Could Madison Square Garden become a regular stop for the Zags? - Bruce Bennett
Conference realignment has largely been focused around football but what are the chances that the basketball schools rise up and form their own conference?
File this in the 'coolest thing ever' category.
According to ESPN's Andy Katz, who is typically very clued in to the inner workings of Gonzaga hoops, the Bulldogs would be receptive to leaving the West Coast Conference for basketball. Katz writes:
Sources say the Zags would love to part with the West Coast Conference and be a member of a national, branded basketball conference. The theory is that if Boise State and San Diego State can be in the Big East for football, then why couldn't Gonzaga in a basketball version? Of course, the easy response is that football is played once a week and there is usually a maximum of four or five league road games. Still, the Zags are looking out for themselves and would like to be positioned with fellow national Catholic-based schools instead of regional ones in the WCC. Gonzaga might not have a choice, but is starting to be a bit more proactive if an opportunity arises.
As we continue to see the Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC make moves to be football-centric, there are a number of programs in the other conferences such as the Big East, ACC, and on down to the non-BCS, that are become a little antsy. While Gonzaga belongs to a decent and (you could argue) up and coming conference in the WCC, there is no doubt that pursuing a branded, national, basketball conference would be a huge boost to revenue, recruiting, etc.
Most of the schools that are getting pushed out due to the football realignment are solid East Coast basketball programs such as Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Seton Hall, etc. Spanning from coast to coast, you could make the argument that the below scenario makes sense (compliments of Max):
Obviously these are just guesses and nothing about this has been released / discussed but it is a very appealing set up. Theoretically you could play each team in your division twice and each team in the other division once. That way, you could do this type of conference without making teams travel obscene amounts to either coast.. For instance, Gonzaga would travel to the East Coast twice to play back to back road games against members of the East Conference. Then they would make three trips to play West Division foes. Travel schedule could be:
East Division 1
East Division 2
West Division 1
West Division 2
@ St. Louis
West Division 3
The travel would be rough at times but two trips to the East Coast isn't bad when you really think about the benefits of such an alignment.
This whole thing assumes that the other programs choose to break affiliation, as well. If the current Big East wanted to add Gonzaga, it would be an obvious no because the travel would be way too much. Also, this type of conference allows the Bulldogs to be affiliated with religiously affiliated schools. They wouldn't be joining the Big East that has programs from Georgetown to South Florida in it. It would be a truly national conference based and branded around the sport of basketball.
Obviously this is all pie in the sky discussion at this point but Katz's last point that Gonzaga would be 'proactive' if an opportunity arises makes me think that something of this sort could be a realistic venture.