Dan Patrick is a trustworthy sports pundit since his early days at ESPN.
With his chill, Steve Martin in "Father of the Bride" way, Patrick worked his way into the good graces of young sports fanatics in the '90s and early 2000s. There's no reason to question Dan Patrick and his sources, right?
Well, there might be when it comes to ACC schools leaving the conference for the SEC in the flurry of conference realignment.
Dan Patrick's "Three ACC Schools to Join the SEC"
During his Monday broadcast of The Dan Patrick Show, the ESPN legend dropped this nugget.
"The question is what's going to happen to the Pac-12, what's going to happen to the Big 12. I would keep an eye on what's gonna happen with the ACC... My source said 'keep an eye on Clemson, Miami and Florida State joining the SEC,'" he said.
Credit where credit is due, Patrick is right about the first half of that statement. At this point, it's less about what's going to happen in the Pac-12 and more about where the Pac-12 is going to go. After years of failing to improve play for big schools like USC and UCLA, the Pac-12 is left clinging to schools like Oregon and Washington, praying they don't leave. The Pac-12 is in shambles.
Also in trouble is the Big 12, although not as immediately as their neighbors to the west. The Big 12 is set to lose Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC by 2025, a target both schools appear to be set for. And while this has always seemed like something the Big 12 could bounce back from, the evaporation of the Pac-12 is worrisome, to put it mildly. With the Pac-12 in desperation mode, could they claw BYU away from their planned move ahead of the 2023 season? And on the other hand, is UCF, Cincinnati and Houston going to be enough for the Big 12 to stand up to the Big Ten and the SEC?
All this to say, Dan Patrick's right about these not being questions. The Pac-12 is a mess and the Big 12 has a lot of questions. But, I'm not so sure I'd trust Dan Patrick's source on those three schools joining the SEC.
From a College Football Standpoint, It's Not Worth the SEC's Time
First off, let's look at this from a football standpoint. Why would the SEC want to add three ACC teams that would completely upend their ecosystem right now? The SEC is the biggest football conference in the country in today's NCAA landscape. They don't need Clemson or Miami or Florida State. If they did, they wouldn't have brought in Oklahoma or Texas. Adding two schools that sit on the edge of being decent each season adds value to each school's broadcast rights as well as to the conference's competition. If this were the MLB, no one would want to add the Yankees to their division, but they'd definitely be open to adding the Chicago White Sox.
Simply put, from a football program aspect, Clemson, Miami and Florida State do not make the SEC better. They would actually make things worse for everyone already there. It's the same reason why Vanderbilt or Tennessee haven't been booted from the conference yet. They serve a purpose on the gridiron.
But where this point also falls apart is basketball.
The Importance of Hoops in the SEC
Over the last few years, the SEC has taken leaps and bounds in regard to its basketball competition. And while other conferences have struggled to maintain an even playing field along all sports, the SEC has found a balance. Alabama's not just a football school, their basketball team is also solid. The same can be said for Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M.
Let's look at the NCAA Men's tournament. The Clemson Tigers have only made it through to the Sweet Sixteen twice in the last 30 years. In that same timespan, the Miami Hurricanes have made it to the Sweet Sixteen four times, only advancing to the Elite Eight once, which came in 2022. Florida State is the real powerhouse in these three, having advanced to the Sweet Sixteen six times in the last 30 years, and made the Elite Eight twice. So that's 12 Sweet Sixteens and three Elite 8 appearances from 1992 to 2022.
Now let's look at the same two SEC teams we mentioned above: Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Vandy has four Sweet Sixteens and zero Elite Eight finishes. The Volunteers, on the other hand, have six Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight appearance.
- Clemson, Miami, FSU: 12 Sweet Sixteens, 3 Elite Eights.
- Vanderbilt, Arkansas: 10 Sweet Sixteens, 1 Elite Eight.
Virginia would make a better addition to the SEC. Clemson, Miami and Florida State don't change the quality of the competition with their basketball programs, they just add to the quantity of competition. And that's the real kicker here. The SEC doesn't need those three schools, but those three schools might need the SEC. At this point, the SEC would be better off adding Duke and UNC to their conference, because at the very least North Carolina's basketball twins are bringing one of the best collegiate rivalries with them.
So while the Big 12 and Pac-12 may be floundering, let's not lose our minds and think that every other conference needs more schools.
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