Friday, April 23, 2010

Schmolik's Dream Big 10 Expansion

Hello, college basketball fans!

A big topic in the media these past few months has been the expansion of the Big 10 teams. Those of you who know me know I am an alum and huge fan of Illinois. I was at the 2005 game in Chicago when my Illini made the improbable comeback to beat Arizona in the Elite Eight to make the Final Four. In addition, I have a graduate degree from another Big 10 school. Penn State. So of course I am rooting for Big 10 expansion. While I may have a lot of preferred teams I also am realistic. While my favorite college sport of course is basketball, I do know football also counts, money also counts, and academics also counts. That being said, my dream expansion I feel is very reasonable on the other counts and would make the Big 10 arguably if not unarguably the best basketball conference in America.

My proposed expansion: Add Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut.

Just see what happens to Big 10 basketball based upon NCAA tournament performance since 2000:

Current conference setups:

Big 10 as is:

92 wins, 22 Sweet 16, 9 Final Fours, 1 Championship (MSU 2000)

Big East as is:

115 wins, 33 Sweet 16, 8 Final Fours, 2 Championships (Syracuse 2003, UConn 2004)


101 wins, 22 Sweet 16, 10 Final Fours, 5 Championships (Duke 2001 and 2010, North Carolina 2005 and 2009, Maryland 2002)

My proposal with Syracuse, Pitt, and UConn moving to the Big 10:

Pitt, Syracuse, and UConn:

49 wins, 15 Sweet 16's, 3 Final Fours, 2 Championships

Big 10 with the Big 3:
141 wins, 37 Sweet 16's, 12 Final Fours, 3 Championships

Big East without the Big 3:

66 wins, 18 Sweet 16's, 5 Final Fours, No Championships

Not only would the new Big 10 clearly be better than the new Big East, the new Big 10 would rival the ACC (they would lead in every category except national championships, which of course is really the most important category).

Big 10 with the Big 3:

141 wins, 37 Sweet 16's, 12 Final Fours, 3 Championships


101 wins, 22 Sweet 16, 10 Final Fours, 5 Championships (Duke 2001 and 2010, North Carolina 2005 and 2009, Maryland 2002)

Now of course the three I chose also have football teams. Pitt is a decent Big East football team. UConn is up and coming. Syracuse of course is awful now but they have had success in the past and have been a rivalry of Penn State before Penn State joined the Big 10. In terms of economics, Syracuse and UConn can help bring more fans from the Northeast including the New York market and in UConn's case most of New England into the Big 10. Pitt doesn't really add to the geographical mold but Pittsburgh isn't any slouch in terms of a market and while the Big 10 may have a following in Pittsburgh because of Penn State, they would all but own it if Pittsburgh joined the Big 10 and imagine how big Pitt/PSU and Pitt/OSU football games would be? As for academics, Pitt and Syracuse are AAU members which is seemed by many to be a strong selling point to Big 10 candidacy. Connecticut is not an AAU member is but is ranked 66th according to US News & World Report magazine academically (Pitt is 56th and Syracuse is 58th). While none of the three is a slam dunk in any area except college basketball, I feel the total package of all three should be qualified candidates for Big 10 expansion.

Now the one team I don't want to see in the Big East that everyone says is a threat to join the Big 10? Rutgers. OK, the last time Rutgers made the NCAA tournament was 1991. Since the NCAA tournament field expanded in 1985, Rutgers is a great 0-2 in the NCAA's over a 26 year span. You can have UConn (2 NC's), Syracuse (1 NC), or Pitt (solid program last decade), or Rutgers. Now Rutgers is much better football school that Syracuse and probably better than UConn (Pitt and Rutgers about even). But basektball is miles ahead at the other three schools than Rutgers. Now of course football drives more tickets but here's why basketball is more important. Strength of schedule means a lot more in college basketball than college football. In college football, if you win seven games it doesn't matter who you play, you're going to a bowl. So what if two of our wins are UConn and Syracuse. They still count. By contrast, the Big 10 was doomed by three lousy RPI killers this season (Penn State, Indiana, and Iowa). We finished 10-8 in the Big 10 but had an RPI of 75, arguably the biggest reason Illinois missed the NCAA's and why Ohio State's RPI was in the 20s. Add Rutgers to that and see what happens. And I can live with a bad basketball team if they have a great football team (Penn State). Rutgers is an awful basketball team and an above average football team. Syracuse is an awful football team but a great basketball team. And I'll take Syracuse basketball over Rutgers football any day of the week. Heck, I'll take Syracuse football over Rutgers basketball any day of the week too. As for media, except for that run in 2006 does anyone in New York care about Rutgers any more than Syracuse or UConn? All three teams are pretty much fish out of water for most of the Big 10. But the one team that has a connection to any of the Eastern schools? Penn State. In the 80's, Penn State and Pitt was a huge in state rivalry. When Syracuse was good, Penn State and Syracuse was a big rivalry as well. Penn State never cared about Rutgers.

As for Rutgers, they should be happy to even be in the Big East. A long time ago, Rutgers and my local boys Temple were in the Big East in football. In the late 90's, both Temple and Rutgers sucked at football but Temple basketball was great with three NCAA Elite Eights between 1988 and 1993 and Rutgers basketball also sucked. Yet when the Big East wanted to grant access to Big East basketball and other sports, they chose Rutgers (and West Virginia, who sucked in basketball back then too). Then we all know Temple was kicked out of the Big East because they sucked at football. Yet Rutgers also sucked (it wasn't until the mid 2000's they got good) and got to stay. I have no love for Rutgers or the Big East. If my scenario takes place, Big East football gets burned to the ground and Rutgers goes with it. I certainly don't want to see Rutgers get saved by the Big 10 and Pitt and/or Syracuse get screwed over.

While my "Big 14" is great, it might be even better. Add Maryland and Notre Dame. In addition to two more good basketball programs, Maryland and Notre Dame are also fine academic institutions (Maryland is AAU), Maryland gives the Big 10 the DC area and I think Notre Dame sells itself. I don't think Maryland would want to leave the ACC to rival with just Penn State. But what if they could rival with Syracuse, Pitt, and UConn as well? They could join a more Northeastern league than the mostly southern ACC. They use to rival with Virginia but now Virginia Tech is Virginia's biggest rival and I don't see much a rivalry between Maryland and Boston College. And Notre Dame would have more reason to join the "Big 14" if the Big East lost three of its biggest basketball teams as well as three football teams. I don't think either Maryland or Notre Dame would join away but might join a better Big 10 (especially with a weakened Big East).

So my lineup (longshots in parentheses):
East: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Connecticut, (Maryland)

West: Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, (Notre Dame)

To me and Big 10 basketball...

Pitt, Syracuse, and UConn to the Big 10? A SLAM DUNK!

Rutgers to the Big 10? AN AIR BALL!

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