C-USA adds WKU - what does this mean for future?

Posted by PATRICK MAGEE on April 1, 2013 

Conference USA welcomed Western Kentucky Monday as its newest addition as the league continues to bolster its numbers to make up for defections.

The latest school to leave C-USA is Tulsa, which is apparently ready to make the announcement of its decision to join the Big East sometime this week.

Western Kentucky has been rumored to be a candidate for C-USA for some time, but its lack of a large market didn't make it one of the six new members announced a little less than a year ago.

WKU will join for the 2014-15 season, and here is how C-USA will look at that point - Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB, UTEP, UT-San Antonio, Western Kentucky.

Here is how the league may be split into divisions once ODU and Charlotte join as football-playing members for the 2015 campaign:

WEST

Southern Miss

Louisiana Tech

North Texas

UT-San Antonio

UTEP

Rice

UAB

EAST

Marshall

Middle Tennessee State

Western Kentucky

FIU

FAU

Old Dominion

Charlotte

FOOTBALL FUTURE

Some Southern Miss fans look at this lineup of teams and cringe, but they've also had that reaction in the past when programs like South Florida and Rice were added.

The league will lack quality depth when it comes to football for the first three-to-four years, but it could still produce some good teams.

There's no reason to believe that Southern Miss can't eventually rebound as a league power while Marshall and UTEP have an opportunity to make a push toward the top of C-USA thanks to defections.

Louisiana Tech may be the best team in C-USA in its first year as a member. Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State should be instantly competitive in the league.

HOOPS UPGRADE

With all the focus on football, nobody seems to be looking at the obvious bright side of this new group of teams.

Conference USA should be a much more balanced basketball league, and could be in the running for multiple NCAA Tournament bids each season.

Charlotte, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, and Louisiana Tech all have the potential to be contenders for the postseason year in and year out.

* Western Kentucky has a strong tradition in basketball and has been in the NCAA Tournament four out of the last six seasons.

* Middle Tennessee, which went 28-6 and 19-1 in the Sun Belt this year, earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament this year. The Blue Raiders have a basketball program on the rise.

* Old Dominion had a miserable 2012-13 season, but the Monarchs should get back on track soon as they look to hire a strong candidate for head coach. Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield interviewed for the ODU job, PilotOnline.com reports. ODU went to the NCAA Tournament three times from 2007-11. The Monarchs shouldn't be down very long and they have a new arena that should be one of the better ones in C-USA.

* Coach Michael White has done wonders at Louisiana Tech in just two seasons. The Bulldogs narrowly missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid following a late season collapse. With another strong recruiting class, La. Tech should easily be in the top half of Conference USA next season. The Bulldogs went 27-7 this year and won the WAC regular season title.

* Charlotte has a good tradition in the sport and appears to be on the rise following a 21-12 season that ended in the NIT. The 49ers, which are leaving the A-10, were one of the better teams in Conference USA when it was a charter member from 1995-2005. With Memphis no longer in the picture, Charlotte has the potential to compete for C-USA titles every year.

Southern Miss, UTEP, Marshall and UAB give Conference USA a solid foundation in basketball with many of the departing members featuring bad-to-mediocre programs (with the exception of Memphis).

FEMALE HOOPS POWER?

While women's basketball gets little-to-no buzz in C-USA expansion, the league should be much better in the sport with the new additions. C-USA has been a poor women's league for nearly a decade.

* Old Dominion has won 22 conference titles and one Div. I national title (1985).

* Louisiana Tech has the highest winning percentage (.818) in the history Div. I, three national titles and has competed in 13 Final Fours.

* Western Kentucky has been to 16 NCAA Tournaments and has three trips to the Final Four.

* Middle Tennessee State has won seven Sun Belt titles from 2005-13.

BASEBALL GLANCE

Conference USA has traditionally been a good baseball league and that's unlikely to change.

Rice and Southern Miss remain as the traditional powers while Middle Tennessee, FAU, FIU and Western Kentucky are all postseason contenders each year.

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