What Big East Expansion Means for Temple and 'Nova UPDATED

What Big East Expansion Means for Temple and 'Nova UPDATED

It was only a few months ago that game-changing conference realignment updates flocked to social media outlets like the salmon of Capistrano. Then, as is wont to happen, days and weeks of near-constant chatter gave way to weeks and months of inactivity and apathy. It was a great story for a while, but readers and writers (myself included) beat it so badly to death that even meaningful updates were briefly greeted with a collective "meh."

Perhaps it was that break in the action—or attention paid—that injected just a little bit of excitement back into today's confirmation that the Big East will add five more schools to its conference membership, expanding its reach from coast to coast. Boise State and San Diego State will join as football-only members while UCF, Houston and SMU will join as all-sports members. With Rutgers, UCONN, Cincinnati, Louisville and USF still on board, the deal will raise the football-playing membership from its current eight teams to its eventual ten.

Though, as we've told you before, this story is by no means at its end, and won't be for some time. So, what are we to make of this deal's impact on the future prospects of Temple and Villanova?

Okay, so maybe this is why we got tired of the story. As much as it would be relief to finally have an answer one way or the other for even just one school or the other, the Big East is going to remain in a state of flux for months, if not years to come.

While this deal certainly plugs some holes and provides a really fantastically fascinating prospect for both lovers and haters of the BCS (see Boise State's annual snubs versus the uncertainty still surrounding the conference's AQ-status), today's news should be seen more as a step in the middle of the proceedings than a legitimate end to the road.

In the short term, the conference will continue its wooing of service academies Navy and Air Force, who appear, for whatever reasons, to be far more interested now than they were only two months ago. Should it land both, the conference will reach its previously stipulated goal of 12 football-playing members and the problem would, seemingly, be solved. End game, right?

Eh, not quite. Though the Big East—along with the Big 12—has been the focus of the realignment universe for the past few months, it's been so for all the wrong reasons. The Big East has been in the news not because teams are clambering to join in the hopes of creating a super conference a la the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC, but because its current members are leaving in the hopes of joining one of the preceding powerhouses. Today's announcement, though a short-term plus for the conference, doesn't do much in the way of assuaging its long-term concerns.

Moving right back to those super-conferences, the ACC has been previously rumored to have an interest in expanding to 16-teams. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are already leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast, which, by the way, is what started this chaotic mess in the first place. If the ACC really is looking to expand once more, it's nearly impossible to believe the Connecticut Huskies and Louisville Cardinals aren't on the list of prime candidates. Believe whatever you want about Calhoun not getting along with so and so and the claims of school presidents about being loyal to their conferences; just don't be caught off guard when the ACC comes calling down the line. As for the here and now, even Navy and Air Force aren't done deals that would settle the conference's short-term aspirations.

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Update: Reports have surfaced that Air Force has declined interest in the Big East and will be staying put in the Mountain West. With Navy's agreement still probable—but not yet confirmed—the conference is now in search of at least one more school to reach it's goal of 12 football-playing members.

Though Big East officials will be looking for another Western program to ease the travel concerns of Boise, San Diego and Southern Methodist, UCONN basketball coach Jim Calhoun has joined Rick Pitino in lobbying publicly that an all-sports invitation be extended to Temple. Separately, Brian Ewart of VUHoops was able to secure a quote from conference commissioner John Marinatto that Villanova's potential as a football member will be revisited once the conference gets its "footing established."

Thus, we reiterate our position from last evening...

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As for Temple and 'Nova—this is supposed to be about them, after all—well, there's there in. The conference landscape is far from settled and its not unreasonable to believe the Big East has further losses to contend with on the horizon. Is there any lock-solid evidence that says "these" schools are leaving and that "these" schools would step in to fill the gaps? No, not at all.

The point is that when something—anything—changes down the road, we could all be right back to square one. And, suddenly, Temple University and Villanova football are put back on the drawing board along with every other school who may be able to fill a need.

The Big East hasn't secured itself a long-term solution, it's just found some friends to party with in this weird, intermediary middling process.

Boise State, say hello South Florida. Rutgers, meet San Diego State. Everybody else, pour some punch, take a seat and enjoy K-Billy's Super Sounds of the 70s.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).