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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Is The Future of Big Ten Hoops Bleak?

It is if you go by the barometer known as the McDonald's All-American rosters. (Thanks to the ACC guru of the blogosphere, Dave Sez, for the link).

Here the numbers:

Conference Number of McDonald's All-Americans

Big 12 6
Big East 3
Pac 10 2
Conference USA 1.

Some pilots joke about Midwestern states by calling them the "fly-over" states, in that you fly over them to get from coast to coast. All kidding aside, is the Big Ten becoming the "Fly-Over" Conference for HS prospects?

Not yet, of course, as Illinois is the top-rated team in the nation and still undefeated. Still, the Big Ten looks like it might only get three bids to the Big Dance, and that's a low number for one of the "major" conferences.

I had a conversation with a friend regarding my sports "reality" TV show post, in which I featured a show called "Pimp My School", a takeoff on MTV's "Pimp My Ride", where a school with a moribund program could bring in the renegade coach, the bad boosters and some shoe company hucksters and, say, turn Vanderbilt's football program into a contender. We then got to talking and discussed the practical reality that kids might not want to go to, say, Penn State to play basketball given that Penn State is a football school. We also discussed that most schools can't pull off the ultimate double and have great programs in both, for whatever reason.

For example, USC basketball isn't that good, and neither are the Duke and North Carolina football programs. Illinois's football team is not good, and neither are Kansas's, UConn's or Syracuse's. In a similar light, the basketball programs at Cal, Michigan, Miami and Auburn aren't that great either.

So let's look at the Big Ten and play "football school" or "basketball school" and see what we find:

Illinois -- basketball school.
Indiana -- basketball school (but neither team is very good right now).
Iowa -- football school.
Michigan -- football school.
Michigan State -- basketball school.
Minnesota -- neither, really (although football probably has an edge).
Northwestern -- neither, really.
Ohio State -- football school.
Penn State -- football school.
Purdue -- football school.
Wisconsin -- both, actually (an exception!)

And, the three schools who will make it to the Big Dance are (drum roll please)-- Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin. The rest just aren't very good basketball schools. Which could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy if you're a HS kid who wants to play against the best. Go to the ACC and pound against a Top 25 team every week, or go to the Big Ten and play against a few excellent hoops programs, a few okay ones, and then some plum awful ones. Where do you go?

In contrast, let's look at the ACC:

Clemson -- football school
Duke -- basketball school
Florida State -- football school
Georgia Tech -- basketball school (but football is okay)
Maryland -- basketball school (but football is good)
Miami -- football school (but hoops are pretty good)
North Carolina -- basketball school
NC State -- basketball school (but actually middle of the pack in both)
Virginia -- football school
Virginia Tech -- football school (but hoops is playing out of its mind)
Wake Forest -- basketball school.

There's more balance here, because two football schools - Miami and Va Tech -- just might make their way into the Big Dance.

Where's the better competition for hoops? Most definitely in the ACC and the Big 12, and also in the Big East.

Whither Big Ten hoops?

Only time will tell.


Blogger matt said...

Sports Prof,

DO you happen to know where the two guys are going in the Pac 10? I am a huge AZ fan, and I am curious to know if they are coming to play for my Wildcats. Thanks.


3:17 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Both are going to Washington.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I think your characterizations of the Big Ten schools assumes that they are at their norms in the present. For instance, Michigan has one national title and five NCAA title game appearances to its credit in the past 40 years. It's a football school, but it's also perfectly capable of being a great basketball program, mainly because of its proximity to good HS basketball talent. Purdue was a basketball school throughout the 80s and 90s until Tiller came to the football program in '97. Iowa was a very good basketball program under Tom Davis and Lute Olson; they became a football school recently with Kurt Ferentz's emergence. Ohio State is a capable hoops program six years removed from their last Final Four appearance.

The bottom line is that several of the programs, most notably Michigan, Indiana, and Purdue, are mismanaged right now. With better coaches, there's no reason why all three shouldn't be NCAA perennials (as they were throughout the 80s and 90s.)

3:09 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

The quality of the coaching in the Big Ten has dropped considerably in recent years. Living in the present and near future, I think the Big Ten has a hoops problem. Yes, the past is worth honoring, but the Big Ten (and no one else for that matter) can live in it. Some of the programs you mentioned might surge, but some of those programs need new coaches. One (Purdue) will get one, but what will happen at Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan?

8:16 PM  
Blogger R. D. Baker said...

Minnesota's a hockey school, right?

5:29 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Heh, you're right about that. All the worse for the Big Ten, I suppose.

Also, I don't think that the Big Ten is damaged forever in terms of men's hoops, it's just that with the exception of the top 3 teams, it's a hurting conference right now.

9:53 AM  

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