Tag Archives: WVU

Big Ten Expansion?

image from sportsflagsandpennants.com

First and foremost, I apologize for the long absence of posts.  My computer once again went on the fritz.  Unlike last time, I’ve missed way too much, and I’m just going to move forward without a recap.  Sorry if you’re disappointed.

But there was something that was interesting that I wanted to touch on.  If you haven’t heard, the Big Ten issued a statement today saying they may be interested in a 12th team.  Here’s the story. First of all, I’ll believe Big Ten expansion when I see it.  They have a lot to gain, but they’re a tradition filled group, and I’m not sure there are any immediately available teams that fit the bill.  But, for the sake of a story, and because it’s a neat debate, I thought it would be interesting to examine what team they would select if they were to expand.  The obvious first choice would be Notre Dame.  Everybody knows that.  If expansion were to happen in the near future, I’d imagine the first call the Big Ten would make would be to ND, and I’d imaging the conversation would go something like this:

Big Ten: “Hey Notre Dame.  We’re really serious about expansion this time.  This is your last chance to get on board with the conference.  After this, the door’s closed.”

Notre Dame: “I see.  Well, I just built a vault with a diving board to house all of the money from our NBC contract.  You know, the money we don’t have to split with anyone?  It’s sweet.  Now we can go swimming in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.  So, I guess, in short, we’re good.  Thanks, though.”

And that would be the end of that.  So, assuming Notre Dame turns them down, who would they take?  Well, there are a bunch of school names and rumors floating around.  Here are my thoughts on each.

Missouri

Pros: They’re rumored to be angry with the Big XII because they feel like an outcast in the North Division.  Do they have the guts to put their money where their mouth is and leave?  They’d be a perfect fit.  They’re a large, midwestern land grant school.  They’ve got a huge following and they’re an established BCS conference team.

Cons: I can’t see them leaving the Big XII.  The Big Ten is a good conference, but switching leagues is always a risk, and is the Big Ten that much of an upgrade?  They’re not in a bad situation right now.  Why would they throw that away?  I’d say they’re the obvious second choice, but from here on out I’m assuming they’re not a viable option.  That is until I hear something that says they’re officially interested.

Rutgers

Pros: New York market.  That’s the reason they’re here.  The Big Ten can expand into the largest market in the US.  Simple as that.  Plus, they add another state to put their cable channel in.  Rutgers is also a good academic fit (see the bottom of the post), and they’ve got a decent fan base.  All pluses.

Cons: Geography.  They don’t really fit.  That’s a hike to bring the Iowa field hockey team all the way to New Jersey every year.

Pitt

Pros: They fit in with the Big Ten well.  They’re in the geography, they fit academically, and they’ve got a big football tradition (they’re not at their best right now, but the folks in Ann Arbor would understand that, right?).

Cons: The fan base is tiny.  They’re not a big land grant school like the Big Ten teams.  They don’t have an entire state rooting for them.  Also, they’ve got a fairly undersized athletics department.  They only have 17 teams.  If they go to the Big Ten, they might have to re-invest some of the increased budget into fielding some more sports (the good news is that they’ve got decent facilities for the non-revenues once the new baseball/soccer fields are complete).  But the huge hurdle for them is fans.

Syracuse

Pros: Just like Rutgers, Syracuse would be added to try to grab the New York market.  Just like Rutgers they’d fit well academically.  They also have a good football tradition that would play well in the Big Ten.

Cons: They have a decent fan base, but I’m not sure it’s as big as Rutgers’ is.  The way I see it, if the Big Ten wants to go after New York, Rutgers has the fans and Syracuse has the tradition.  The fans (and $) win.

Cincinnati

Pros: My, my.  I’m not sure this name would have popped up about 2 years ago or so.  They’re definitely an up and coming program.  They also fit very nicely geographically (if that’s what the Big Ten is going for).

Cons: Lots of them.  First of all, they have no consistency in the athletics program.  They’re good now, but are they going to be good for the long haul (especially with the coach leaving)?  Second of all, they’ve got another small athletics department (14 sports).  But most damaging is their facilities.  Nippert Stadium is one of the oldest college football stadiums in the country and only seats 35,000.  That would be the smallest in the Big Ten by over 10,000 seats.

Louisville

Pros: They’re similar to Cincy.  They fit the geography of the Big Ten.  They’ve got an up and coming program in the past few years, they’re building a fan base.  Unlike Cincy, they’ve got a very strong athletics department on the whole with some very nice facilities.

Cons: They don’t have the tradition (read: name recognition) that a lot of the other schools have.  They don’t really fit academically.

WVU

Pros: Besides Mizzou, they’ve got the biggest fan base of any of the Big East schools under consideration.  They’ve got a big stadium that they fill up consistently.  Their football program’s in the best shape.

Cons: If the Big Ten wants to expand its boundaries, I’m not sure West Virginia is the state it’s got its eye on.  Also, the big killer is going to be academics (see below).  I have a feeling that academics won’t be the deciding factor by any stretch, but it will be a preliminary screen.

So, overall, I think the obvious first and second choices are Notre Dame and Missouri respectively.  But in the extremely likely case that both of those schools turn them down, I see this as a two pony race: Pitt and Rutgers.  Both schools fit the academic criteria.  Both have facilities that would measure up.  They would both do as a 12th team (neither is a perfect fit, but a perfect fit isn’t going to happen).  It all comes down to what the Big Ten wants from the 12th team.  Pitt would expand the Big Ten brand of midwest schools with solid academics and a deep football tradition.  Rutgers would expand the Big Ten footprint to include New York.  In other words, Rutgers diminishes the Midwest image that the Big Ten’s getting, but they bring a higher financial return.  Pitt would be a solid placeholder that gets them to 12 teams and a championship game.  I think I’m not stretching things too much when I say they’re most likely going to opt for Rutgers and the increased market.  Money talks, after all.  But, as a Pitt fan who would not want to be left behind in a Big East jilted again, I offer this caution to the Big Ten.  Remember the ACC.  They really wanted the New England market, so they took BC.  They wanted to go from a southeastern conference to an east coast conference.  Well, Boston didn’t care about BC before, and they don’t care about them now.  Think a lot of schools wouldn’t trade that extra “exposure” so that they don’t have to fly the mens cross country team from Atlanta to Boston every year?  I’m just saying…..

Appendix

Knowing that academics is probably going to be a weed out, I did some research.  Here are the academic rankings of the current Big Ten members, and the prospective teams.  The ARWU is the Academic Ranking of World Universities: a 100 university list of schools from around the globe produced yearly by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  You can read about it here.  USNWR is the US News and World Reports yearly ranking of US universities.  133 were ranked in 2009, with the rest being grouped into ‘Tier 3’ and ‘Tier 4’.  Those are the two most widely cited rankings I could find.  Public Ivy is a list comprised by Richard Moll of Yale University and has been widely used since.  The original list had 8 schools and 9 runners-up.  The list was expanded to 30 schools in 2001.  You can read about it here. Since the Big Ten is mostly public universities that pride themselves on being on this list, I thought it was relevant.

School 2009 USNWR Rank 2009 ARWU Rank Public Ivy Class

Michigan                               27                                                          22                                          Original 8

Michigan State                   71 (tie)                                                 86                                            2001 List

Iowa                                       71 (tie)                        NR (last ranked #97 in 2007)              2001 List

Minnesota                            61 (tie)                                                 28                                             2001 List

Wisconsin                             39 (tie)                                                 17                                   Original Runner-Up

Illinois                                   39 (tie)                                                 25                                   Original Runner-Up

Northwestern                     12                                                           30                                               (Private)

Indiana                                  71 (tie)                                                 93                                             2001 List

Purdue                                   61 (tie)                                                  65                                                  N/A

Ohio State                             53 (tie)                                                  62                                             2001 List

Penn State                            47 (tie)                                                  45                                   Original Runner-Up

Missouri                                102 (tie)                                                NR                                               N/A

Rutgers                                   66 (tie)                                                 55                                            2001 List

Syracuse                                 58 (tie)                                                NR                                           (Private)

Pitt                                            56 (tie)                                                50                                     Original Runner-Up

Cincinnati                              Tier 3                                                   NR                                                N/A

Louisville                               Tier 3                                                  NR                                                 N/A

WVU                                         Tier 3                                                  NR                                                 N/A

And just so I don’t get accused of putting up numbers that only make Pitt look like the obvious choice, here are the football stadium capacities, football average attendance and number of varsity sports for each team:

School Stadium Capacity 2008 Attendance # Varsity Sports

Michigan                                       106,201                                                   108,571                                                25

Michigan State                              75,005                                                     74,858                                                20

Iowa                                                   70,585                                                    70,169                                                 20

Minnesota                                        50,000                                                    48,958                                                23

Wisconsin                                         80,321                                                     81,088                                                23

Illinois                                               62,870                                                     61,707                                               19

Northwestern                                 47,130                                                      28,590                                               19

Indiana                                              49,225                                                      31,782                                               22

Purdue                                               62,500                                                     56,702                                               18

Ohio State                                       102,329                                                   104,976                                              36

Penn State                                      107,282                                                   108,254                                              27

Missouri                                           68,349                                                       64,520                                              18

Rutgers                                             54,000                                                      42,378                                              22

Syracuse                                          49,262                                                       33,474                                              20

Pitt                                                     65,050                                                       49,352                                              17

Cincinnati                                       35,000                                                       31,965                                              14

Louisville                                        42,000                                                       39,680                                             21

WVU                                                  60,000                                                      58,085                                             16

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State of the Team: Pitt Basketball 2/9/09

  • So Blair had a huge game in Chicago.
  • Then turned around and had a not so huge game against WVU (Pitt finally figures out how to win without him, though).

So I’m going to talk mostly about that WVU game that just wrapped up today. The general consensus is that it’s an ugly win, but we’ll take it. Sam Young is your game high scorer, however the only really noticeable guys on the court were the ones in stripes. Both sides had significant foul trouble to star players. Both sides kept looking in shock after a whistle (c’mon. After 30 some calls already, you can get the point that the refs are calling a tight game. Stop looking at them like they just told you the Pirates were winning a championship this year and just play.) I guess that’s the sign of a decent ref: both sides want to punch you equally.

But I digress. I think an emerging story line is Sam Young. He had his best game in awhile, so naturally I’m going to turn around and hammer him. True, he had 20 points tonight, but his shot selection was still terrible. The fact that he forces shots is well documented. But look at this stat: 1.4 assists per game. That evens out to 32 assists total this season. Compare that to 326 shot attempts this season. Gil Brown, his backup, averages 1.2 assists per game with 4 less minutes to work with. So it’s not that his position that dictates that he take shots. He just makes bad decisions with the ball. A 1/1.7 assist to turnover ratio proves that. That’s right. Sam takes away a possession almost twice as much as he helps someone else score. I swear he gets a look in his eye where you know he’s forgotten the other 4 guys with Pitt on their chest. The defense can quadruple team him and force him to put up a crazy shot, but gosh darn it he’s putting up that shot. I’ve also noticed an even more disturbing trend with Sam: his slagging defense. I counted a half a dozen times in the WVU game where he was late to give help, or he lost his man and couldn’t recover in time. It was even worse at DePaul. He’s never been a lock down defender, but the past few games have been horrible. The kicker is that most of this is just mental. You have to watch the ball and your man. Sam’s proven in the past he can do it. He’s just been off in la-la land for some reason for the past week, and it’s time for him to return. I hate digging into athletes for performance. I debated writing this. After all, he’s an amateur in college. But this isn’t a case of beating up a guy for lack of talent. That would be the pot calling the kettle black. This a case of lack of effort, and I think that’s always fair game.

Ok, stepping down from my soapbox, there were some other stories from this one. Pitt finally won a game where Blair was in foul trouble. The problem is that WVU isn’t like Villanova and Louisville. They aren’t the slashing team those two are. In the previous two games, Blair got into foul trouble because of the type of game the refs were calling. In both instances, the refs were consistently calling fouls on clutching and grabbing and knocking guys driving the lane, and Blair struggled to react to it. In the WVU game, he got into foul trouble because he got a couple of ticky tack fouls guarding a post man (he fouled mostly guards in the first two games) and mouthed off to the ref one too many times. There’s a big difference there. If we can win a game where the refs make life easy for the guards driving the lane, I’ll be a lot more relieved.

Finally, I just wanted to comment on something positive (this has been a really negative post so far). We just knocked off a top 20 RPI team twice in a season. That’ll look good on a tourney resume. Plus, it’s always nice to beat WVU.

stats from espn.com

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Weekend Games to Watch 1/24/09

Maryland @ Duke (Noon Saturday-ESPN)

Pretty lame slate of games this weekend.  But there are a few interesting matchups.  Maryland/Duke is always a good rivalry (or not depending on who you ask) game.  It’s always entertaining to say the least.  Both teams can play awfully fast when they want to.  Coach K is famous for his matchup zone defense which always limits Maryland’s  penetration.  But Maryland has nipped the Dukies before through the transition game.  If this game turns into a track meet, Duke’s in trouble.  If Duke can slow the tempo down to about 100 miles/hour (down from the speed of light that the Terps usually prefer), then they win.  Either way, this should be a high scoring game with a lot of pretty transition layups that make the majority of people say ‘ooooh’ and make people that know the game of basketball say ‘why didn’t the defense get back in transition?’

Player to watch: Gerald Henderson-Duke

I like the heady senior with the quick hands on defense to make some plays.  I think he could cause some turnovers and get in the way of Maryland’s run and gun a little bit.  Expect him to score a few points, but make a huge impact in the steals column.

Prediction: This isn’t Maryland’s greatest team in recent memory, and I don’t think they can handle Duke.  Duke wins by about 15-20: 80 something to 60 something.

UConn @ Notre Dame (7pm Saturday-ESPN)

The Leprechaun Legion will be in full voice as college gameday is in the house (and being stupid for a chance to be on TV is a vital part of the college experience).   I think a lot will be made of the Hasheem Thabeet vs. Luke Harangody matchup, and rightfully so.  When two of the best players in the conference match up against each other, its a big deal.  I’m going to give the edge to Harangody on this one.  I think Thabeet is an excellent shot blocker, but he’s not the best at altering shots.  Harangody has some of the best post moves in the big east and I’m ready to pencil him in for 15 points right now.  However, the frontcourt matchup is a huge strength for UConn.  I think UConn’s guards drive all day on the Domer defense, and run away with this one.

Player to watch: Jerome Dyson-UConn

If Dyson plays his game and goes right at the ND defense, he will get some points and may even get some fouls on Harangody as a bonus.  That’s when you know it’ll be a really long day for the Irish.

Prediction: As long as Thabeet can hang with Harangody on the boards, I like the Huskies a lot in this one.

Pitt @ West Virginia (4pm Sunday-ESPN Regional)

This one’s going to be another game where the gym’ll be rocking.  Not only is the hated Pitt coming to town, but they’re bringing a top 5 ranking with them.  WVU’s been looking for respect, and they got some from Georgetown, but a win against Pitt would really put them on the map.  I was very impressed by the way WVU played against the Hoyas.  They rebounded extremely well.  They drove the lane hard and often.  That’s a good formula for beating Pitt if they can keep it up.  Defensively, they like to try to deny the inside.  So the game plan for Pitt might be to launch 3’s and let Blair go for rebounds to try and get the Mountaineers to extend a little bit defensively.  I think the good thing in this game is that WVU has struggled to score against physical defenses, and that is Pitt in a nutshell.

Player to watch: Sam Young-Pitt

I mentioned before that Pitt may launch 3’s and go after the rebound.  However, if Young can start driving the lane and drawing fouls (maybe look for Jermaine Dixon to do this too), it could be another way to score.  That would make things a lot easier for Pitt.

Prediction: I don’t like this matchup for Pitt at all.  Especially with the hostile crowd.  But I’m a homer who can’t pick against his teams.  Especially when they play WVU.

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