CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- AS WE COWER under our desks awaiting the next brilliant move in conference realignment, a novel idea popped into my head.
No, wait, it's an antiquated idea. Too 20th-century, too naive, too economically unsound.
But it's my thought and I'm sticking to it: Consider basketball as a part of the realignment equation.
Yeah, that's a joke, right? A real knee-slapper. Everybody knows it's all about football, period.
It is until the calendar sneaks past football signing day, and then Valentine's Day. With recruitniks and your significant other satisfied (hope there's no overlap in your case), March marches into our consciousness.
They don't call it March Indifference, you know.
In the case of Conference USA, the future of basketball is a considerable issue, especially with Memphis moving on to the Big East after this season. In the previous seven seasons, Memphis has played in the NCAA tournament six times, winning 13 games and just failing to close out the 2008 national championship game (vacated games ignored here).
The rest of the league? Alabama-Birmingham had two NCAA appearances (2006, 2011), Texas-El Paso and Houston once in 2010 and Southern Mississippi last spring. All were ousted in their first 40 minutes.
You know C-USA will take a step or three back in football, at least in the short term. But will the league continue to struggle even harder to get two NCAA basketball bids?
Of the eight pending newcomers, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has the historical pedigree. In the 49ers' 1995-2005 stint in C-USA, they earned seven NCAA bids, winning four games. Oddly enough, they have never advanced to the NCAA tournament out of the Atlantic 10, and have suffered two losing seasons in a row.
That skid should end, as Charlotte is 7-0 this season, winning the Great Alaska Shootout.
Old Dominion went to the NCAA in 2010 and 2011, beating Notre Dame in the earlier year. North Texas went in 2007 and 2010, and Texas-San Antonio won a 2011 play-in game.
Conversely, Richard Pitino is trying to put Florida International (8-21 last season) on the map after Isiah Thomas predictably failed. Louisiana Tech is Karl Malone's alma mater, but hasn't sniffed the men's NCAA tournament since 1991.
The latest two additions, Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic, are mildly intriguing. FAU is coached by a name you might know, Mike Jarvis, and does have a 2002 NCAA appearance from its Atlantic Sun days.
Middle Tennessee, you know from its 86-78 win over Marshall in the National Invitation Tournament in March. Like Marshall, the Blue Raiders are looking for their first NCAA berth since the late 1980s, but are having success under coach Kermit Davis.
Shoot, maybe C-USA did consider basketball after all. I'd take most of these teams over Tulane and East Carolina on the hardwood.
The supposed next two schools would even better.