Analysis: Memphis and the Big East

The Tigers' welcome to the Big East in NYC.

The University of Memphis leaving Conference USA for the Big East in 2013 is an immense change. It means more television exposure, more athletic revenue, and significantly upgraded conference opposition.

The University of Memphis leaving Conference USA for the Big East in 2013 is an immense change. It means more television exposure, more athletic revenue, and significantly upgraded conference opposition.

If the automatic qualifying status remains, it will mean Memphis' football program can, in theory, compete for a national championship every year. That cannot be debated.

But don't let the BCS affiliation fool you: In terms of the way it operates in regards to recruiting, not much will be different for the Memphis basketball program, mostly due to the fact that, well, it already carries itself as a Big East or any other Big Six program.

The Tigers' basketball facilities are among the best in the nation, and Memphis coach Josh Pastner, currently in his third season as coach, makes a more-than-competitive $1.7 million a year.

He also just signed a McDonald's All-American for the third straight class in William Goodwin (also known as Shaq), so his recruiting efforts hold up with just about any other coach in the NCAA.

Granted, the scheduling philosophy that earned Memphis its national staying power will be done away with. The Tigers will no longer have to annually construct a top 10 non-conference schedule to make a case for an at-large or a high seed come tournament time. Playing teams like Louisville, UConn, and Georgetown once or twice every season will compensate for the weaker non-conference scheduling.

With that, the margin for error grows sizably larger for Pastner. Ten teams from the Big East made the tournament last season, while just two from C-USA made the field of 68: Memphis and UAB, the regular season champion.

But in sheer recruiting strategies, Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels believes Pastner and the Tigers will stick true to their roots— that is, keeping with the in-and-out method that to this point has worked for them. Further, Daniels said that while the Big East is a step up from C-USA, he doesn't sense that the new Big East affiliation will change much for Memphis.

"Josh and his staff are still gonna go after the same guys," Daniels said. "Will they have a different type of pitch? Certainly they'll pitch (the Big East) factor, but from a pure recruiting standpoint, I think he's recruited pretty well. (The Big East affiliation) will help a little, but as far as basketball goes, I don't think it's a major deal."

Pastner's 2010 recruiting class — his first full one as the coach of Memphis — was ranked No. 2 overall by Scout behind Kentucky. In that class, he signed All-Americans Joe Jackson and Jelan Kendrick.

For 2012, Pastner has secured signatures from the 4-star forward Goodwin and 3-star Oak Hill (Va.) wing Damien Wilson. Last week, he got a verbal commitment from 6-foot-3 guard Geron Johnson of Garden City Community College (Kan.), who chose the Tigers over Kansas and a myriad of other schools.

Booker T. Washington (Tulsa, Okla.) junior guard Juwan Parker, who unofficially visited Memphis last month, said the upgrade in conference competition is a definite plus but added that it's not the main factor in his decision.

"Conference affiliation is a factor," Parker said, "but it's not the main thing."

As West Virginia is prepared to leave the Big East this year — and Syracuse and Pitt likely in 2013 — the league will have lost some of its luster by the time Memphis arrives. But Daniels said this was the obvious next step for a program with a tradition as vast and a recruiting track record as extensive as almost any college program in America.

"I think the move makes perfect sense for both parties," he said. "The Big East needed another team. Memphis has the name and gets the caliber players and they've won a lot of games. I'm surprised it didn't happen a lot earlier."

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