Conference changes help basketball

Arizona already has plenty going for it and with the Pac-12 coming into effect, it seems that the Wildcats will be helped even more.

The new Pac-12 brings many new things to the table for the conference; more than simply adding two squads. The additions of Colorado and Utah make the conference a bit more complete and allows certain sports to alter their landscape for the better (i.e., split divisions and a conference title game in football).

In basketball, the changes in the conference could go a long way in keeping Arizona up with the elite programs in the country. Obviously, the Wildcats were doing just fine before the new changes. There were already upgrades scheduled to the facilities; the team returned to a national title contender and Arizona is doing very well on the recruiting trail.

UA was already one of the more profitable basketball programs in the country. With the financial situation of the conference improving drastically with the new deal, UA should be able to benefit even more once it starts receiving its share of the funds.

Arizona possesses what is widely believed to be the top basketball program on the west coast at this point in time. Some may argue UCLA – and they would have a valid gripe – but the momentum UA has created since Sean Miller arrived has allowed the program to segue from one era to the next much smoother than anyone could have anticipated.

The recent campaign also vaulted Arizona back into the eye of the national basketball fan. For a few years, it appeared the Wildcats were drifting back into a team only Pac-10 fans and people in the southwest were familiar with. A few mediocre seasons (relatively speaking) will do that to the average fans. Now, with Miller guiding his squad to the Elite Eight in only his second year at the helm, fans across the nation are starting to take notice.

The changes to the conference and the television deal will only make Arizona's popularity grow stronger.

Not only will the expansion to Colorado and Utah help the Wildcats exposure in those states, but the new, record setting television deal will undoubtedly make the Wildcats' basketball program more prevalent than ever on a national level. For years, Pac-10 fans have been forced to watch other conferences dominate the airwaves in virtually every sport.

Never mind that the Pac-10 has the athletic track record that, at the very least, matches those of the other top-tier conferences; that didn't matter to the powers that be. Since the boom of the internet era, the only Pac-10 school outside of USC to win a national title in either of the major two college sports was the 1997 Arizona basketball team.

Meanwhile, conferences such as the SEC and Big-12 have been compiling titles from multiple schools on a more consistent basis and it has led the national media to direct its attention to schools in the south, midwest and east. Now with a television contract that dwarfs the deals other conferences signed, the new Pac-12 should be able to be viewed all over the country.

Arizona basketball has already shown the ability to recruit on a national basis, so it should not be viewed as a program that recruits regionally. True, the Wildcats should land the top recruits out west if they want to be considered elite and they have had little trouble doing so. With the new deal, Arizona will have more exposure in recruiting hotbeds like Baltimore / Washington D.C., Chicago and New York, which could potentially make UA's recruiting base even larger.

What Sean Miller has done with limited resources at Arizona and in the Pac-10 in just a little under two years is nothing short of phenomenal. With outdated facilities and limited charter flights (something now common even with a lot of mid-major programs) Miller and his cast have been able to out-recruit and out-perform every program out west over the past 12 months.

With the new deal in place (along with the pending, unrelated updates the basketball facilities) Miller will no longer have to do it with smoke and mirrors in Tucson. He has been able to put UA back on the map without the assistance of the hype machine that is the national media. Now that the Pac-12 will be receiving more exposure in the very near future, Miller and his Wildcats' squad will become even more of a threat on a national level.

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