Saturday, December 01, 2007

ACC - Big 10 Challenge

I've given Mike DeCourcy the business on occasion, but even when I was in the midst of it, I admitted that he seemed to really know his college hoops.

And this post of his, on the reasons why the Big Ten should rethink their ACC Challenge, is quite good. DeCourcy argues, with some merit, that the match-ups aren't based on ability, but marquee match-ups. So you end up with somewhat crappy Big Name teams playing Big Name programs, and the undervalued playing the Not-Very-Good.

I like this graf, and not just because I'm a Cavalier fan:

Northwestern and Virginia are not high-priority TV teams, so they were thrown together in one of this year's matchups. That was a most curious pairing, given that Virginia is defending co-champion of the ACC and Northwestern is defending co-chumpion of the Big Ten, having tied Penn State with only two conference wins. The ACC already had a de facto 1-0 lead in this Challenge when the pairings were released in April.

Quick issue: UVA was not given much respect even at the time for finishing as co-champion. Duke ended up ahead of them in the national rankings at the end of the year. Way ahead. But that is a minor point. DeCourcy's point is a good point, as far it goes. But I do believe that there was a time, back when there was a mighty whitey patrolling the paint for Northwestern by the name of "Evan" when it seemed like on a good night, Northwestern could beat anybody.

There was a time, again, not that long ago that Purdue wasn't a fucking joke. And it wasn't just hard-working, white guys like Brad Miller and Brian Cardinal. It was dream recruits like Glenn Robinson and most unfairly forgotten man in Big 10 hoops, Cuonzo Martin. Purdue, once upon a time, was daunting. I remember a time when Michigan was considered to be so good at recruiting that they put together a Freshman team considered fabulous. They had a nickname and everything.

And sure, it turned out that the Gophers were cheating like crazy, and apparently their star players were abusing their girlfriends over assumed liaisons with Shaq. But that team was bad-ass. Hell, 10 years later, Bobby Jackson is still in the NBA.

There was a time when the Big 10 was as deep as the ACC. But it hasn't been for a number of years. Even last year, when you had Ohio State and Wisconsin as obvious Elite 8 teams, there was no way to make the ACC-Big 10 Challenge "fair", because you knew that the #5-10 teams of the ACC would make short work of the Big 10 teams.

Since the challenge started, the ACC has gotten stronger, adding teams like Boston College and Virginia Tech. The Big 10, through their own collective ineptitude has gotten weaker. Minnesota is just now climbing out of the morass that Clem Haskins led it too. Will Northwestern ever be considered scary? Can Kelvin Sampson coach a year without being embroiled in controversy?

It is not the ACC's fault, or ESPN's fault, that the Big Ten in recent years has become so ridiculously top-heavy.

DeCourcy argues that the Big Ten is doing itself no favors by participating in this tournament:

The two conferences are trying to play interesting games that ESPN is willing to televise. For the most part, they're getting that done. The Big Ten, however, also is systematically undermining the prestige of its basketball conference -- and the Ratings Percentage Index scores for league members, which affect how many of them will reach the NCAA Tournament.

I'd argue that they would be doing that regardless of who they play, because the conference isn't that good. Take this year. The best team in the Big 10 is, I guess, Michigan State, or maybe Indiana. Those two teams in a "fair system" are going to have to play UNC and Duke. Indiana is young and talented and pretty undisciplined. Would they fare well against a UVA squad that is currently underrated to a criminal degree? Who knows. I do know that Minnesota lost badly to Florida State, which wasn't a marquee match-up, but based on conference records from last year, a pretty fair match-up.

My argument would be that the Big Ten isn't undermining their conference by playing unfair match-ups in the ACC. They are undermining their conference by being ridiculously top-heavy, and they have been for the past half-decade. The Big Ten wouldn't fare any better in a Big Ten-Big East tournament, or in a Big Ten - Pac 10 tournie. I don't know that they'd fair that much better in a Big Ten-Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

DeCourcy makes a good point, but in the specifics, he's a bit off. Last year, the Big 10 reveled in the reflected glory of Thad Matta's recruting class, and Wisconsin's seniors. This year, the blush is off the rose. The Big 10 isn't very good. That's their problem. Getting revealed early on as a weak conference with a little pop at the top isn't the ACC's fault, or ESPN's fault. It is the Big 10's fault. Fixing doesn't revolve around avoiding tough match-ups--it is about being competitive in them.


Andrew Wice said...

Big BM, please explain what the word "graf" means?

"I like this graf, and not just because I'm a Cavalier fan."

All I can think of is that this in reference to Steffi Graf, implying that somebody is being publicly stabbed in the back by a crazy person.

Big Blue Monkey said...

First of all, it was Monica Seles who got stabbed, so your idea makes no sense. Dummy.

Second, it is common in journalism shorthand to refer to a paragraph as a "graf". Why "graf" and not "graph"? Because "graph" is already its own word, and that would be silly.

Hence, "graf". And please don't ask why it couldn't be "para". That's a stupid, horrible idea.

Andrew Wice said...

"Graf" is for idiots. Which text message inspired that crap?


Jess said...

I've seen Big Blue Monkey use the term "lede" correctly, as well. It's kinda hot.

It should be noted, though, that I have a degree in Journalism.

Big Blue Monkey said...

I'm almost a kind-of journalist!

Jess said...


Isn't that cute? But it's wrong!