Turnover time: Billikens do not belong in MVC
Not often, but every once in a while, folks have been known to change my mind.
Whenever I write a column, well-intentioned readers bombard me with all sorts of dissenting opinions, all meant to persuade me to come around to their way of thinking.
They try sincerity ("Hey you idiot ...").
They try subtlety ("Dear Bryan, you're an idiot ...").
They try curiosity ("Mr. Burwell, did you know that you're an idiot?").
And my personal favorite, of course, is when they try flattery ("Of all the idiots I have ever read, you sir are the biggest idiot of them all.").
And like I said, every once in a rare, rare while, sometimes it works.
Today I am changing my mind.
The other day I wrote that the big dream was over for St. Louis University's athletic department. I believed it was time to forget about the fanciful vision in the back of the minds of all the folks at SLU, who thought the fallout from the Atlantic Coast Conference's expansion would somehow turn into a golden opportunity for the Billikens.
I believed they had no chance of getting a call from the Big East, and that when the dust settled in this wide-sweeping conference realignment, it made little sense to go to the Atlantic 10.
My mind was made up. SLU needed to stay in the down-scaled Conference USA or think regionally and go to the Missouri Valley.
I was wrong, and with the help of several letters from SLU supporters, not to mention some excellently persuasive intelligence from several anonymous college basketball wise guys, I have changed my mind.
If you look carefully at what is happening in the landscape of big-time college basketball, SLU has to think big-picture when picking its next conference affiliations.
Whatever they do now should be viewed like the first moves in a chess match.
The ultimate goal in this chess match for the Billikens is to be among college basketball's elite class. The goal of becoming a consistent national championship contender might be a little out of reach, but not the goal of being a legitimate player on the NCAA stage. Being in the MVC, which is a mid-major conference in every respect, will not serve SLU well in that pursuit.
The fact is, even though the Big East decided to bypass the Billikens in the latest expansion, a lot of smart people in college athletic circles say the Big East is not finished reshuffling.
Ultimately, there is a strong belief the Big East football and basketball schools will split at the end of the conference's existing television contracts.
And then the Big East will go back to its hoop-crazy roots and recreate a basket-ball super conference.
So the smartest thing SLU can do between now and then (best guess on the split is about a three- to five-year window) is to make sure that whenever the Big East split does happen, the Billikens are positioned to be considered a highly attractive addition to the newer, bigger Big East.
Playing in the Missouri Valley probably won't accomplish that.
Playing in the Atlantic 10 will.
The A-10 is a better basketball league than the MVC. The power ratings for the A-10 have been consistently higher over the past 10 years than the MVC.
They've received 32 NCAA bids during that span, while the MVC has received 16 in the same period.
I think I talked about travel being an issue in the A-10. But what's the difference for SLU going from C-USA road trips to Tampa, Charlotte, East Carolina, Houston and New Orleans to A-10 trips to New York, Philly and Washington?
The simple fact is, the dream isn't over now. It's just beginning.
With a new on-campus arena and top-rated recruits on the way, coach Brad Soderberg and the rest of the folks at SLU believe they can dream mighty big dreams.
Those dreams work out a lot better in the A-10 or Conference USA.