Yes, this blog is all about Big 12 basketball, and I would love nothing more than for the Big 12 to stick around. Having said that, things are still up in the air, and the hottest rumor right now is that the Missouri Tigers could be the 14th team in the new SEC.
Forget the football implications, Missouri in the SEC from a basketball perspective is all kinds of hypothetical fun. Sure, losing the Kansas rivalry would be unfortunate, but some exciting new rivalries would be born.
First is the fact that Arkansas, and former Missouri coach Mike Anderson, would visit Columbia at least every other year. Anderson, once the man who rebuilt the Tigers, is now one of the most disliked people in town. Anderson returning to Mizzou Arena could result in one of those special atmospheres typically reserved for the Kansas Jayhawks or another top 5 team. By the time Mizzou would join the SEC, most of Anderson’s former recruits will probably be finished with their college career, but the Missouri fans won’t soon forget.
Imagine the fun fans would have playing Kentucky every year, especially now that the Wildcats feature a NBA starting lineup each season. That is the kind of game that would give Mizzou hardcore national exposure each season, something that is lacking at times in the Big 12.
Missouri would probably be one of the top programs in the conference, in a second tier with Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Arkansas. Not up quite at the level of Kentucky or Florida, but still head and shoulders above a good portion of the conference.
I would argue that the Tigers would experience a little bit easier basketball life in the SEC. The slimmed down Big 12 features a round robin schedule and multiple trips to notoriously hostile environments. Nearly every team in the conference is on the rise, and all seem to have a serious commitment to basketball. In the SEC, football is king, and with the exception of Kentucky, basketball is a distant second priority. A school like Missouri, which at the very least has basketball as a close second priority (I would argue the Tigers’ fan base takes basketball more seriously when both sports are performing well) could flourish in a BCS conference full of teams that don’t care what they do in basketball.
Now, should Missouri fans want the Tigers to compete in the SEC? I don’t think so. Things might be a bit easier, but in the Big 12 better competition will breed more respect, better NCAA seeds, and more experience to make a run at the school’s first Final Four. Better for Missouri to stick it out with the Big 12, hope they add another solid program like Louisville or West Virginia, and enjoy the fact that they are in the best basketball conference in the country.