskers home floor.
Instead, Nebraska’s arrival will only water down the competition in the conference and likely cost your favorite team a chance of playing one of the other marquee programs once a year. Think about it; if you are Wisconsin, maybe a home-and-home with the new kids on the block is added to your schedule in a particular year but in the process, you only play Ohio State and Michigan State once a year instead of matching up with them two times. That is unless the Big Ten powers that be decide to up the number of conference games played per year which seems like the best solution for all involved.
There is still plenty of musical chairs left to play in the next couple of weeks as the landscape of college conferences will forever be altered. So far, the current switching follows suit with this theory that football is of first and foremost importance with basketball being nothing more than an afterthought. The other major moves of Colorado will add to the Pac-10 and Boise State will be an upgrade to the Mountain West Conference from a football standpoint, but in no way improves the quality of basketball. Just like Nebraska joining the Big Ten. Nobody seems to care though as college hoops remains the red-headed step child of conference realignment.