There have been recent reports that back when the Big Ten first expanded with Nebraska, four other teams almost came with them. The Big 12 would've imploded without Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa State and Texas A&M, but our beloved Big Ten would've thrived even more than it has already. Or would it? Let's take a look at these other schools and how they might have fit in, especially in basketball.
The Sooners' strong football history would be a welcome addition to any conference. Add in a men's basketball program that has 29 NCAA Tournament appearances and a women's team that hasn't missed this Big Dance since 1999 and you've got a school that can make the conference better right away. Basketball may not be as important as football in Norman, but the administration definitely values it and don't underestimate how much Jim Delany would salivate at the thought of having NBA superstar and marketing tool Blake Griffin available to him.
With OU, the biggest glaring issue in there potential Big Ten membership would have been the fact that they have never been members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). The organization is composed of leading research universities and every Big Ten team has been a member at one time in their history. Only Nebraska, who lost membership after accepting their bid to join the conference, is no longer a member. Quality of academics and research is very important to the Big Ten, and while Oklahoma doesn't lack in those areas, they are on the lower end of overall rankings when compared to potential Big Ten compatriots.
Overall, Oklahoma would have been (and would still be) a great addition athletically, but a minor lack of academic quality could have made the addition of the Sooners a bit tenuous, much like Nebraska.
Would Kansas have fit in the Big Ten? Um...yeah. KU is a tradition-rich basketball school with AAU membership, and adding them makes sense on just about every level. From a basketball standpoint, this is a no-brainer. I think James Naismith himself would probably even approve. Kansas is the second in all-time wins and their football team has had some pretty decent seasons in the past, which is more than I can say for some of the Big Ten's basketball-first schools.
Overall, this is an easy choice; Kansas would've fit in great. Their only negative is lower-end academic rankings compared to Big Ten schools, but their AAU membership would've made that a non-issue.
The Cyclones are an AAU member with academic rankings right around the range of KU, OU, and Nebraska. However, their athletics are lacking just a bit when compared to that group. In basketball ISU has made one Final Four in their history and Fred Hoiberg gave them quite a good run recently by taking his team to the NCAA Tournament for four straight years before leaving for the Bulls. Oddly enough, the season that would've been the Cyclones' first in the Big Ten (2011-12) they had three Big Ten transfers on the roster with Royce White, Korie Lucious and Chris Allen.
Iowa State is obviously a big rival of Iowa's and would likely welcome the chance to play twice a year in some sports. ISU also makes the most sense geographically, as they are already in a Big Ten state and have some history playing other western Big Ten schools. Of course, it is always possible that Iowa may have tried to block ISU's inclusion in the Big Ten, like Michigan did to Michigan State back in the 1940's.
Overall, ISU would've fit into the Big Ten, but unlike KU and OU, it would be their location that made the move logical.
The SEC's newest and shiniest toy could have been ours. The Aggies' football tradition and lack of basketball tradition makes them a perfect fit into the athletics of the South's premier conference. However, their academics place them near the top of the SEC and actually make them the strongest of the five schools that considered jumping to the Big Ten from the Big 12. A&M is an AAU member and would've ranked near the middle of the Big Ten academically.
One interesting note about their basketball program is that current Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was the coach at A&M when a Big Ten move would've taken place. Turgeon led the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament every year he was in College Station, and was arguably their most successful coach of all time. Turgeon left for Maryland in the summer of 2011, but one has to wonder if he would have made the move if the Aggies had been going to the more basketball-minded Big Ten.
Overall, A&M has never been a basketball school, but their academics and football history/fanbase would've made them a shiny jewel for Delany's crown. Their fit in the Big Ten would've made the least sense, especially geographically; but then again, we added Rutgers just three years later, so.....maybe everyone fits in the Big Ten.