First, of all East Tennessee State is not the first school to "step down" to the Atlantic Sun. It might just be stated that they are the first to do so involuntarily (well to a certain extent). Central Florida, Georgia State, and Jacksonville all voluntarily left the Sun Belt Conference to join the Atlantic Sun, each for reasons other than that their membership was being rescinded. Also, the notion that the Southern Conference features a quality of play in basketball over and above that of the Atlantic Sun is not wholly accurate. I'm not saying that ETSU has made a lateral move, I am just saying not to expect ETSU to become the perennial power of A-Sun basketball and to be nationally recognized as such.
Also, the notion that Centenary (Shreveport, LA) would join the Mid-Continent Conference because of geography is farcical, and in fact, they were independent for a few years prior to acquiring Mid-Con membership, so it's not like A-Sun departure and Mid-Con admission are directly related. Centenary's nearest Mid-Con rival is Oral Roberts in Tulsa. After that perhaps Missouri-Kansas City. Trips to Florida and Georgia would be much more preferable for Centenary than trips to Utah and Michigan, which makes me wonder what exactly transpired prior to Centenary exiting the Atlantic Sun Conference. Did Centenary think that they would be assured membership in the Southland Conference and/or what compelled them to leave the A-Sun?
Looking at the Sagarins for the past 5 years. The SoCon has been rated higher in basketball every year than the A-Sun/TAAC. In the last couple of years Troy St. (headed to Belt), and UCF (headed out somewhere?) have been the top players in the A-Sun. What happened more than 5 years ago to send a few of these teams into the then TAAC is unclear, but the conference has clearly lost power and prestige to some degree in recent years. The addition of ETSU has to help them.
The moves of Jax St. and Samford out of A-Sun to the OVC may appear to be lateral, but I doubt it is in the minds of these schools. They get a football home in the OVC.
Bottom line...the A-Sun is not the TAAC any more. My previous assessments are accurate. This is a step down for ETSU which will strengthen the A-Sun (one losing season in the last 5 years, and NCAA berths out of the SoCon).
Once the A-Sun loses UCF and Troy St, ETSU will have a "chance" to dominate "unless" they suffer a corresponding loss in recruiting power with this move.
I don't see Belmont, Lipscomb, and Gardner-Webb on par with ETSU relative to basketball power as new entries.
As for Centenary... ???
I'm with you on this one. I'd like to know what went on for them to leave the TAAC. Along with Texas-PanAm they appear to be natural fits for the Southland. Why aren't they there? Lack of football perhaps? Centenary has joined the Mid-Con because it's the place where all leftovers end up. This is the "catfish" conference of the NCAA...Bottom feeder, will eat anything. 8-)