Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday's Docket: Basketball Recruiting and Critiquing The Midwestern Conference

Updating Your Basketball Needs

GBW has a breakdown of just about everything you wanted to know about Michigan's recruiting class for 2006. There are still two big fish swimming in the recruitment pond (5* Center Eric Boateng [Duke transfer] and 5* guard Scottie Reynolds) and a few smaller ones as well.

The biggest fish may well be Boateng. Michigan does not have a big man in the pipeline after Courtney Sims graduates. Boateng would definitely fill that void. He was listed as the #3 center in the class of 2005, and if given some playing time might be able to prove it. According to GBW he's scheduled to visit Michigan May 7, and is also considering Notre Dame, Arizona State, and George Washington. He is a transfer, so he wouldn't be able to play next year, but a year off to practice and fill out his lanky frame might be a blessing for him. The only warning I'd put on him would be his temperment. If he's transfering after one year at a winning Duke program, how's he going to react to playing at a mid level-major conference school. Just a thought.

After Boateng there is Scottie Reynolds. His decommit from Oklahoma has vultures like Michigan drooling. A McDonalds all-american, Reynolds will most likely start right away where ever he ends up. The only real problem is who Michigan is up against. He's already been down to see LSU and could visit Nova and Illinois, according to GBW. Still, Tommy's been all over him, including a lengthy chat in Reynolds' home state of Virginia. It's a long shot with the other schools pursuing him, but if Reynolds ends up in Ann Arbor we all owe Tommy an apology (for saying he can't recruit, I stand by the assertion he's a lousy coach).

The rest of the article is a great run down. It also mentions for the first time a Rutgers transfer named Zach Gibson who is a Michigan native. He wasn't pursued by Michigan out fo college and didn't play much at Rutgers. He'll probably end up back in Ann Arbor, but at Eastern Michigan.

Nitpicking Kyle's New World Order, Part II

My second issue with Kyle's realignment of the Big Ten is the exclusion of Northwestern and the inclusion of Miami of Ohio.

Kyle's new Midwestern Conference includes the following:
Northern Division: Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin
Southern Division: Illinois, Miami (Ohio), Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue

You'll note missing from those ranks are Penn State, Indiana, and Northwestern. As I said yesterday, I can't gripe with the deduction of Penn State. Geographically speaking, Penn State has no business in the Big Ten. While Pennsylvania and Ohio may be next door to one another, the rest of the Big Ten is too far away from Happy Valley for Penn State's inclusion in the real Big Ten to be anything less than a brilliant coup by the Big Ten heirarchy that pulled it off. Still I would miss Joe Pa's coke bottle glasses, and the sight of his 90 year old legs running after the officials to blame them for yet another loss to Michigan.

Indiana's elimination from Big Ten football is a no brainer. The program has been in shambles for years. Here are Indiana's records for the last few years, conference record in paranetheses:

Indiana Football
2005: 4-7 (1-7)
2004: 3-8 (1-7)
2003: 2-10 (1-7)
2002: 3-9 (1-7)
2001: 5-6 (4-4)
2000: 3-8 (2-6)
1999: 4-7 (3-5)
1998: 4-7 (3-5)
1997: 2-9 (1-7)

You get the picture. Since 1990, Indiana has only had three winning records in conference (1990 4-3-1; 1991 5-3; 1993 5-3). They have had seven sesasons where they have won 1 conference game or less since 1993. The last four years Indiana has 4 wins in conference, total. Indiana deserves the boot, and should get it, in Kyle's conference or in any other.

Which brings us to Northwestern. This is where Kyle and I tangle. There is no way the 'Cats should be stripped from the Big Ten/Midwestern Conference. Northwestern has proven it belongs in the Big Ten over the last ten years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Just look at the records:

2005: 7-5 (5-3) Sun Bowl (L)
2004: 6-6 (5-3)
2003: 6-7 (4-4) Motor City Bowl (L)
2002: 3-9 (1-7)
2001: 4-7 (2-6)
2000: 8-4 (6-2) Big Ten Co-Champs; Alamo Bowl (L)
1999: 3-8 (1-7)
1998: 3-9 (0-8)
1997: 5-7 (3-5)
1996: 9-3 (7-1) Big Ten Co-Champs; Citrus Bowl (L)
1995: 10-2 (8-0) Big Ten Champions; Rose Bowl (L)

Sharing or winning three Big Ten titles in 10 years should not equal a demotion to Conference U.S.A. Kyle's proposed Conference U.S.A. seems like the Island of Misfit Toys. Look at the contents: Baylor, Northwestern, Rice, Stanford, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, Rutgers, Temple, and Wake Forest. Try to tell me with a straight face that Northwestern wouldn't rule this conference with an iron fist. This conference contains more schools that should not have football teams than those who should. In fact, only two of them had a winning conference record, Northwestern and Rutgers(7-3 [4-3] in the Big {L}East). Northwestern does not belong in this abomdination, they belong in the Big Ten.

Geographically, Northwestern's location also dictates that they belong in this heartland conference. Northwestern University is located in Evanston, Illinois, 30 minutes north of Chicago on scenic Lake Shore Drive. A beautiful north suburban campus, Northwestern also boast three top five graduate schools in Chicago proper (Medical, Business, and Law). I submit to Kyle, how can you have a truly "midwestern" conference when the school located in the very heart of the Midwestern Mecca is left out? The short answer is you can't. Northwestern, despite it's Ivy and private school status, is a gem of a midwestern school not just academically but also in athletics. Their football resume is enough to keep them here, but their location makes them impossible to leave out.

In that case, who gets in if Northwestern stays? Kyle proposes Notre Dame, Iowa State, Missouri, and Miami of Ohio. Notre Dame I have no problem with. As a true football power they belong in the Big Ten and are no stranger to the conference having regular Big Ten rivalry games every year. No brainer.

If I had my way, I'd stop here. Ten is enough. But, this is Kyle's league so I've gotta go to 12 teams.

Therefore, Iowa State belongs too. Not just because they're reside in the same state as the Hawkeyes, but because they are a legitimate football program. Here's their record since 2000 and their record against Big Ten teams:

Iowa State
2005: 7-5 (4-4) (Wins over Illinois and Iowa)
2004: 7-5 (4-4) (Loss to Iowa)
2003: 2-10 (0-8) (Loss to Iowa)
2002: 7-7 (4-4) (Win over Iowa)
2001: 7-5 (4-4) (Win over Iowa)
2000: 9-3 (5-3) (Win over Iowa)

Minimum seven win team over the last six years (with a noticeable 2003 hiccup). A 4-2 record against a good Big Ten program in Iowa. They've proven they belong. If only they'd pick a better nickname, the "cyclones" doesn't quite fit in a conference where just about everyone is named after a vicious animal. (ed note: Buckeye's are not animals, but are in fact nuts. Their fans however border somewhere in between.)

Now its patsy time. Because the league must have 12 teams, I've gotta pick a cellar dweller to keep Illinois company (Illinois was 2-9 (0-8) in 2005). To be honest, if I had to choose between including Missouri and Miami at the expense of Illinois, I'd seriously consider it. Illinois and Indiana have been abmissal Big Ten teams for quite some time. However, Illinois has been to a Sugar Bowl recently and was a charter member of the Big Ten. Its a tough call, but Illinois should stay, there's just too much history. Further, if I'm arguing that location keeps Northwestern in, Illinois has to stay too. Therefore the choice remains between Missouri and Miami of Ohio. Hmmmm. Would you like the vomit flavored lollypop or the one that tastes like feet? Here are the comparisons:

Missouri (Big XII Conference)
2005: 7-5 (4-4)
2004: 5-6 (3-5)
2003: 8-4 (4-4) (W Illinois)
2002: 5-6 (2-6) (W illinois)
2001: 4-7 (3-5) (L Michigan State)
2000: 3-8, (2-6) (L Michigan State)

Miami (MAC Conference)
2005: 7-4 (5-3)
2004: 9-4 (L Michigan)
2003: 13-1 (L Iowa, W Northwestern)
2002: 6-5 (L Iowa)
2001: 7-5 (L Iowa, L Michigan)
2000: 6-5 (L to Ohio State)

I didn't include Miami's conference record because, well, it's the MAC, and well, I'm not sure it really counts. But, in looking at the records, it appears to be a toss up. Miami has had success in MAC play, being Champs or Co-Champs three straight years. Missouri hasn't even sniffed a Big XII crown in years. However, the conferences are the tie breaker. Missouri has been average in a tough conference that has produced national championship contenders three of the last four years. Miami plays in the MAC. Missouri is a huge state school, Miami is a small one. Missouri can recruit in its home state. Miami deals with Ohio State and Michigan poaching, well, everyone.

It's really not an argument. Miami belongs in Conference USA, not the Midwestern Conference. Missouri should be let into the Conference, but with the understanding that they're not going to be a legitimate football power. The good folks over at Around the Oval took a look too, and also gave the Red Hawks the boot based on stadium size. Great point. Playing in front of 30,000 people doesn't seem right when Wisconsin, Ohio State or Michigan come to town. Great stuff.

Well, that sums me up. Thanks again to Kyle for giving us something to write about while the season is still months away!


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