Nebraska is moving to the Big Ten. Um, yay?
Oh, don't get me wrong. This is a big deal. It officially begins the expansion rollout, the cross-country tumbling of Big 12 and Big East dominoes sure to remake the college sports landscape for decades to come. It adds an historic football program to a conference that thrives on big-time football tradition. And it gives the Big Ten an inroad west of Iowa into a state of about 1.8 million people utterly obsessed with Cornhuskers football.
But this is a college basketball blog, and I'm a college basketball guy, and the unfortunate truth is that adding Nebraska is not a college basketball move. In fact, it barely registers.
The Penn States, Indianas and Northwesterns of the world will be happy -- Nebraska could become the Big Ten's favorite new punching bag, a perennial also-ran good for at least one or two wins in the Big Ten in even the worst of seasons. The move doesn't do anything to increase the quality of the hoops in the league, though. Arguably, it makes the conference worse.
Nebraska hasn't won a conference title in the Big 8 or the Big 12 since 1950; its last outright conference title came with a 12-0 season in 1916. The Huskers have won one conference title in the history of the program. They haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 1998, which was the program's sixth appearance of all-time -- six appearances that have resulted in zero wins.
In 2009-10, Nebraska won two Big 12 games and finished dead last in the conference.
None of which is news. Nor is it any surprise that basketball is a secondary -- secondary is probably too generous, actually -- consideration in conference expansion. Duh, right? But compared to the potential annexation of Missouri, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Texas or any number of other Big 12 and Big East teams, this is pretty boring stuff. Those teams would make the Big Ten an amazing basketball conference. The regular season would be must-see TV on three or four nights per week. Nebraska, on the other hand, is one of the few programs in the country that can actually make the Big Ten less watchable.
So, this is not exactly exciting. Great for the football fans? Great for TV dollars? Great for the rest of the country, which can now begin freaking out about its own conference fate? Yes, yes, and yes.
Great for Big Ten basketball? Not exactly.