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Big 12 Expansion Candidates, Ranked

Maybe someday we’ll have something real to talk about.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 10 Big 12 Tournament - Iowa State at Kansas Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello friends. Welcome to the longest part of the offseason. I don’t know why but this one feels especially long and lacking in things to talk about. We all know what’s about to drop. In fact, I’d probably “parlay” some bad news for the football program with some news about the conference coming soon. But that’s been the story for months. We’re on week 5 or 6 of being about a week away from news dropping. So what are we supposed to do while we wait? How about a little old fashioned debate? Conference realignment is all the rage right now, and the Big 12 is in a position of strength for once. There’s been a number of schools linked to the conference, and I say it’s time to actually power rank them. There’s no ACC schools on the list right now. Once that looks like a possibility, Louisville and Pittsburgh will immediately jump a bunch of these schools.

1. Colorado

Pros: Maybe it’s nostalgia, and maybe it’s the fact that we can see a conference with Colorado. I just can’t quit them. Colorado just feels like a Big 12 school. By now it’s obvious that they never should’ve left in the first place. It seems like they actually want a reunion.

Cons: About the sports part... Look, I’m an Iowa State fan, so this is a little bit of a pot and kettle situation. How can Colorado be this bad at football? Don’t kid yourselves, Buffs fans. Coach Prime isn’t long for Boulder. They’ve got A LOT to figure out. Colorado left us before. What’s stopping them from doing it again if they get a better offer?

2. Arizona

Pros: Elite location. Elite basketball. Football with potential. It’s all here. Tucson is a fun potential road trip as well. Arizona gets a bump because you get a sense that they actually want to join the Big 12. This fanbase actually cares about sports, which is more than you can say about the rest of their conference.

Cons: The football program has been consistently mediocre for most of my life, aside from a few flashes. Maybe Iowa State has more in common with this school than we think.

3. Utah

Pros: The Holy War! Imagine sitting down at 9:30pm central on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and seeing the Big 12 logo on the field when BYU-Utah kicks off. These guys play big boy football and would have a huge impact on the Big 12’s national brand.

Cons: I’m not the first to make this observation but their fans don’t seem like pleasant people. They might be too good at football for Iowa State to compete, especially if we have to play in Salt Lake City at night.

4. Arizona State

Pros: The campus is cool. This cements the Big 12’s footprint in the southwest, and is another strike against the Pac-12. We can all have fun at their expense when bringing up the Herm Edwards era.

Cons: The general vibe I get is that ASU doesn’t really want to leave the Pac-12. They’ve been pretty average at football and basketball for as long as I can remember.

5. UConn

Pros: I’m going to end up repeating myself a lot in the back half of this list. These schools are mostly basketball power players, and UConn is the best of the best. These guys at least cement the Big 12 brand as the kings of college basketball no matter what else happens. And we get the Civil ConFLiCT back as a conference rivalry.

Cons: The football program is brutally bad and I don’t know if ESPN and Fox are really going to give us a pro-rata rights fee increase for it. Being in the far northeast is another geographic outpost. Their men’s basketball program took a nosedive the last time they were in a conference other than the Big East. Who’s to say that wouldn’t happen again?

6. San Diego State

Pros: This is the most effective way to end the Pac-12 for good. Having a school in California is nice in theory. Men’s basketball is consistently very good and now has the March Madness run hang their hat on.

Cons: Markets don’t matter in realignment anymore. For all the talk about how P5 ready these guys are, do we actually have any evidence that they have a big fan base, or are more likely to show up than any of the other West coast schools? SDSU ranks well below USC, UCLA, the Lakers, and the Dodgers in terms of Southern California sports interest.

7. Memphis


Pros: Memphis is a fun city, I guess. Fans show up when they’re good. Penny Hardaway is a fun character.

Cons: Basically San Diego State but a little worse because the basketball program is less consistent. We’ve been down this road before and ESPN/Fox have said they aren’t interested. I’m still salty about the David Montgomery “fumble” in the Liberty Bowl.

8. Gonzaga

Pros: Not a whole lot, to be honest. I have a lot of respect for the Zags men’s basketball program. They don’t deserve all the heat they get for not having a national championship. Those are very hard to actually win. But I’m not convinced they’d be any more than a middle of the pack team in the Big 12 annually.

Cons: No football program. Spokane is in the middle of nowhere. They’re the reason Baylor has a men’s basketball national championship. I’m still not convinced it’s even a real school.

Embrace debate!