Expansion could radically alter tournament

Updated: September 8, 2011, 5:40 PM ET
By Joe Lunardi

Back in the good ol' days -- remember 2006? -- it was pretty simple to evaluate the impact of conference roulette from a basketball standpoint. With NCAA bids as coin of the realm, leagues and schools were seeking the greatest possible access to the tournament and its attendant riches.

I argued then that the "big move" of the day -- five Conference USA schools to the Big East -- would only work if the new super conference generated at least as many NCAA invitations as its prior affiliations combined. And, while it was tough sledding in the first few years (six NCAA bids in 2007, for instance), the glass ceiling was shattered in 2011 with a record 11 tournament teams from the Big East. With it, the already dwindling impact of basketball on conference membership decisions was dead and gone.