Now that you’ve finished reading the mammoth piece on the potential suitors for the Horizon League, now it’s time to decide what scenarios the Horizon League should pursue. Or, rather, what I would pursue if I were commissioner. We’re going to go from best case scenario on down.
Best Case Scenario
#1. Belmont, Murray State, NKU and Oakland.
It seems odd, adding such mismatched schools into the conference, especially when they’re so far from Milwaukee. But this is absolutely the best case scenario for the Horizon League. For one, you create the absolute perfect travel partner scenario – MKE/GB, VU/UIC, BU/MSU, WSU/NKU, UDM/OU, CSU/YSU – and you also bring in the best programs historically as well as the ones with the highest ceilings.
Belmont may not want to come north again, but this conference would be a legitimate challenger to the MVC as the predominant mid-major basketball conference (I don’t consider the MWC or AAC to be mid-majors). That would have to give Belmont pause. Murray State may be a tougher sell as they are a charter member of the OVC, but in their heart of hearts they should know that this conference would be still good enough for travel that the huge boost in competition would be worth it. I don’t think NKU or OU would need to be sold, I’m fairly certain that both schools would come if we asked.
Variations: 10 schools with BU/MSU, 10 schools with NKU/OU
#2. Oakland, NKU, NDSU and SDSU
The Dakota State schools may be outposts in the Horizon League, but they keep the baseball conference alive and their facilities (as well as ownership of their hometowns) make them prime candidates to add. I put Oakland and NKU in here because it shores up the mainland conference while splitting the odd couple travel partners of WSU and Detroit.
Dakota may be far off – this certainly would be a lot more likely if the schools were on the eastern edge of Minnesota instead of the west – but the programs are committed to basketball and they have taken the reins of the Summit from IUPUI and Oral Roberts (who more or less just dropped the reins).
Variations: 10 schools with NDSU/SDSU
#3. Oakland and Robert Morris
If the Horizon League feels like it needs an established strong program instead of NKU, then they can take Robert Morris and leave Cleveland State with Wright State as travel partners. I tend to see this as a possibility because YSU and CSU would like the short trips, but I’m not sure how serious RMU would be about the Horizon League.
On the other hand, RMU would definitely separate itself from what is an eastern seaboard-dominated NEC with bad basketball.
#4. Do nothing.
It’s not the craziest idea in the world. The best year in Horizon League history was in 1998, when the conference put three teams in the tournament. Detroit and UIC are still with us.
The problem is baseball; Wright State still looks for a new conference to keep baseball around. The other option would be to accept associate members in that sport, but no one wants to do that. You’re in or you’re out.
Variations: Implode: MKE/GB to Summit, UIC/Valpo to MVC, UDM/CSU to A10, YSU to CAA, WSU to OVC. Of course this won’t happen.
#5. Manifest Destiny: NDSU, SDSU, Denver, UMKC
This scenario is unlikely, but it’d be better than the worst. These four schools would represent a western bloc for the conference, while keeping the Horizon League centered around Chicago. Denver and Kansas City’s recruiting markets open up, and that’s not bad.
More likely is these four schools will end up in some kind of WAC or Summit grotesque monster.
Worst Case Scenario
#6. IUPUI and IPFW
Talk about setting sail for mediocrity. Actually, scratch that – mediocrity would be an improvement on this ten-team conference of terror. IUPUI and IPFW have marginal athletics programs at best, they have awful home courts for the Horizon League, and they inexplicably can’t get fans – the Jaguars should be the MKE of Indianapolis and IPFW has literally only D-League competition in a town half the size of Milwaukee.
The scariest thing is that most people actually look at this and say, “I could see LeCrone suggesting this.”
I urge the Presidents and Chancellors to set fire to the contract of any Horizon League employee that suggests these schools. No exception.
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