The status quo has become a moving target as college basketball ramps up to March Madness

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Oregon pulled off a run of three wins in three days, capped by a championship that propelled the Ducks into the NCAA Tournament.

Standing on a makeshift stage next to the Pac-12 tournament trophy, the players danced and shouted as confetti fell in one big Las Vegas party.

With the revelry came the realization the moment was also a wake, a goodbye to a once-great conference that splintered amid a rapidly transforming college sports landscape.

“Part of me is really sad that this is not going to be here because like all the coaches in the league, I like to travel in the league and those things are all going to change,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “But change is exciting also, even at my age. I am kind of looking forward to it. It’s going to be a different challenge.”

Change is naturally ingrained in college athletics, from the sheer number of schools, student-athletes and sports to the needs in a range of conferences big and small.

The process has been accelerating, chaos becoming the status quo as the college basketball season winds into March Madness.

Name, Image and Likeness has opened new revenue-earning opportunities for student-athletes once considered purely amateurs. With it, schools and coaches have had to adapt or get left behind. The NCAA has been forced to create new rules to keep up with the money flow.

The transfer portal has created a maelstrom of madness not limited to March, with programs practically starting over every season as players move through a revolving door that opens just as teams are preparing for the postseason.

The massive shifts have shaken the foundation of the NCAA, changing the governing organization’s structure as its tries to keep up with the world of college athletics.

“There’s constant change and so you have to embrace that,” ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said. “For some, I think there’s a tug to go back and can’t we undo some of these things. And I think that’s counterproductive.”

The latest round of conference realignment could reshape college sports.

Realignment had slowed since the previous mass of conference swapping in the early 2010s, with a handful of schools moving to new leagues each year.

Texas and Oklahoma ignited the latest round by announcing last year they would be leaving the Big 12 for SEC riches in 2024. Southern California and UCLA followed by bolting from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten.

Losing two marquee schools, along with the lack of a new media rights deal for the Pac-12, forced the remaining schools in the conference to rethink their futures. A mass exodus followed, leaving only Oregon State and Washington State stuck in a league once dubbed the “Conference of Champions.”

“We all grew up with the Pac-8, Pac-10, Pac-12, and to see it go away is something sad,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “But I’m also excited for new horizons, so we’re not going to get sentimental about it. You and I can get sentimental at the end of the year and shed a tear, but now it’s business.”

The demise of the Pac-12 led to what may be the beginning stages of college athletics shifting to a handful of super conferences.

The Big Ten will be up to 18 schools next year after the additions of USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. The ACC also will be an 18-team league by adding California, Stanford and SMU.

The Big 12 will have 16 teams now that Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah are headed east. The Southeastern Conference also will be 16 teams with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma.

The consolidation of power and resources will make it even tougher for the smaller conferences to keep up. It’s also led the NCAA to look at possibly expanding the NCAA Tournament beyond 68 teams, which has stirred mixed emotions across the country.

“People were mad about the play-in game, now that’s exciting, it’s the build-up to the tournament,” Minnesota coach Ben Johnson said. “We have to be openminded to changing and having new ideas and what can we do to push the envelope.”

The changes are here and more are likely coming. The status quo has become a moving target and everyone has to adapt.

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AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker, Dave Campbell and Stephen Whyno contributed to this story.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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