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Column: From a basketball perspective, expanding the Big Ten would be a mistake

If anything, shedding a team or two would be the smartest move for the B1G.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The internet was abuzz over the weekend after news broke that both Oklahoma and Texas plan on leaving the Big 12 conference and joining the SEC in the not so distant future. While nothing is concrete, it seems that the Big 12’s cash cows will both be exiting sometime between 2022 and 2025, making the Southeastern conference a 16-team conference and shrinking the Big 12 to an eight-team conference.

The immediate reaction was how the SEC will change. Adding Oklahoma and Texas will, by all intents and purposes, make the SEC the most competitive football and basketball conference, as well as in other sports. But our attention quickly shifted to the Big 12. What happens to a conference with eight teams that just lost its two biggest institutions? Does the Big 12 pick up two more teams — perhaps from the AAC or PAC-12 — or do the eight remaining teams break off and join other conferences?

With the current state of the Big 12, it’s hard to believe that many schools would leave their current situation to join, and if they were willing to join the Big 12, it’s probably not a school the conference would really want. For example, if Oregon State wanted to join the Big 12 (geographically, this doesn’t make sense, but play along), would they replace even a fraction of the revenue the Red River rivals brought to the Big 12? Also, why would any school from that far away want to join the Big 12? Proximity will certainly play a role.

So if we give up on the idea of the Big 12 adding members, where would the remaining eight go? Many folks jumped on the idea of the Big Ten adding two more members to the conference, making the B1G a 16-team conference just like the SEC. While it would be fun and would make some sense from a football perspective, it would be a crappy and pointless move from a basketball perspective. The reasoning is due to the stark contrast that both Ohio State and some of the proposed Big 12 schools have between their football and basketball programs. From a competitive standpoint, it just wouldn’t make much sense.

And you all thought unpopular opinion week ended last week!

Hear me out. Your Ohio State Buckeyes have not won a B1G championship in nine years. They haven’t won a B1G tournament title in eight years, or won multiple games in the NCAA Tournament (Sweet 16) in eight years. The B1G conference is rough, nasty, and extremely competitive. WHY would Ohio State want to add Kansas or West Virginia to the mix when they already have to tango with the likes of Michigan State, Michigan, Illinois, Purdue, Maryland, and others?

Kansas is a trainwreck in football, but West Virginia is fine. Neither of them would pose much of a threat to the football Buckeyes, but their basketball versions are a completely different story. Kansas is the second winningest basketball program ever. West Virginia is 20th. Bill Self has the 19th-most victories of all time, and Bob Huggins is eighth. Adding either of these schools to the B1G would make winning conference championships, making the tournament, and winning games in the tournament a whole lot harder.

Now, your counter to this might be, “Hey, even if you don’t win the Big Ten, playing higher quality opponents during the season is going to prepare you even better for the NCAA Tournament!” And my response to this is sure, if you even make the tournament. Additional losses hurt the tournament resume, and even if you make it, it hurts your seeding. Maybe Ohio State losing to Kansas by four points in mid-January makes you feel good. But it will come back to bite you in March when the Buckeyes are given a 5-seed and face Oral Roberts or South Dakota State again, rather than getting a 3-seed and facing a 14. Every game counts.

It’s still to be determined what will happen to the Big 12 and how soon. If the B1G was to absorb a team or two, 34 of the conference would have to approve it (I think that’s how it works). That means we’re more likely to add schools that create more revenue with a large alumni base, so on and so forth. This means Kansas and West Virginia are certainly on the table, while Texas Tech and Baylor are less likely. I picked those two schools for this piece simply because of the very obvious dichotomy between their football and basketball programs. What may look like a huge win for the conference from a football standpoint will not impact basketball the same way.

If anything, the Big Ten conference might be wise to part ways with two of their newest members who have largely failed to live up to expectations. Rutgers has AAC or Big East written all over them, yet they were added to help the Big Ten reach “the New York City media market.” What media market are we talking about, exactly? Because from what I can gather, New York does not give a damn for all of Rutgers.

And Nebraska was added due to proximity (I guess) and the tradition of winning Nebraska football brings to the Big Ten. Well, since joining the B1G in 2011, Nebraska has gone 68-55, including 2-4 in bowl games. On the basketball court they have a record of 142-177, making exactly one NCAA Tournament during that time frame. Nebraska is close-ish to Iowa I guess, so giving them the “midwestern” tag technically fits, but at what cost?

NCAA Football: Big Ten Conference Media Days Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The bottom line: adding basketball powerhouses to the Big Ten is bad for Ohio State. It will make it tougher for them to compete in an already-vicious conference, as well as make it tougher for them to both make and win games in the NCAA Tournament. I do not want the Buckeyes to have to play (and lose) games in East Lansing, Michigan and Lawrence, Kansas during the same week.

For football, it makes sense. But from a basketball perspective, it would upgrade the B1G from a meat grinder to a wood chipper. Nobody in the conference needs the added difficulty. If anything, we need less.