September 14, 2021
What BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston change about Big 12 women’s basketball
Conference to move back to 12 teams — UCF and BYU are hungry to make a quick difference
Last week BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston all agreed to join the Big 12 conference, which will expand the conference back to 12 teams after Oklahoma and Texas announced earlier this summer that they would depart for the SEC by July 2025.
Among the new teams BYU is slated to arrive during the 2023-2024 season, while the three AAC schools will join by July 1, 2024 at the latest. While the four schools and the conference likely had football ramifications toward the top of mind, the women’s basketball teams are primed to add chaos to one of women’s basketball’s most rapidly changing conference. Some will bring chaos sooner than others.
Head coach Jeff Judkins and his 430-200 record will join the Big 12 conference with the easiest learning curve among the four new programs. The Cougars have gone 99-50 over their last five seasons and made the NCAA Tournament twice in that span from the West Coast Conference, advancing to the second round both times. Judkins’ teams have often featured a defensive and extra pass identity, à la Kim Mulkey, and should add an interesting wrinkle to the conference.
BYU will make for an interesting regional fit, however, situated far from the Texas schools, midwestern programs and new addition…
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UCF and head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson have only been paired up for the last four years, but it seems that they’re both in the Big 12 for the long haul. Abrahamson-Henderson has amassed a 69-30 record in the American and should find the transition to the Big 12 easier than some — between 1994 and 2000, she served as an assistant coach at Iowa State. Over the past four seasons, the Knights have had a knack for the defensive end of the floor. Per Her Hoop Stats they’ve ranked in the top 10th percentile in defensive rating, points per game allowed, and the top 15th percentile in turnovers forced.
With a 71-114 record under current head coach Ronald Hughey, Houston is the biggest question mark among the conference’s additions, to go along with a relatively low-profile stake in the women’s hoops world since the early 2010s. Houston will continue to recruit against the big Texas teams and may crank the recruiting difficulty up for the other programs with its newly elevated status.
And yes, there are two teams called the Cougars joining the conference. And the Cincinnati Bearcats, which join the Kansas State Wildcats (and the Cougars) in the cat column and the Baylor Bears in the bear column.
Cincinnati will also come from the American alongside head coach Michelle Clark-Heard, who has had a 54-36 record since she took over for Jamelle Elliot in 2018. The Bearcats have succeeded in two of its three seasons under Clark-Heard and could facilitate the Big 12’s pull in the states around Ohio and West Virginia.
“I am humbled and honored to be the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Cincinnati on this historic day,” Clark-Heard said in a statement. “To have started my career in the Big 12 as an assistant and to now lead our program into the same conference is a full-circle moment for me. I am looking forward to the growth of our program and the athletic department as we transition into the Big 12.”