When reading the article about Air Force potentially joining the WCC in basketball as a result of their football program going to the Big East, I started dreaming of how beneficial it would be for Gonzaga to move to the Mountain West. This hasn’t been discussed anywhere to my knowledge, but amid all this conference realignment talk I think it would be interesting to explore our best moves.
I will assume Air Force goes to the Big East in football, meaning they could not be in the PAC 12, MWC, or any other FBS level conference in other sports. All other members in my little fantasy conference besides Gonzaga and BYU are slated to be in the MWC next year. I put BYU in here because it would not make much sense for them to stay in the WCC if Gonzaga left, so if you are thinking “I can’t picture them going back to the MWC!”, put Air Force (or another reasonable candidate in your mind) in their place and it would still be superior to where we are now. My point is to prove that the MWC would greatly improve our recruiting and position in college basketball because we would be in a tougher conference. With or without BYU, we would have a league capable of being the best non-BCS conference in college basketball.
This would be the new 12-team Mountain West Conference. In addition to the success some of the teams have enjoyed over the last 5 to 10 years, this league has a high ceiling because of its arena sizes:
New Mexico (17,200)
Boise State (12,820)
Fresno State (15,544)
Colorado State (8,745)
Utah State (10,270)
Gonzaga (6,000)... Compare this to the WCC, in which we have the largest arena.
Get three or four teams in the top 25, and even lesser teams (Wyoming, Fresno St) would provide great road tests and atmospheres for NCAA-bound teams in ESPN games. Attendance could rival or exceed that of the PAC 12.
The new MWC would feature either North/South Divisions or East/West divisions. Teams would play their own division members twice per year and opposite division members once per year, alternating home and away games. This means all MWC teams would play 16 conference games.
Bold pairs indicate teams that I thought should be kept together for rivalries that are played twice each year. I tried to keep Boise with either Wyoming or Gonzaga. Teams with asterisks(*) are part of the “seven proven programs” that I will discuss later. Here are my two possible configurations, with the North/South alignment first:
I prefer the Pacific/Inland division arrangement, because it would guarantee us a trip to Hawaii every year. Both alignments split the seven proven teams 3-4. I call them the “proven” teams not to start a debate on their success, but to say they are more consistent and probably better than any WCC team left after the removal of Gonzaga and BYU. This would be a great conference because it has 7 good programs (Gonzaga, USU, SDSU, New Mexico, UNLV, Nevada, BYU) and one up and coming program in Boise State. The WCC never has more than 2 good teams, and we are the only consistent program. I know we will probably stay put in the WCC, but I don’t see how this wouldn’t be great for us even if BYU goes to the Big 12/Pac 12 or stays in the WCC. This has the potential to out perform the Colonial Athletic Association and be a 2 to 5 bid league. I know it seems ridiculous, but even if only Gonzaga joined and the AFA went to the WCC, the MWC would be a strong 11 team league, and that is one team away from happening.
What are your thoughts? Would you rather have 10 or 11 tough conference games or continue our relatively easy reign in the WCC?