"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, September 29, 2011

UPDATED: More Big East happenings....Big 12 moving on TCU?

The latest news reported today is the Big 12 moving in to take TCU before TCU even becomes a member of the Big East. The report comes from Star Ledger and can be found here.

The Big East is scheduled to meet this Sunday with university Presidents making up the Big East membership. The agenda is to determine how the Big East is to proceed in the new reality they find themselves in.

UPDATE: Looks like last week's rumors have gained much momentum. Could be all but done with TCU moving on to the Big 12 before even playing one game in the Big East. They would be forced to pay a $5 million buyout in the process.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

‘The Moneyball Myth’ strikes out; A's finish 43 1/2 games ahead of next best poor team for decade as Brewers clinch home field

The Wall Street Journal’s criticism of ‘Moneyball’ has similarities to criticisms of some responding to the ESPN piece on my Value Add system. Whatever the sport, some just don’t buy the stat revolution.

In celebration of the Brewers clinching home field for the playoffs tonight, I wanted to unite with my baseball colleagues in the world of stat geeks. Since the A's turned to Sabermatrix to replace superstars Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen and Johnny Damon after the 2001 season as portrayed in 'Moneyball,' they have gone 852-767 - at least 43 1/2 games better than any of the other 14 teams with below-median salaries:

Lowest 15 SalariesWinsLossesGB
Oakland Athletics8527670
Toronto Blue Jays80981143.5
Florida Marlins80881244.5
Houston Astros79982053
Arizona Diamondbacks78783365.5
Cleveland Indians78483668.5
San Diego Padres77584678
Milwaukee Brewers77384679
Cincinnati Reds77085183
Seattle Mariners75886294.5
Tampa Bay Rays750868101.5
Washington Nationals726893126
Baltimore Orioles696923156
Pittsburgh Pirates679938172
Kansas City Royals668952184.5

As in basketball, the doubts of stat critics just don't usually hold up - we really can know with pretty good precision that DJO, Jae Crowder and Davante Gardner are three of the top returning players in the country, and Billy Beane knew what he was doing with the A's.

Strike 1 against the stat critics – not much difference between Yankees and Pirates?
The 1st strike against the WSJ criticism of ‘Moneyball’ is the claim Beane’s 103-win season on a meager payroll wasn’t that big a deal because the disparity isn’t that great between the Yankees and the “so called poorer ones like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins and Oakland A’s.”

FACTS: The Oakland A’s team featured in the ‘Moneyball’ movie was the only of the 150 poor teams of the decade to win 100 games – coming in at 103 wins – while the Phillies just became the 11th rich team to reach 100 wins. Overall rich teams have been 3.5 times as likely to make the playoffs. This year six more rich teams made the playoffs to make it 62 teams in 10 years, while the Brewers became only the 17th poor team to make it and Tampa Bay became the 18th team to make the playoffs late tonight.

Strike 2 – The drop in OBP from .333 to .323 since 2001 shows 'Moneyball' hasn’t worked.
When everyone else had given up on David Justice and Scott Hatteberg, Beane picked them both up cheap because no one realized how many runs they could create based partly on their high on-base percentages. The article proposes that if ‘Moneyball’ had worked, then there would be higher on-base percentages throughout baseball.

FACTS: That completely ignores that Beane applied the same theory to pitchers, having lightly regarded Chad Bradford take the mound an incredible 75 games because he only issued about one unintentional walk for every nine innings. Likewise, when Billy Koch issued too many walks during his 'Moneyball' season, Beane gave up his 100 mph fastball for Keith Foulke’s 87 mph fastball but better control the next year. Foulke finished 7th in voting for the Cy Young Award before leaving for more money like the other A’s stars. 'Moneyball' era pitchers who throw fewer balls are trumping ‘Moneyball’ era batters who have better eyes for the strike zone – no evidence here to discredit 'Moneyball.'

Strike 3 – Little space is given in ‘Moneyball’ to the fantastic pitching of Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson.
Let me get this straight. The A's had six great stars on the 2001 team. Three of them leave and three stay (Mulder, Zito and Hudson), and you win more games without the three stars that left (Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen). Why would the story focus on the three stars that stayed? The anti-stat guys are really grasping for straws at this point.

FACTS: The amazing feat was replacing the three stars the A’s could NOT afford to keep. Jason Isringhausen (2.65 ERA, 34 saves), Jason Giambi (.342 BA, 38 HRs) and leadoff hitter Johnny Damon (34 doubles, 27 SBs) left to get an average of $33 million a year between them each of the next seven years – the same amount of money Beane had TOTAL for all 25 players in 2001. The fact is that Beane had to replace these three stars with two players that the other teams thought were washed up - Justice and Hatteberg – as well as the lightly-regarded Bradford and a rented leadoff hitter in Ray Durham for the last 52 games of the season. And after replacing superstars with leftovers, he improved the A’s to 103-59.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, systems like Value Add in basketball and Runs Created in baseball are precise measurements that weight stats to give a very accurate measurement of how much players help their teams win games by affecting the score. There are things that cannot be measured, but modern teams cannot ignore these measurements as a big part of determine who should play, and in the pros be traded, etc.

The fact is that as much as other baseball insiders apparently despise Beane, they all have stat guys trying to duplicate what he does – determining how valuable each player is based on their statistics. No, modern stats will not guaranty you win a best-of-five playoff series, which Bobby Cox once called a “crap shoot,” but it will increase your chances dramatically of earning the right to be there after 162 games.

The one legitimate point raised by critics is that the science is much less accurate when trying to translate the performance of high school prospects to how they will perform at the next level. This is true, but the same point could be made about how much less accurate baseball scouts throughout history have been compared to their counterparts in other major sports where speed and strength are so paramount.

To this same end, I would never suggest that some of the measurements I’ve played with of high school players are nearly accurate enough to guide recruiting decisions. Davante Gardner did not play against top flight competition in Suffolk, VA, so he probably would not show up as a top prospect based on pure statistical conversions, and many of Beane’s draft choices did not pan out as the translation from aluminum bats to wooden bats changes the entire game.

It’s fair to hang bad draft picks like Jeremy Brown on Beane, but traditional scouting passed over Mike Piazza for 61 rounds and Keith Hernandez for 41 rounds, and even more recently has had several No. 1 overall picks that never panned out.

However, the overall record of Bill James statistics helping to deliver the Red Sox their first two World Series in 86 years, and Beane so outperforming all other poorer teams makes it clear that Hollywood rather than the WSJ have it right – so go watch the movie. But you can read the Wall Street Journal too – even the best strikeout once in a while.

Good luck Brewers - and try to complete the sweep of the NL Championship Series on October 13 so that everyone can still go to March Madness on Friday, October 14!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Alphabetical list of the 30 schools most likely to impact realignment

Tonight may mark the only time I will ever plug Cracked Sidewalks on ESPN Radio in Auburn. I guess all eyes are on realignment, whether it is Auburn wondering if they will be in the SEC East or West, or Marquette wondering what the new Big East will look like.

For easy reference in the realignment confusion, the following is an alphabetical list of the 30 schools whose actions I believe could have the most impact on as the reallignment plays out. By each school, I have listed the estimated number of potential TV viewers they bring for college football based on Nate Silver's study in the NY Times (in millions), how high their football team is currently ranked in Massey's composite, where their hoops team was ranked in Pomeroy's final 2011 page, the conference they are in, and then any good news or bad news as relates to their possible impact on Marquette:

SchoolFBTVFootHoopsConfGood NewsBad News
Air Force0.257133MWCould plug B12 spot or BEFootball geography if BE
Butler 0041HorzConsecutive title gamesMid-Major
BYU0.76513IndCould plug B12 spot 
Central Florida0.546102CUSATop 50 foot, USF rivalUSF might not want them
Cincinnati0.36723BEProbably stablePossible B12 target
Clemson1.82122ACCS. Car blocked out of SECSee Va Tech
Connecticut0.67110BEBC fighting to keep out of ACCWants into ACC
East Carolina0.383146CUSADefinitely interestedGeography
Florida State0.81731ACCSee Va TechSee Va Tech
Georgetown 0040BEKey hoops-only core, DC clout 
Kansas0.8773Big 12IF B12 not really stable, BE poss.Geography, no chance if B12 in tact
Kansas St.0.45130Big 12See KansasSee Kansas
Louisville0.35814BEMost of B12 only wants 10Possible B12 to avoid uncertainty
Marquette 0032BEStock is highest since WadeWestern edge of current BE
Memphis0.211987CUSAFedEx, great basketballNext to worst football team
Missouri1.13044B12SEC focused west, not eastIf they aren't SEC, who is 14th?
Navy0.247274IndOpen to Big EastWants BE stability before jump
Notre Dame2.33115IndACC and others might waitSeems open to ACC for non-football
Oklahoma1.21137Big 12Mizzou claims deal not cutStrong B12 could hurt BE
Rutgers0.97278BEMost of B12 only wants 10Inviting target to NYC
South Florida0.519127BEOne of 2 top 20 footballMight not want UCF
St. John's 0042BENYC, key hoops-only 
TCU0.418173BEBE now & Texas blocking B12Geography could push B12
Temple0.26838MACGreat hoops, foot improvingBE kicked them out
Texas2.3205Big 12Screws up bad deals for usScrews up good deals for us
Texas A&M2851B12Baylor's possible suitStarted dominos again
Villanova 0033BEKey hoops-only coreACC rumblings
Virginia Tech1.31034ACC$20 m to leave SECACC would need replacement
West Virginia11621BETurned down by SEC,ACCStill B12 possible
Xavier 0045A10Top 50 hoops, Sweet 16s until…Mid-Major

To give perspective, the 2.3 by Texas and Notre Dame indicates that their football teams bring about 2.3 million fans as potential TV viewers. The only schools estimated higher than that are Ohio State (3.2 million), Michigan (2.9 million) and Penn State (2.6 million). Most of the SEC and Big Ten bring over one million fans, while no Big East team does (West Virginia just misses).

"We are committed"

"We are committed to each other"...so says Big East commissioner John Marinatto after a meeting with Big East Presidents on Tuesday evening. When I first read that I wondered if the school Presidents had their fingers crossed when they said it. Actually, I don't have to wonder as it seems some of them did. Rutgers and UCONN did not raise their hand, cut their finger and share blood with the pinky best friends salute. Not a surprise. UCONN wants out and Rutgers believes, for whatever reason, that they are wanted by everyone and can't believe no one is taking them.

The recent decision to stop expanding out west with the Pac 12 seems to have folks in a good mood, but you have to wonder why exactly. The dominoes have not stopped, only delayed. The only reason the Pac 12 said no was Texas' unwillingness to equally share their $200+ million revenue from the Longhorn Network. UCLA's Athletic Director, Dan Guerrero, made that perfectly clear to some of us a few weeks ago at a function in Westwood. It simply wasn't going to fly if Texas wasn't going to share and that's exactly what happened.

As a result of the Pac 12's decision, the Big 12's impending doom has been put on hold and might become more of a headache for the Big East. A few short days ago it was entirely possible that OU, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech were going to the Pac 12 leaving the Big 12 in complete ruin without any leverage at all. Instead, the Big 12 has those four schools still in the fold. Missouri may leave for the SEC, but nothing is finalized yet.

What becomes of great concern now is the commitment of the so called Big East schools. UCONN and Rutgers want out. West Virginia badly wants out, but was denied by the ACC and SEC. Louisville would love to keep the Big East together but with all the uncertainty is potentially looking at...gasp....you guessed it...the Big 12. TCU may be another. Notre Dame's status has been almost forgotten in all of this, but the Big Ten and ACC would love them to come over. The ACC has even agreed to let them stay independent for football but play all other sports in the ACC.

One has to think that Marinatto will desperately try to shore up his football roster as soon as possible with Central Florida and probably Houston for all sports and perhaps, as rumored, Navy for football only. Whether he holds firm to forcing Syracuse and Pitt as members for the next 27 months will be fun to watch. In one sense it's a shot across the bow to other members that might consider leaving. However, it also ties his hands a bit in adding new members because he has two schools in lame duck status that are occupying slots. As a matter of practicality, don't be surprised if that 27 months is reduced if additional schools are added to the Big East. Besides, not all members want Pitt and Syracuse to be punished and have to wait.

The new reality....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

6 months after DJOs dagger, Syracuse’s coach travels to Bama

NY college football fan?PopulationFollow Coll FootTVs on for BCS
New York20 million2.9 m (14%)600,000
Chicago9 million1.8 m (19%)300,000
Birmingham, AL2 million1.7 m (85%)500,000

Isn’t it ironic that after being told for months that expansion was all about getting to college football fans in New York, it was Syracuse’s BASKETBALL coach that spoke at the Birmingham (Alabama) Quarterback Club meeting on Monday.

Since I don’t believe anyone in Alabama knows the name of Syracuse’s football coach, Jim Boeheim was the speaker just 6 months after both he and I were in Cleveland watching Junior’s drive (56-55), Jae’s trey and Jimmy’s steal (59-59), and DJO’s dagger (62-59, Sweet 16).

The irony struck me. Dad was from New York, where 8% of people watched the BCS championship, while Mom was from Alabama, where 67% watched the BCS championship. The only time I remember seeing any college football fans in New York they were filing out of a sports bar as LSU was blowing out Notre Dame 41-14 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.

But to be more scientific, Nate Silver at the New York Times Sports Blog did an incredible study that estimated the number of people in each TV market that follow college football, noting there is probably no other sport that is so regional in nature.

If expansion was ALL about football and nothing else, the ACC would have grabbed West Virginia. Silver estimates West Virginia football is followed by 959,000 people in the US, while only about 769,000 “follow” Syracuse football. I assume that means accidentally flipped past a game before realizing it was still Saturday and the Jets and Giants weren't playing yet.

ACC’s basketball pride was hurt - need protection from SEC
Tuesday I was up in Virginia on business (the compromise state Mom and Dad settled on to raise my 8 siblings and I in ACC country), and made a point of throwing out expansion as a topic as we were wrapping up business with some folks who were pretty well-connected.

Their take was that coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams did not like the fact that the conference watered down basketball by adding Miami and Virginia Tech, and in the process toppled the ACC as king of basketball by creating the modern Big East. They wanted ACC basketball back on top, and they are the two most powerful voices in the conference.

When I landed back in Atlanta early Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. it was too early to start business calls so I cut on sports radio only to hear the coach again talking to a local Atlanta station. Boeheim said that if you asked 10 Southerners whether they would rather go to Greensboro or New York for a basketball tournament, 9 would say New York and “the 10th would have to be the Mayor of Greensboro.” Love it.

Is expansion MOSTLY about football? Of course. Is it about expanding TV markets? Yes. But with the boards apparently taking control away from the Athletic Directors, don’t underestimate the pride in ACC basketball, and how much it hurt to watch the 10th place team in the Big East win the national title and the 11th place team in the Big East go to the Sweet 16, while Virginia Tech ironically had emerged as the 4th best ACC team IN BASKETBALL over the course of a few years but still was not making the tournament.

A further conversation today with someone who had spoken to a VERY well connected individual in the SEC confirmed to me that it had been assumed in the SEC as well as the ACC that Florida State and Virginia Tech were on the way over. Whether or not that still happens with the $20 million buyout and Syracuse and Pitt I do not know, but in the midst of all my anger at the ACC we should remember that their top goal was to protect themselves if poached by the SEC.

With some good news this week in West Virginia apparently NOT going to the ACC or SEC, and things stabilizing for the moment, I looked back at my wish list from last April 25, 2010 of teams I’d like to see added when we were raided again. I have to admit the list was a pretty wild guess that was ridiculously off.

I didn’t even have TCU in my Top 20 – though I’m thrilled they signed up. Just didn’t believe we’d reach that far georgraphically back then.

I did actually have Navy in at #20, and it appears now they are at the top of the Big East wish list along with Army and Air Force as football-only members.

The report is if the Military Academies will not join, then the next choice is Central Florida (who I did have at #8 on my list last year) and East Carolina (who I did not).

I had the dream of Boston College coming back as my #1 wish in hopes that they were just to isolated up there, but now obviously they are not with Syracuse going the other way.

If we do resort to basketball-only, certainly my #5 and #6 pick of Butler and Xavier stay up there.

However, I still maintain that:

1. I would like to see the conference remain half football and take any shot possible to stay BCS, but

2. I also believe that we are in much better shape NOT being weighted down by a new football team that would actually deter Marquette’s attractiveness as re-emerging basketball power.

I know many disagree on one or the other – wanting us to have football or to just get in the best basketball-only conference we can, but whatever our different perspectives, we are all on the same boat and we’ve been through much worse times than these as an Independent in the 1980s. This weekend was a shock, but the work week has been pretty good so far. WE ARE MARQUETTE!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A new reality awaits....

We all knew this could happen. Many have predicted it for years. Only a few short weeks ago it was nearly certain to occur with Texas A&M's departure to the SEC only to have that tremor die down when conference commissioners almost in unison said they were done expanding. The ACC said they were happy with 12, the Pac 12 was happy with 12, the Big Ten was happy with 11...but the Big 12 was a mess. Eight days after those statements were made, a new reality awaits Marquette and many other schools. Expand they did. This should come as no surprise.

At this point, a range of emotions is probably coursing through your brain.

There's this one:

Or this one:

Or this one:

Or this one:

I'm sure there are 100's more running through our heads. Without football, MU is a bystander waiting for the music to stop, waiting to see if any chairs remain open or any pretty girls waiting to be asked to dance. Hell, at this point hoping for pretty isn't even an option. Dr. Ruth an 3 day meth binge would be acceptable. MU isn't the only one in this boat. Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Providence, DePaul are most at risk. Then there are those like Rutgers, USF, Louisville, West Virginia, Cincinnati who play football but don't have an invite to the Winter Ball either. Louisville's top 15 revenues in the country might attractive for someone assuming their academic ineptness is ignored.

The unfortunate reality is that the Big East may be all but dead, but even if it survives it isn't the same. Tonight it is on life support, but a few more defections and the conference is likely done unless it can cobble something together with the remaining football dregs left begging for a dance partner. One would have to think Texas Christian (TCU) is doing everything they can to work a deal to get into what's left of the Big 12 and bolt the Big East. The Mountain West had no penalty fee for leaving which works in their favor. Having to pay two exit fees for two different conferences might have been too high a hurdle. Likewise, USF, Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Rutgers and UCONN are all angling to get out. Rutgers and UCONN could be gone in the next few days to the ACC. WVU would love to go to the SEC...that doesn't mean the SEC wants them. Louisville, USF, Cincinnati staying in the Big East? It could kill their football programs unless they could get Kansas, Missouri, K-State, Baylor, Iowa State to come East. Or is Missouri to the SEC rumor valid? Then again, why wouldn't the remaining Big 12 teams just tug the remaining football Big East teams to come west instead of vice versa? Or, do KU, K-State and Missouri round out the Big Ten....remember the Big Ten said they are happy as clams to stay at 11....don't believe that for a second. You might even see Penn State break off and join the ACC and the Big Ten is forced to shore up anyway. The Big Ten will expand, whether it is Notre Dame or some remnants of the Big 12, they will panic like every other conference is now and go for the numbers.

Many possibilities out there....you haven't heard Marquette mentioned in any of them...and you won't. This shouldn't surprise anyone....we all knew it could happen. This is the new reality that awaits Marquette.

So let's deal with the doomsday scenario...the Big East dissolves. If that were to happen, the large television checks that came to each school go away as well. That's a huge impact on the athletic department that receives most of it's revenue from basketball or basketball related functions....that includes donations. Don't let anyone kid you that most of the donations are not tied to basketball. To make up that revenue difference, either donors, higher ticket prices and/or the university have to step up, or MU makes budget cuts to deal with the realities of less revenue. Raising ticket prices will be a tough sell if UCONN, UL, Cincinnati, Pitt, Syracuse, etc are not rolling into the Bradley Center any longer. That leaves the other two scenarios.

The most optimistic scenario is somehow, someway MU remains or relocates to a conference that still has a solid TV deal, solid competition and is able to remain in tact. The remaining Big 12 schools merge with the Big East in a move to save both. How strong would such a league be? Is a league formed through desperation a league that can last? Such a move preserves the BCS bid for the football folks and could retain a decent television contract mostly on the strength of the basketball schools...again.

The other scenario, some might call the Purity Scenario, is an all basketball league, perhaps even Catholic League of Big East basketball schools along with some A-10 schools like Dayton, Xavier, St. Joe's. For basketball fans it moves us out of the football dealings once and for all with focus on roundball. In a utopian world, this sounds great. In the real world with television contracts and such, this presents a slap in the face reality that revenues will change and change significantly. Football contracts drive the train and a basketball only league simply cannot generate the revenue that a football league does. Sure, this would be a wonderful basketball conference if this scenario should unfold, but the realities are that the dollars would likely not match those of the Big East. The Big East was the number one conference in the country in men's basketball revenue at $154 million last year....but on a per school basis it was 4th at $9.6 million per school. A conference like the Atlantic 10, less than $4 million per school in revenue...those are the new realities if we go down this path.

A brand new president, no Athletic Director (not that it would make a hill of beans difference if an AD was in place...this is driven by the school presidents) and the new reality is even more challenging. Times, they are a changing and MU's decision to drop football years ago is even more painful today. UCONN was called fools for starting up football at the highest level in 2000, but it's paying off in spades for them today. USF made the commitment 14 years ago...they will also have a seat at the table somewhere.

So pick your emotion...."Remain calm, ALL IS GOOD" or "we are totally screwed".....the impact of these changes will resonate loudly in one way or another with Marquette and the future. It's ability to compete in a national conference with a national footprint, it's ability to recruit, play on television, retain quality head coaches, etc, are all going to be tested.

Go Marquette!

ACC’s moves, the Big East and MU

The ACC made two big plays this week that leave no doubt it is the 4th strongest (football ) conference – solidifying its current membership with a unanimous agreement for a $20 million buyout, and apparently wooing Syracuse and Pitt. With this forcing realignment back into the forefront, I ran a quick count on conference strength in football and basketball since the last realignment, giving 30 points for a team finishing the season No. 1, 29 points for No. 2, all the way down to 6 points for finishing 25th (I used coaches’ final polls for both.) Here are the results:

Big 1250924392
Big Ten50434004
Pac 1039743005
Mountain West Conference246676NR
Big East22177021
Conference USA11101117
Atlantic 100NR939
West Coast Conference0NR8810

I set up the system and just ran the numbers without knowing how they would come out, but the results give us a pretty clear picture. Since the departure of Virginia Tech, Miami and BC, the Big East has actually been the 7th best football conference, behind not only the rest of the BCS but also the Mountain West, but has been way ahead of everyone in basketball. While there is no magic to my exact system, the Big East’s 702 points means they’ve done almost twice as well in the end of year polls as the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12, who have all been almost exactly even for 2nd, 3rd and 4th – a much bigger gap than even a “number of teams” argument would yield.

I know realignment is all about TV markets and alumni – but I believe the table does serve some purpose in reminding us just how dominant the Big East has been in basketball, but also how it has always been a pretty weak football conference.

The Big East has never gone toe-to-toe with the rest of the BCS in football. Its status has been as a hybrid of the best basketball conference with good but not great football.

Obviously with TCU, Brigham Young and Utah leaving the MWC, Big East had moved ahead of them to become the 6th best conference. With Texas disrupting the Big 12 with several moves over the years from breaking up the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry to including high school football in their new TV network against the Big 12 agreement, the only thing that has changed on the competitive football pecking order has been that the Big East appeared to have moved up from being the 7th best conference to the 5th best conference.

BCS is a means to an end
I’ve been pretty focused on hoping Marquette could stay a part of a Big East that is part of the BCS, but as we look at the scenarios playing out, let’s remember the BCS is not an end but a means to the important ends:

1. We want the best basketball players in the country to consider Marquette because we play in the best basketball conference,

2. We want Marquette’s stature to be increased by millions of dollars in free advertising the school could never afford to purchase in New York and elsewhere.

BCS or not, I still believe the best option is to do everything possible to woo Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas to join with TCU and still try to be the “5th” BCS conference, but if not then clearly be the best of the rest. I understand the argument for just ditching football to combine with the best A10 teams, but I don’t want to give up on keeping the tradition of a football/basketball balance that has been the hallmark of the Big East.

Yes, I know people don’t kill for the Kansas market, but St. Louis does replace the Pittsburgh market. I want the 7.4 million homes in New York to get to watch the best basketball conference in the land, just as I want for the viewers in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas-Ft. Worth:

1New York (St. John’s et al)7,433,820
2Los Angeles5,654,260
3Chicago (DePaul & some MU)3,492,850
4Philadelphia (Nova)2,950,220
5Dallas-Ft. Worth (TCU)2,489,970
6San Francisco-Oak-San Jose2,476,450
7Boston 2,409,080
9Washington, DC (Gtown)2,321,610
21St. Louis (Missouri)1,249,820
23Pittsburgh (Pitt)1,156,460

I don’t want to be Pollyanna, but the SEC at least does offer a glimmer of hope in saying they don’t want to take on any new teams (Texas A&M), if ANY team from the existing conference (Baylor) would sue. There is a lot of sentiment in SEC land for NOT going to 16 teams. They needed 12 for a conference title game, they got it, and they aren’t extremely excited about splitting their money with four extra teams.

So maybe such a move even keeps MU in a BCS conference, but even if not, this creates a conference that could dominate in basketball and offer a decent football package in a network deal.

The perfect scenario for Marquette is being a basketball school that gets major conference coverage in New York and elsewhere. The top players in the land want coverage, but they also want to be the stars on campus, so we hope to continue to offer both.

Why be an afterthought in January after a bowl game when you can be a star on campus at Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Marquette or any place else where basketball is king?

A quick look at the Rivals Basketball 150 from last year showed that less than half (70) went to a school with a football program in the Top 50 of the BCS standings. My vote is to keep battling for the football combo for the conference and trust Buzz to keep wooing top talent to Milwaukee to play in the best basketball conference in the country.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Al's Run Wrapup

Al's Run was a huge success once again. The outpouring of support from Cracked Sidewalks and MUScoop readers was PHENOMENAL. We smashed last year's record of $4500 and have finished with $5,354, which is good for 6th place on the leaderboard.

Warrior fans have raised over $19k for Al's Run in the past few years .. truly humbling. Thank you!
Marquette puts on a great pre-run event .. here are some photos of the team, etc.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Video Vault Weekly: Al McGuire Edition

A few MU videos for your viewing pleasure. This week's theme is Al McGuire.  Maybe you've heard of him.

Also, thanks to everyone that has donated to Al's Run on behalf of the Cracked Sidewalks / MUScoop community.  Yet again we have managed to surpass last year's donations.  If you still haven't donated, watch a few videos and go donate to Al's Run too!  Every donation counts.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Autumn Sole-stice

We'd like to welcome back Dr. Blackheart with another high-quality contribution.  Please read it, and then go donate to Al's Run.  Also, we had a number of folks that were having credit card contribution errors, but we're hoping the firstgiving system is fixed today.  Help our community make it to the front page of the leaderboard! 

Seriously, if you have any interest whatsoever in college basketball recruiting, this may be the most original and important article you read all month.  It's that good.  Thanks, Dr. Blackheart!


With about a month to go before the start of the “Hoops Season”, Marquette will be hosting at least one prime recruiting target this weekend for the Al’s Run festivities--6’9”, Zach Auguste of the New Hampton School (Todd Townsend’s Prep school) and member of the Albany Rocks AAU team--in a push to close off Marquette’s 2012 class.  Building off the Sweet 16 run, the coaching staff has filled in MU’s basketball future very nicely, creating a deep and balanced team outlook with Top 100+ talent for both the 2012 and 2013 classes.  With a continuous focus on recruiting, staff continuity, a broadened national scope, roots within the JUCO ranks, and with Buzz’s now established prominence on the court, it appears that MU will put together five highly rated recruiting classes in a row.  But, there is one area that Buzz has worked hard to reestablish for Marquette, due primarily to strong legwork by Associate Head Coach Tony Benford, and that is the grassroots/AAU basketball pipeline.

Top 50 Hit Parade

While recruiting is a crapshoot, with success highly dependent on the maturity and development of teens into men, the overwhelming fact is that programs who consistently land Top 50 rated talent win national championships:  UConn, Duke, UNC (2), Kansas, Florida (2), and Syracuse of note over the past decade.  Each of these programs and a select group of competitive others (the Caliparis, the Pitinos, the Izzos) have established coaches at the helm--all known as long-time proven winners and gatekeepers for future NBA talent—which is obviously very appealing to highly rated recruits.  However, in reality, the number of Top 50 recruits over four years is just a small percentage of the 4485 Division 1 scholarships available last season to the 345 programs (maybe 4% tops, accounting for NBA and drop-out attrition).  

This scarcity of talent creates a Meat Market mentality as hundreds of teams go hard after this disproportionate pool of highly valued talent.  It is big business for the schools at the top:  for their enrollments and endowments, NCAA shares, for the coaches, for the players with NBA aspirations, for their athletic department budgets, and for their conferences and the NCAA.  It is also big business for their apparel sponsors and media partners.  With this can come the dirty underside of grassroots/AAU basketball (which has justly many overwhelmingly positive benefits)--the street agents, the posses, the pull of apparel/shoe merchandisers on their sponsored AAU teams and players, and the unscrupulous college coaches trying to grab an edge—all trying to influence and covet the riches that the Top 50 talent can yield.

The books Sole Influence, by Dan Wetzel, and Dead Coach Walking, the autobiography of retired coach Tom Penders, both delved into the influences in grassroots/AAU basketball.  As a result of this, I decided to take a deep dive into the 2011 Scout Top 100 recruit list to study the correlation of apparel/shoe associations to AAU and college teams to see what could be learned (despite the smaller sample sizes).  (Note:  I used the Scout revised ratings as the final summer RSCI weighted ratings did not include the late reclassified Andre Drummond to the 2011 class.  His late commitment to UCONN is a case study in itself.  Also, on a note of personal disclosure: I am not a recruiting guru by any means, just a fan and observer of the game—there are many more who can add to this discussion based on their experience and knowledge).

Tightening the Laces

Percentage of recruits that signed with a school that share AAU affiliation by recruit level
  • 76% of the Top 25 recruits signed with college teams that shared sponsors with their AAU team.  While there are misses in ratings at this level, this is usually the group where early entrants into the NBA are found.  There are usually some very strong suggestions of outside influence at this level (but allowable), and the reality is that most of these kids need close advisors to help them through the grinder. 
  • The direct connection of sponsorship to commitment waned to 50% for the Bottom 50, as the outside influence attention seemingly goes to the Top 50 and swings back to the parents, high school coaches, and lean-in potential seen by the recruiting school. 
  • The main exceptions to the sponsor to recruit connection are the great coaches who can draw across sponsorships (think the Coach K peer set).  
  • The other exceptions appear to be driven by close proximity to the recruiting college, Prep school sponsor affiliation, and past AAU roots to a recruiter on staff (think Faust).   Still the sponsor and AAU pull is very prevalent in most of these cases, although not as direct, it would appear. 
  •  The only Top 100 recruit not involved in AAU ball is #29 Otto Porter to Georgetown. 
  • Only a handful of independent AAU clubs (3) had recruits in the Top 100. 
  • Nike affiliated AAU team recruits comprised 58% of the Top 100, while Adidas had 34%.  But Nike’s conversion pull was much stronger.  Those teams converted 76% of the recruits within network vs. 34% for the Adidas sponsored colleges.  Jordan-Kobe-Wade-James vs. Howard-Rose-Garnett-Duncan (Sonny Vaccaro knew that guards sell shoes, not big men).
Conference Call

AAU / School affiliation by Conference
  • The sponsorship ties for the major conferences hover around the 60% conversion mark, and 50% or below for the dissolving Big 12 and the mids. 
  • The Big 10 conversion ties were the strongest at 67%, followed by the Big East at 61% and SEC at 60%.  This matches the geographies these schools recruit (urban or south where AAU is strongest), and the strong college media and sponsorship deals that help drive conversion.  
  • Coaches Self, Barnes, K, Roy, Calhoun, and Pitino were able to recruit beyond their shoe network with their strong pull and histories of success.  This is elite.
Tying It All Up (and looking at Marquette)

  • While scandals are sensational news stories, and there are documented bad apples, this AAU-Sponsorship dance is allowable and legal in the vast majority of cases, despite the many whispers.  Handler involvement is very heavy for the Top 25 especially it would appear.  The NCAA would be better off spending most of their time monitoring the recruitment of this group rather than focusing on the other 4385. 
  • Even the legends get caught in the trap of NCAA violations, whether the Izzo one game suspension over the Dawson recruitment or Calhoun’s recent violations.  
  • Whether Bo at Wisconsin (a roster of Adidas AAU players) or Marquette (Nike), AAU connections matter at this level.  So does Top 50 talent if high achievement is the game.  
  • Buzz is developing his AAU network to get in the game with these Top 50 recruits.  Burton allowed him to break-through a barrier, showing yet again that Buzz is building on MU’s Sweet 16 success (unlike Crean with the 2003 Final Four and the Larry Butler fall-out over Odartey Blankson).  Buzz clearly needs to hit the higher level of sustained on-court success to break-through to the Top 25 Burger Boys like the legends.  This will take time. 
  • Benford has been nailing it for Marquette, opening his AAU networks as he did with Burton and Taylor.   
  • Let’s see if Buzz can keep the momentum going against a strong list of finalists for Auguste (West Virginia, Florida, and Georgia Tech—two Nike and one Russell sponsor).  Zach has developing potential and is a great missing piece for the Marquette 2012 class.  Here is to a great visit!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Al's Run: Double your Dough Today

We have just 4 more days to hit our Al's Run goal.

In an effort to jump start the fund-raising .. the six Cracked Sidewalks authors are issuing a 24 hour CHALLENGE and will match all donations up to a total of $600 smackers.

We're doing well, raising almost $2,500 to date, and $16k over the past 5 years.  That puts us 19th on the leaderboard.   If WHEN the Challenge maxes out today, we'll crack the top 10. 

$50 and $100 donations are super, but we wanna see some $19.77 donations, too.  Or how about $30, the price of one lower bowl game ticket.    You didn't want to see the big MU vs. Rhinelander Tech game anyhow.

So .. let's find our credit cards, and double your dough, Al McGuire fans:  http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/MUBasketball/mubasketballfans2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Marquette Links (Getting Caught Up)

If we're going to continue to ask you to donate to Al's Run, we might as well provide some content.  Because we will continue to ask you (please donate - it's for a good cause).  So here's a media summary of MU activity from around the web.

In a case of self-indulgent promotion, our very own John Pudner had his "Value Add" concept picked up by Sports Illustrated.  Luke Winn wrote an entire article based on Value Add.  Then Luke followed that up with the Top 10 PGs of the efficiency era (btw - click the link to see where Diener ended up).  Not to be outdone, Winn covered Guards and Wings (Novak and Butler are on the list).  It's all incredibly cool to see Pudner's work and Cracked Sidewalks covered in Sports Illustrated.  Based on this all this publicity, Pudner has received a 2x pay raise from the blog. 

Also from Sports Illustrated, writer Andy Glocker talked about teams that were due for better luck this season, including Marquette.  No offense to Andy, but here's to completely shedding the label of Team Bubble Watch (#TBW) this season.

In addition, the MU Tribune is working a new approach on their blog called "Five Point Play".  The first installment included Cracked Sidewalks and other Media Members to address various questions.  This edition covered which player do you think improved the most, preseason ranking, DJO as a first team BE, and more.  It's a quality approach from the MU Tribune (not because we helped), because it's something different.

Rosiak has been back on the case with several blog entries.

Great stuff from Rosiak, but we particularly like the Deonte Burton interview.

To cover some of the official releases from the Athletic Department, MU will have walk-on tryouts on Thursday, 9/15.  The team always needs another human victory cigar, and the MU Tribune Paint Touches blog talks to Assistant Brad Autry about it.  Also from the AD, if you don't have season tickets and can't make it to all the games, the three game weekender pack (UWGB, Pitt, Cincy) is a pretty good package.

In non-basketball news, Sports Illustrated writer Peter King spoke at Marquette last week.  Here's the official MU recap.  It's neat, but too bad I can't stop thinking of King in terms of the Kissing Suzy Kolber deconstructions.

Finally, you really need to stop everything you are doing right now and go watch Junior Cadougan sing.  I think that's supposed to be singing.  Whatever it is... it's AMAZING.

Okay, now you're all caught up.  donate to Al's Run. Please.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Al's Run 2011

It's that time again. Al's Run is under two weeks away, September 17th, 2011.

In the past 4 years, Warrior fans on CS have raised $14,000 for Al's Run, including last year's record breaking $4,501.

We've established a tradition of starting with a goal of $1977.78, and smashing that goal a few times as the days go by.

Cracked Sidewalks doesn't sell you stuff here, we don't even show you advertisements, we just give you pure Marquette Basketball goodness. 

All we ask for is a few bucks every year, for Al's Run.

It all goes to a great cause, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.   Think $10.  Or $25 or $100.  Whatever you want to put in the Al McGuire tip jar.

How about $32.54?  (Jae Crowder.Davante Gardner?)  Or go old school, $34.20 (Travis, Steve.)  Or super old-school, $43.31 (Tatum, Ellis).

So, click here, zip out your credit card and pay your respects to Al, and Marquette:

Firstgiving.com Al's Run Donation Site

(NOTE:  In the past, we've had some very generous donors who have run "challenge hours" matching other donations that come in at a certain hour.  If you would like to run a "challenge" (which can be anonymous and have a max) please contact me at Hilltopper91@gmail.com)

Friday, September 02, 2011

Deonte Burton Commits to Marquette

Buzz Williams got his 2013 recruiting class off to a great start Friday when ultra-athletic 6'5", 228-lb SG/SF Deonte Burton announced he would be coming home to play his college ball. The standout wing currently plays for Brewster Academy in New Hampshire after playing his freshman year at Milwaukee Vincent. Burton is a consensus top-50 recruit and one of the most prolific players to commit to Marquette since Buzz Williams took over as head coach in 2008.

Burton is a left-handed, slashing wing player that fits Buzz's system perfectly. He is considered one of the most powerful and athletic players in his class. Burton is known for highlight reel dunks and recognized as an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker. In his class he is ranked #36 by ESPN, #44 by Scout, and #45 by Rivals. He was a frequent visitor to Marquette's campus of late, having two unofficial visits in the past two weeks, most recently on Wednesday.

After his commitment, NY2LASports caught up with Burton. He said "I feel like home at Marquette and Coach Buzz and the rest of the staff have done a great job of treating me and my family as a priority during the entire process from day one. Everyone on the team has taken me in as one of their own, the staff has been respectful of me and my family, and I think Coach Buzz can help me continue to improve as a player and a person…Marquette is where I want to be."

The news of Burton's commitment also displays that Buzz Williams is putting a priority on getting the best players from the state of Wisconsin. Burton marks the third top-rated player from Wisconsin that Williams has secured in five recruiting classes, joining top-rated 2009 player Jamil Wilson (via transfer) and top-rated 2010 player Vander Blue. Marquette still has one scholarship available for their 2013 class.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

2011-12 Schedule

Marquette's 2011-12 schedule came out yesterday.   Here's a month by month break-down:

(bold = Home Games)

11- Friday - Mount St. Mary's (2010 Pomeroy: 267)
14- Monday - Norfolk State (302)
18- Friday - Winthrop (Paradise Jam - Virgin Islands)  (229)
19 or 20 - Mississippi (70) or Drake (200) (PJam)
21- Monday - TBA (Virginia- 94, TCU 173, Drexel 92, Norfolk 302)  (PJam)
28- Monday - Jacksonville (164)

November starts out with a couple of classic cupcakes at the Bradley Center, and on to a generally weak Paradise Jam field whose goal last year was reaching the NIT.    The Bradley Center faithful get one Friday night game, albeit a sugary opponent, unlikely to garner a large crowd.   If MU is as good as some think they are, we hit December with 6 wins.

3-Saturday @Wisconsin (2010 Pomeroy: 7)
6-Tuesday vs. Washington in NYC (17)
10-Saturday - UW-Green Bay / Brian Wardle Classic (156)
17-Saturday - Northern Colorado (126)
19-Monday - @LSU  (227)
22-Thursday - UW-Milwaukee (140)
29-Thursday - Vandy (35)

Warrior fans should be pleased with this December schedule.  Usually, December is the UW rival game plus 5 cupcakes.  This year, UW, Washington, and Vandy, NCAA contenders all.  The cupcakes, usually hovering in the 300+ RPI range, this year are in the 150 range, which will help the SOS.  Even the "biggest" cupcake, LSU at 227 is a road game, counting as 1.5 wins if we can take home a W in the Craig Pintens Classic. 

The Bradley Center gets two Saturday games, UW-Green Bay and N. Colorado.

MU pegs 4 wins, plus 1-2 or 3, and enters the BE schedule north of 10 wins.

1-Sunday - Villanova
4-Wednesday - @Georgetown
7-Saturday - @Syracuse
11-Wednesday - St. Johns
14-Saturday - Pittsburgh
16-Monday - Louisville (2:30pm)
21-Saturday - @Providence
24-Tuesday - USF
28-Saturday - @Villanova
31-Tuesday - Seton Hall

Ten tough games in 31 days?  Happy New Year.  January is like a month long NCAA tournament, playing 7+ games versus teams headed for the Dance.  The season starts with a brutal 3 game stretch, Nova, @GTown, @Syracuse (where we've never won.)  It's possible 7 days into the season, we could be 0-3, riding low.

The one oddity here is the Monday afternoon game versus Louisville at the Bradley Center, on MLK day.  Since only a scant 30% of the country has MLK day as a vacation day, this presents a scheduling problem for a large chunk of Bradley Center faithful. 

<rant> Frankly, as a season ticket holder, I'm personally irritated by this as Louisville is a premier team and rival, a game many look forward to each season.   While it's nice to have Marquette participating in "Big Monday" it does no good when half the audience is at work, earning money to, you know, afford the tickets in the first place.  "Just Take A Vacation Day" has been mentioned by many, as if to suggest vacation days are an endless and costless resource.  Marquette has irritated thousands of their loyal customers here, bowing to ESPN's siren scream. <end rant>

4-Saturday @ Notre Dame
6-Monday @ DePaul
11-Saturday - Cincinatti
18-Saturday @ UConn
22-Wednesday - Rutgers
24-Friday - @WVU
29-Wednesday - @Cincy - Leap Year Classic

7 games, 25 days.  Again, ouch.   Slightly easier than January in terms of opponents, but 5 of 7 on the road = a tough month.   Could win 3, could win 5-6.  I'm guessing Feb 11 is "National Marquette Day."

3- Saturday - Georgetown / Senior Night.
6-10 : Big East Tourney

Georgetown will be a tough final game, especially considering MU's four year Senior Night losing streak.  Well, maybe we're "due."

MU wins 8 of 9 BE home games + 3 or 4 roadies = 11-12 BE wins, plus another 11 OOC = 22 wins.

2011-12 Schedule Pluses

  • Vastly Improved November & December non-conference schedule
  • Only 2-3 Bradley Center Super-Cupcakes  (last few years, we averaged 6)
  • Vandy
  • Washington @ Madison Sq. Garden.  Good to get team at MSG, prior to BET.
  • Paradise Jam
  • Road game @LSU = 1.5 RPI wins.  I like this.
  • Whopping 15 games on National TV: 1 CBS, 7 ESPNs, 7 ESPNU.
2011-12 Schedule Minuses
  • Brutal 3 game start to BE: Nova, @GTown, @Cuse
  • BE Mirror teams: Cincy, Nova, GTown = rough SOS
  • Monday afternoon game vs. rival Louisville = lots of empty seats
  • 5 Saturday games, 3 afternoon + 2 TBA cupcakes = no premier Saturday Night games. 
  • Two of final three games on road
  • No CUSA teams in Big East / easy wins.