Another wave of NCAA conference realignment is upon us, and college sports fans have begun readying themselves for major changes across the Division I college basketball conference landscape as they have known it.
While realignment in college sports has largely been centered on the earth-shaking moves to come in college football, men’s and women’s college basketball have hardly been immune to imminent change. Of college basketball’s 32 Division I conferences, 20 have pending membership changes on the horizon. The biggest moves — all driven by football — will occur in the Big 12, SEC, AAC, Conference USA and the Sun Belt, but frequent multibid basketball conferences including the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley and WCC will also be undergoing alterations to their footprints.
To keep track of the changes, ESPN put together a conference-by-conference guide to the pending movement throughout Division I. Future league footprints for each affected conference are included, as well as the latest on the timetable for the forthcoming moves. This page will be continuously updated as further changes occur.
(updated May 23, 2022)
Hartford announced in May that it was departing Division I, with the school planning to apply for reclassification into Division III in January 2022. Although Hartford’s move to D-III is not expected to be completed until 2025, outgoing America East commissioner Amy Huchthausen told the Lowell Sun in July that 2021-22 would be the school’s final year in the conference after a 38-season affiliation.
On Jan. 25, the CAA announced that it would be adding Stony Brook, already a member of the football side of the conference, to further reduce the size of the America East footprint.(The America East subsequently banned Stony Brook from winning its automatic bids for the rest of 2021-22, joining the CAA as the only leagues to take such a measure in this round of realignment).
The CAA, also adding Monmouth (MAAC) and Hampton (Big South) in 2022-23, is reportedly still considering further expansion. It should be noted that like Stony Brook, Albany, Maine and New Hampshire are current America East members who play football as part of the CAA.
Bryant, a member of the NEC, was officially named as a member of America East on March 29 and will begin play in the 2022-23 season.
Future look: Albany, Binghamton, Bryant, Maine, UMBC, UMass Lowell, New Hampshire, NJIT, Vermont
Current AAC members Cincinnati, Houston and UCF accepted invitations to the Big 12 in September, and will depart the American “no later than” the 2024-25 season (it’s still possible that an exit could be negotiated in time for the 2023-24 season).
In October, the American announced it would add six former members of Conference USA: Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA, bringing the basketball membership of the conference to 14 schools, pending the departure of the Big 12 defectors. (The football side of the league will also have 14 programs, minus non-football Wichita State and including affiliate member Navy, which will continue to serve as a core member of the Patriot League for other sports). All six incoming schools are reportedly planning to start AAC play in 2023-24.
Future look: Charlotte, East Carolina, FAU, Memphis, North Texas, Rice, SMU, South Florida, Temple, UTSA, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, Wichita State
Jacksonville State and Liberty will each end short stints with the ASUN when they move to Conference USA in 2023. The league’s other move, announced in September, was the addition of Austin Peay from the OVC for the 2022-23 season.
Extra Points reported that Division II Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina is a potential expansion target for the ASUN as well as the Big South.
Future look: Austin Peay, Bellarmine, Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb, North Alabama, North Florida, Stetson
Loyola Chicago accepted an invitation from the A-10 in November, announcing it will depart the Missouri Valley and expand its new conference to 15 schools.
Future look: Davidson, Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, La Salle, Loyola Chicago, UMass, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis, VCU
Southern Utah announced in January 2021 that it would join the WAC in July 2022.
Future look: Eastern Washington, Idaho, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Weber State
Reports surfaced Jan. 18 that the CAA was targeting relative Big South newbie Hampton in its quest for expansion, a move that was made official Jan. 25 and will be effective in 2022-23. On Feb. 18, Hampton’s fellow ex-MEAC member North Carolina A&T was poached by the CAA as well, with both moves expected to happen in July 2022.
Extra Points reported that Division II Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina is a potential expansion target for the ASUN as well as the Big South.
Future look: Campbell, Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, High Point, Longwood, Presbyterian, Radford, UNC Asheville, USC Upstate, Winthrop
In the first major shot across the realignment bow, Oklahoma and Texas announced in July that they would leave the Big 12 for the SEC in the summer of 2025. Though there has been speculation that an exit could be negotiated for the schools to leave by 2023, no known progress has been made in those negotiations.
Current AAC members Cincinnati, Houston and UCF accepted invitations to the Big 12 in September and will depart the American “no later than” the 2024-25 season (it’s still possible that an exit could be negotiated in time for the 2023-24 season). BYU, a member of the WCC in men’s and women’s basketball, is scheduled to join the Big 12 across the board in 2023-24, though it is possible the school could pay the WCC’s relatively small buyout and join as a basketball member next season.
Future look: Baylor, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, UCF, West Virginia
James Madison, which had been actively and transparently seeking an FBS conference for its football program for the better part of 20 years, in November accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt in time for the 2022-23 season. In response, the CAA banned the Dukes from winning any more conference titles for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. This meant the men’s basketball Dukes (who started the season 9-2, including a win over Virginia) and a fourth-place CAA women’s basketball team were unable to earn their way into the NCAA tournament in the school’s final go-round in the league.
In the additions category, the CAA announced on Jan. 25 that it would be adding Hampton (Big South), Monmouth (MAAC) and Stony Brook (America East), effective in 2022-23. On Feb. 18, Andscape reported that North Carolina A&T would come over from the Big South as well. On April 16, HBCU Gameday reported that Howard would join its former MEAC colleagues Hampton at North Carolina A&T in the CAA by 2023-24. Those moves would bring the league to 14 schools, but the conference could still be seeking further expansion.
Future look: Charleston, Delaware, Drexel, Elon, Hampton, Hofstra, Howard, Monmouth, North Carolina A&T, Northeastern, Stony Brook, Towson, UNC Wilmington, William & Mary
No Division I league will undergo a bigger transformation than C-USA, which will lose nine schools — UAB (American), Florida Atlantic (American), Charlotte (American), Marshall (Sun Belt), North Texas (American), Old Dominion (Sun Belt), Rice (American), Southern Miss (Sun Belt) and UTSA (American) — from its current roster by 2023-24.
The conference announced in November that it would counter by adding Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State and Sam Houston in time for the 2023-24 season.
In February, the three Sun Belt-bound schools — Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss — announced their intention to leave C-USA following the 2021-22 season. That move was made official in March.
Future look: FIU, Jacksonville State, Liberty, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, Sam Houston, UTEP, Western Kentucky
Illinois-Chicago’s departure for the Missouri Valley leaves the Horizon at 11 schools, and it’s unknown how aggressive the conference will be in getting back to 12. The league was linked to D-I newbie Southern Indiana, but USI announced it would join the OVC on Feb. 9. Conference-shopping Chicago State would be a plug-and-play regional fit to replace UIC, though the Cougars (327th or worse in KenPom for the past eight seasons) would not help the Horizon in men’s hoops and do not seem like a practical or desired fit.
Future look: Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Green Bay, IUPUI, Milwaukee, Northern Kentucky, Oakland, Purdue Fort Wayne, Robert Morris, Wright State, Youngstown State
The MAAC was untouched by this round of realignment until January, when Monmouth announced its departure for the CAA, effective in 2022-23.
ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported on April 27 that current NEC member Mount Saint Mary’s would depart for the MAAC in 2022-23, bringing the conference back to 11 members.
Future look: Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan, Marist, Mount Saint Mary’s, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Rider, Saint Peter’s, Siena
A conference that had already seen major recent attrition with the defection of Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M to the SWAC, Hampton and North Carolina A&T to the Big South (and now CAA) and Savannah State back to Division II appears set to sustain another blow in 2022-23. HBCU Gameday reported that Howard will depart for the CAA after next season (MEAC commissioner Sonja Stills has denied those reports, and the league’s current schools issued a statement of solidarity that casts some doubt on Howard’s plans), which if accurate would bring a conference that had 12 members as recently as 2019 to just seven schools. Included among potential (and necessary) targets for MEAC expansion is conference-shopping Chicago State, though football-playing members for a conference about to be reduced to five gridiron members will have to be the major priority for MEAC stakeholders. The MEAC’s presidents and athletic directors have reportedly been divided on the subject of Chicago State’s addition to the league.
Future look: Coppin State, Delaware State, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Morgan State, Norfolk State, North Carolina Central, South Carolina State
The Missouri Valley will lose one of its top men’s basketball brands in the summer of 2022, as Loyola Chicago departs for the Atlantic 10, but the Valley has been active on the expansion front as well. Belmont announced it would move over from the OVC in September, and in January it was joined by fellow Ohio Valley member Murray State and Illinois-Chicago from the Horizon League. The Valley is now at 12 schools, though its additions would not necessarily prevent further expansion. Kansas City, a member of the Summit League, has reportedly been a school on the MVC radar.
Future look: Belmont, Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Murray State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, UIC, Valparaiso
The NEC is guaranteed a new champion in men’s basketball in 2022-23, as Bryant announced March 29 it was leaving the conference for the America East. A week later, the league announced that it would add Stonehill College of Easton, Massachusetts, with the Skyhawks beginning their transition from Division II in 2022.
ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported on April 27 that current NEC member Mount Saint Mary’s would depart for the MAAC in 2022-23, and the Mountaineers’ departure could prompt the NEC to seek further expansion.
Future look: Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island U., Merrimack, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis, Stonehill, Wagner
The OVC will lose three programs in 2022-23, with Austin Peay (ASUN), Belmont (Missouri Valley) and Murray State (Missouri Valley) leaving a conference that lost Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State to a previous round of realignment.
The league has thus far countered by adding Little Rock, which comes over from the Sun Belt in 2022-23, Southern Indiana, which is moving up from Division II in 2022 and Lindendwood University, also ascending from D-II in 2022. Those moves bring the league to 10 schools, with potential targets for further expansion reportedly including Western Illinois (Summit League) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (SWAC) along with current Division II members Hillsdale, Grand Valley State and Lincoln Memorial.
Future look: Eastern Illinois, Lindenwood, Little Rock, Morehead State, SIU Edwardsville, Southeast Missouri State, Southern Indiana, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, UT Martin
Oklahoma and Texas announced in July that they would leave the Big 12 for the SEC in July 2025. As mentioned, there has been speculation that an exit could be negotiated for the schools to depart the Big 12 and join the SEC by 2023, but no known progress has been made in those negotiations.
Future look: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
The Southland lost one of its newest programs when Incarnate Word announced it would join the WAC in 2022-23. The conference preempted that move by extending an invitation to Division II Texas A&M-Commerce, which is scheduled to join the league and begin its four-year transition to Division I in 2022.
On April 7, the Lake Charles American Press reported that Lamar was headed back to the Southland after just one season in the WAC in which the Cardinals did not win a conference game in men’s basketball. Lamar, which was previously a member of the Southland from 1963-1987 and 1999-2021, is scheduled to return for the 2023-24 season.
Future look: Houston Baptist, Lamar, McNeese State, New Orleans, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
The Sun Belt was mostly a buyer in this wave of realignment, adding Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss from Conference USA and James Madison from the CAA. JMU immediately announced its intention to join the basketball side of the league in 2022-23, while the three C-USA defectors announced in February they planned to do the same, a move that was made official in March.
The conference did suffer some attrition, with Little Rock announcing in December that it would move to the OVC in 2022-23. More recently, UT Arlington announced its return to the WAC, which it departed for the Sun Belt in 2013. The Trojans and Mavericks began this season as the only remaining Sun Belt teams without a football program, and their departure was largely characterized as being in the mutual interests of both the universities and the Sun Belt.
Future look: Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, James Madison, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Marshall, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State, Troy
BYU is scheduled to move from the WCC to the Big 12 in 2023-24, though as mentioned, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Cougars could relocate for everything other than football (which is effectively bound by existing schedule commitments to remain an independent in 2022) by 2022-23.
Future look: Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Pacific, Pepperdine, Portland, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Diego
The WAC will undergo major alterations next season, with Chicago State departing without a known conference destination, and New Mexico State and short-timer Sam Houston both joining Conference USA. Lamar announced in April it was headed back to the Southland, but not until 2023-24.
In the additions category, Incarnate Word (Southland) and Southern Utah (Big Sky) are on their way in for 2022-23, and UT Arlington (Sun Belt) will also rejoin the WAC after previously being a member in the 2012-13 season. (Although not an addition, current WAC member Dixie State will be known as Utah Tech beginning next season.)
Future look: Abilene Christian, Cal Baptist, Grand Canyon, Incarnate Word, Seattle, Southern Utah, Stephen F. Austin, Tarleton State, UT Arlington, UT Rio Grande Valley, Utah Tech (formerly Dixie State), Utah Valley
Conferences with no pending membership changes (as of April 18, 2022): ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big West, Ivy, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-12, Patriot, SoCon, SWAC, Summit