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Mailbag leftover: Which Big 12 teams are most likely to join the Mountain West?

TCU
Could TCU return to the Mountain West from the Big 12? (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

On occasion, a Monday Mailbag question requires too much research for me to include in the weekly feature, so I end up writing it separately as a "Mailbag leftover." I got such a question this week from @MailbagQuestion, who asked which Big 12 teams post-Texas/Oklahoma are most likely to join the Mountain West. Let's break it down.

I will tackle this question, but it's highly unlikely the Mountain West lures one of the eight remaining Big 12 schools. Why? The early estimates peg the remaining Big 12 schools being worth $14 million per school in annual media rights revenue. Mountain West schools (sans Boise State) get around $3.5 million per school, one-quarter of that Big 12 estimate. The American Athletic Conference is reportedly around $7 million per school. It's more likely the Big 12 poaches MW or AAC schools rather than it being the other way around. But ...

8. West Virginia: This school's nickname is the "Mountaineers." Seems like a perfect fit for the Mountain West! Only it's 2,430 miles from San Diego State (and 4,663 miles from Honolulu!), so the geographical fit makes this the most unlikely. If West Virginia is going anywhere, it's the ACC, where it would have gone in 2012 if not for the ACC's academic concerns.

7. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma's brass pushed for in-state rival, Oklahoma State, to get into the SEC but was turned down. You can see why. Oklahoma State is a solid football program but doesn't bring any extra value to the SEC. Oklahoma State is angling for a spot in the Pac-12, but academics could be an issue there. The Cowboys are shooting higher than the MW.

6. Baylor: Realignment is driven by football at the expense of basketball-first schools like Baylor, with the Bears coming off a national championship season on the hardwood. There are enough skeletons in Baylor's closet to throw a banging Halloween party, so I wouldn't advocate the MW adding the Bears, but from a revenue-sport standpoint, Baylor is in good shape.

5. Kansas: The Jayhawks, who have a top-five basketball program nationally, are in the same boat as Baylor as a basketball-first department. A home run version of the MW's plan would be to add Kansas, Baylor and Gonzaga to fortify the league's basketball enterprise, but I don't see that happening. But if the Big 10 doesn't want Kansas and the Big 12 collapses, the Jayhawks could be in a bad situation.

4. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are among the Big 12 teams to touch bases with the Pac-12 for potential membership. It wouldn't be the worst thing for the Pac-12 to get into the Lone Star State, although Texas Tech, with its puny market and mediocre football program, isn't very attractive, so it might have to settle for the MW (more likely AAC) if the Big 12 dissolves.

3. Iowa State: It's always been odd to me that Iowa and Iowa State are in different conferences, but this one could be a fit for the MW. The Cyclones have made 10 bowls in the last 20 seasons and been ranked in each of the last four. Iowa State basketball has been in seven of the last 10 NCAA tournaments. The geography isn't great — the closest MW school is 685 miles away — but this could be a reasonable target even if the AAC makes more sense for Iowa State.

2. Kansas State: Now we're getting closer. The state of Kansas borders the state of Colorado, which houses two MW members plus nearby Wyoming. Kansas State has been above-average in the revenue sports, including nine NCAA tournament berths in the last 14 years and nine bowls in the last 12 years in football. Adding Kansas State and Kansas/Iowa State to the MW's Mountain Division and shifting Boise State to the West Division where it belongs would be a dream outcome for the conference.

1. TCU: Surely the Horned Frogs don't want to return to the conference it was in before joining the Big 12, but there's a past relationship there. Like others, TCU is shooting for admission into the Pac-12 and can boast a big media market and good football program. TCU was in the MW from 2005-11, so you can't completely rule out a return, but if I was a betting man, none of these schools eventually end up on the MW. Commissioner Craig Thompson, however, should be trying his hardest to make that happen.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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