Ten teams from the West Coast’s premier conference have picked their new destinations, and the other two are left to pick up the scraps. But can this actually be good for college basketball?

We knew it was coming when USC made the decision to join the Big Ten and took UCLA along with them. We knew it was coming when rumors started swirling that the Big 12 had its eyes set on the Four Corners. We knew it was inevitable when the conference’s television negotiation hit a standstill.

Now, we know it for sure: As of the 2024-25 season, the Pac-12 will be no more. And fans are not happy.

The frustration makes sense. The almighty dollar has been threatening the regionality of college athletics for a while, with the Power 5 football conferences looking to add as many valuable brands as possible in order to maximize their television deals. And as some teams benefit, others are left in the rear-view mirror.

Oregon State and Washington State have the most to be upset about. The $30-million-per-year deal that Pac-12 reportedly turned down would have given each school much more annually than they are likely worth individually. The best alternative for these two universities appears to be merging with the Mountain West, a conference whose TV deal pays most of its member schools just $4 million annually.

It is also clear that the non-revenue generating sports could take a huge hit for some of the schools involved: Travel times will increase; competition in several of them could actually decrease; and it would not be a surprise to see a program or two end because of this situation, especially at one of the four remaining member schools.
So, how will this impact men’s basketball? Well, the result may actually be good for the fans of the sport nationally — especially when it comes to the exposure all 12 programs receive.

Better Start Times

Pac-12 After Dark was a great concept for football. For basketball, however, the allure of watching USC and Oregon face off at 11:30 p.m. Eastern was not going to bring in many fans outside of the Pacific and Mountain time zones. In fact, if you take out the Four Corners schools and just look at schools in the Pacific Time Zone, the average Pac-12 school had just under 13 (65 percent) of its conference games tip off at 9 p.m. ET or later.  USC had just four conference games tip off before that time.

With the move to conferences that already span from New Jersey to Nebraska (for USC, UCLA, Washington and Oregon), from Florida to Utah (for Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah), and from Massachusetts to Kentucky (for Cal and Stanford, assuming they end up in the ACC), those start time splits improve. Not only will more fans be able to watch their games — the competition they play will also be more spread out.

Let’s face it, someone in West Virginia was never going to watch the Colorado vs. Utah game with a 10 p.m. tipoff. But now they will have more reason to watch these two programs on the rise in preparation for when the Buffs or Utes take on the Mountaineers in conference play.

No More Pac-12 Network

This one should be self-explanatory. The Pac-12 Network sucks, and any move that helps to end it’s reign of terror can’t be all that bad. Like Pac-12 After Dark, the Pac-12 Network was a good concept in theory: put the non-revenue sports for the best non-revenue sports conference on television for its fans to watch. In practice, all goodwill for the network went away when it started putting football and basketball games on a channel that fans with DirecTV, among other providers, couldn’t access.

By moving to the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12, at least 10 of the 12 schools appear to have escaped — and the other two will likely be looking for landing spots that do not have games on the Pac-12 Network.

Improved Competition

The Pac-12 has had some really good basketball teams in recent years — 2016-17 Oregon and 2021-22 Arizona to name two — but the conference as a whole did not support the level of competition to rival the likes of the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. Per KenPom, the Pac-12 has averaged just 2.6 top-40 teams in each of the last five seasons. If you take out the 2020-21 season, when the conference had five such teams, that number drops to just two, or 17 percent of the conference.

How have the Big Ten and Big 12 fared? Well, the Big Ten has averaged 8.2 top-40 teams (58.6 percent of the conference) while the Big 12 has averaged 6.8 (68 percent) over that same span. When looked at from an NCAA Tournament team perspective, the Big 12 gets, on average, 60 percent of its conference in the Big Dance — which could increase this year with the addition of Houston — while the Big Ten averages 63 percent. The Pac-12, meanwhile, averages just 34 percent. Even the ACC, until recently, has had a strong tradition of pumping out NCAA Tournament teams.

Teams like UCLA, USC and Arizona playing better competition night in and night out is only a good thing for the sport. This same argument has been made for other teams to join better conferences in the past (see: Gonzaga). Even the potential Mountain West-bound teams would see an improvement in their competition level, with their on-court performances fitting better into a mid-major-plus conference than a true high-major league.

Potential: A West Coast Super-Mid-Major?

With the West Coast now wide open for the taking, there have been talks about merging the Pac-12 leftovers together with the Mountain West.

But what other mid-majors could get involved in this deal? Do they invite NCAA Tournament staples Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s? Do they invite some of the teams from the shrinking AAC? The possibilities are nearly endless, and it will be an intriguing story to watch develop over the next few years.

Be Optimistic

Look, I get it: Fans on the West Coast have a right to feel sad about the end of the Pac-12 era. Rivalries could be ended, some sports could suffer, and fans will lose opportunities to see their favorite teams play — personally, I will no longer get to see my wife’s alma mater, USC, play in the Bay Area every year. Also, losing Bill Walton on Pac-12 broadcasts is reason enough to consider rioting.

Still, there is a lot to be excited about here: New rivalries will form; the departing teams will play more NCAA Tournament-caliber games; and at least eight of these teams are securing their spot in the next round of television deals (who knows what the next ACC deal looks like for Cal and Stanford). In four to five years, we could all be laughing at our overreaction to the Pac-12 implosion of 2024.

So instead of griping, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show that will happen on the hardwood — especially now that everyone will be able to watch these Pac-12 teams play, regardless of their cable provider.