ESPN college basketball analyst Mark Adams discusses WKU’s move to Conference USA

I talked Monday with Mark Adams, an ESPN college basketball analyst who calls about 35 games per season in a variety of conferences.

Adams called the Sun Belt Conference final this season, which WKU won over Florida International.  Two seasons ago, Adams called 40 games in 17 conferences in five time zones, he said. He was also a college basketball coach for 17 seasons.

Adams talked Monday about the strength of the new Conference USA as a hoops league, the future of the Sun Belt and the way WKU has had to position itself. Here are his comments:

MARK ADAMS, ESPN college basketball analyst

What do you think of Conference USA as a hoops league in 2014? “When you start to look at Conference USA now, and Bobby Petrino’s not going to like this – when you talk about Western Kentucky, the first thing I think of is basketball. The first thing I think of when I hear UAB is basketball. The first thing I think of when I hear Marshall is football, but there’s strong basketball play there. When I hear Middle Tennessee State, I think basketball. When I hear Charlotte, I think basketball. When I hear Old Dominion, I think basketball. When I hear UTEP, I think basketball. I think you see my point here.”

How WKU fits in C-USA: “You’ve got other schools who are certainly upgrading their football capabilities, but they’ve already got a strong history with basketball. That makes for better rivalries and better recognition from your fan base that you’re upgrading your basketball schedule.”

Was it a move WKU had to make? “I think every school has to put themselves in a position now where they appear to be attractive. There are so many political considerations that are going on right now, along with financial considerations. It’s just like a business that has been a small to mid-size business and now wants to make a national play. It’s not just the marketing, but the perception of the marketing. A lot of people are positioning themselves from a perception level.”

What about the future of the Sun Belt Conference in basketball? “I think Karl Benson was a great hire. In football, you bring Georgia Southern and Appalachian State into a conference for football purposes, and it makes a lot of sense. And then Karl’s got to be innovative. He’s got to think outside the box, and so Idaho and New Mexico State come in for football, and I think that had to be an influence for Western Kentucky. Do you want to play in that league, where you’ve got to go to Moscow, Idaho, and Las Cruces, N.M.? That’s not attractive to someone like Western Kentucky, but it’s attractive to the Sun Belt because they need members. Those are two fine universities, and I think the Sun Belt is being as creative as they need to be to not only survive, but to gain some sort of loyalty and move forward. It’s a hard thing to do, though.”

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