So the WAC has it's 10-team league for 2012. It looks like this after last week's addition of Texas-Arlington.
New Mexico State
San Jose State
It's Karl Benson's job as WAC commissioner to be optimistic about the future of his league. And nobody has seen more turnover than Benson over his tenure in the WAC. But in this ESPN.com story, Benson says that the WAC could return to a level where Benson said, "The WAC will return as a multiple-bid conference."
Benson believes that with 10 teams and true travel partners, travel costs will go down and quality road wins will go up increasing RPI and putting more teams in the conversation for at-large bids.
The WAC is simply not a basketball league. Departing schools Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii are legitimate football programs that have occasionally made some noise on the basketball court. But losing all four in a two-year span is a substantial loss to the league's limited remaining prestige.
The WAC's current membership is hardly ever in the conversation for at-large berths, let alone multiple teams. Can market size, travel partners and new arenas make up for that lack of tradition for the new WAC?
It remains to be seen.
Since Mark Fox left Nevada, Utah State has carried the banner for WAC hoops and I've written about the way the UtAgs schedule and we all saw what that got them this past season with 30 somewhat meaningless wins, a 12 seed and another first-round exit for the league.
The Aggies had a great schedule last year, but injuries left the team a shell of the squad that I thought could have given Arizona a run for its money on the road and a group of subs who played host to St. Mary's. Next year's schedule is Utah State like in nature, which is good for this particular team. Marvin Menzies needs wins and the community needs a team that wins in order to come out on a more consistent basis.
I guess my question for Benson is what kind of time table does he believe before the WAC will turn into a multi bid league? Because with the previously mentioned schools who are departing, it's happened three times with current WAC members since 2006. Nevada and Utah State were knocked out in the first round in 2006, Nevada won a first-round game in 2007 and NMSU lost to Texas. And Utah State was an at-large team in 2010, where both USU and NMSU lost in the first round.
And it's hard to see the following schools turning things around that drastically.
Last year W-L, RPI and Strength of schedule according to RealTimeRPI.com
Denver (13-17, 9-8 in the Sun Belt; 244 RPI; 227 SOS) The Sun Belt ranked No. 23 in RPI last year and No. 21 in strength of schedule.
Seattle (11-20 as an independent; 289 RPI; 310 SOS)
Southland Conference additions: The Southland Conference ranked 29th in RPI and 29th in Strength of Schedule in 2010-11.
Texas-Arlington (9-16, 7-9 Southland; 272 RPI, 304 SOS)
Texas State (14-15, 11-7 Southland; 224 RPI; 263 SOS)
Texas-San Antonio (16-13, 12-7 Southland; 193 RPI, 298 SOS)
What has been proven at NMSU is that the Aggies were an already established program in the Big West and the Sun Belt before making the jump to the WAC. UTEP and UNM were consistent contenders in the WAC before moving on to have success in bigger and better leauges.
If the new additions are mediocre teams in below mediocre leagues now, what makes Benson confident they will enjoy similar success in the WAC?