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HUTTON: College realignment has created new chaos

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey left Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski shake hbefore first half an NCAA college basketball game Saturday

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, left, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski shake hand before the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

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Updated: February 13, 2014 7:02AM



The shake-up in the college basketball landscape has unintentionally created a new buzz this year.

There is a whole new set of games and potential rivalries down the road that were never going to materialize without a nudge from somewhere.

Sometimes, greed is good. The Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, with the addition of Maryland, and the Big East all look completely different now.

The movement and chaos has re-energized the early part of the season. Now, at least, the new matchups are fresh and different. In the ACC, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are in with Louisville coming on board next year. Xavier, Creighton and Butler hopped into the Big East from the old Atlantic 10.

A compass and roadmap are required to figure out who is where.

Learning new skills is good. I had forgotten what conference Louisville was in this year until I looked it up.

It’s the American Athletic Conference and it’s the reason Memphis was able to beat them this week, getting what was dubbed by some as Josh Pastner’s biggest win as head coach.

Casualties from the switch are already piling up.

For instance, DePaul’s double overtime victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse two days ago was a shocker. Butler dropped to 0-3 in the Big East, with two overtime losses at home and a game against Georgetown Saturday night.

It didn’t look all that bleak for Butler heading into conference play after they started nonconference play 10-2. Questions about whether Butler can still be Butler, without Brad Stevens and without the Atlantic 10 (and before that the Horizon League), are legitimate. Do the Bulldogs have to learn to play differently and recruit differently because of the nature of the league?

Notre Dame can be viewed through the same lens.

A great start to conference play — a win at home against Duke — is ancient history now. A loss to Georgia Tech, a very mediocre to bad team on the road, has turned the Irish into a 1-2 ACC team with Maryland looming on the road Wednesday. After losing Jerian Grant for the season, ND looks and feels like a bottom half of the ACC team.

Still, the loss at home to North Carolina State and the loss to Tech are stingers. The Irish should’ve won at least one and possibly both of those games. It’s worth wondering: Will Mike Brey, who was a great regular season Big East coach, be able to lead the program as successfully into the ACC?

The new leagues have unintentionally created home-and-home matchups that never would’ve happened naturally.

Because of the grind of a season, because of the intense demands of conference play, because of the fact that every coach in the country wants to carefully calculate just how much risk they want to take during nonconference play, there really aren’t that good many home-and-home nonconference rivalries anymore.

The last super great one in this state was Kentucky and Indiana. That was blown up two years ago when John Calipari, a coach who should have absolutely nothing to fear, opted out of the annual game because he wanted to make it a neutral site affair. Of course, it came the year after IU fans stormed the court in Bloomington when they beat the No. 1 ranked Wildcats.

It’s foolish that a Duke-Notre Dame home-and-home, at least once, never happened before the Irish joined the ACC. Mike Krzyzewski has Chicago roots and Brey was his assistant for seven years.

The storylines are abundant and rich for both schools. Without intervention, it was never going to happen. Coaches don’t like to play former assistants and there is almost never a reason for a top program to play a true road game before conference play begins.

Consider that the Irish just played their second road game of the season Saturday and the first one they played was out of their control — they lost to Iowa in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge in Iowa City. Duke played its first road game last week against the Irish at Purcell Pavilion.

The new leagues are going to create opportunities for some programs and heartache for others. In five years, we’ll know more. For now, though, I’m enjoying the disruption and squirming.



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