Friday, May 28, 2010

Do Not Screw with the Hanzels, Okay?

In 1938 my mom's brother, Tom Hanzel, played in the boys state basketball tournament for Faribault. Sure, he had a little help in getting the Falcons to the big show. One of his teammates, Bruce Smith, wasn't too shabby on the basketball court, leading all scorers with 11 points in a first round loss to Thief River Falls 37-29. Neither was Hanzel too shabby as Faribault's big man under the basket. But in the second round John Norlander, who in 1942 led Hamline to a national title and later played in the forerunner to the NBA, got the better of him inside, leading all scorers with 12 points. Hanzel then went on to Iowa State on a football scholarship.

Like Hanzel, Smith was a little better on the gridiron, too. In 1941, he won the Heisman Trophy as a running back for another national champion, the Minnesota Gophers. My mom worked for his dad, Lucious, who practiced law in Faribault until he was well into his 90s.

A decade later my mom's cousin, Albert J. "Cody" Hanzel, coached St. Paul Marshall to the 1947 boys state basketball tournament where, well, okay, they lost 2 out of 3 to Crosby-Ironton 36-31 and Granite Falls (and Dave Hegna, who like Norlander also led Hamline to a national championship in 1951) 38-15. In between they hammered Austin 62-51.

The Hanzels, in short, had some athletic genes. I have a couple of cousins who played quarterback at Rochester John Marshall back when that really meant something. One won a scholarship to the U of M, the other was the starting QB at St. Olaf. The rest of us weren't quite as successful. They say that sometimes it skips a generation, or three.

Anyway, short story long. There are a couple of Hanzels who play ball for the Henry Sibley boys. I won't embarrass them or their mom by telling you who they are, but she (their mom) is my first cousin once removed and one of the finest ladies you would ever want to know. And, I will mention that one of them (the boys) made a game-winning shot at the buzzer in a really really big game this past year.

And now Tom Dasovich has done it. He's broken the cardinal rule. He's screwing with the Hanzels, packin' up his bags and leaving Henry Sibley behind and moving on down the road to coach at Minnetonka High. And as a result, someday when you least expect it, someplace that the Hanzels got their fingerprints on--Faribault or New Prague or Montgomery, or maybe Roseville or Hill-Murray, or Detroit Lakes or Pierz, or more likely Henry Sibley itself--one of these schools is gonna rise up and kick your ass, Mr. Dasovich. And when they do, you just remember. Ya screwed with the Hanzels and ya got what ya deserved.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 Girls AAU State Tournament Features a Smorgasboard of Guards

It's girls AAU state tournament weekend Saturday and Sunday at the new East Ridge High School in Woodbury. 7 championship games will run back-to-back on Court 1 beginning with the 10 & unders at 8 a.m. and continuing through the feature game, the 16 & U final at 4:10.

16 & U action on Sunday also features the semi's on Courts 3 and 4 at 11:30 a.m. If all goes according to the seeding, always an iffy proposition, the semi's could feature North Tartan Coury versus Metro Stars Reiter and Minnesota Stars Borowicz versus Minnesota Fury Storm. If so, then these games will also feature a veritable smorgasboard of great ball-handling guards.

NT Coury can throw waves of 'em out there, beginning with Rachel Banham of Lakeville North, plus Marissa Janning of Watertown-Mayer, Shayne Mullaney of Eden Prairie and Bri Williams of Hopkins. The Metro Stars counter with Katybeth Biewen of Edina, Britney Scherber of Jefferson, Michelle Young of Woodbury and Jordy Falk of St. Francis. Advantage Tartan, and that's without even considering their frontcourt including Kayla Hirt of Bemidji and Mariah Clarin of Princeton. An interesting sidelight to this game would be Mullaney and EP teammate Morgan Van Riper-Rose on one side, with EP teammate Jackie Johnson on the other.

Stars Borowicz feature Kayla Becken of Centennial and Aubrey Davis of Kennedy, while the Fury can counter with Tessa Cichy of Hill-Murray and Alexis Foley of White Bear Lake. Toss-up. Inside the Stars' Apiew Ojulu of Lakeville North (plus Megan Grossfeld and Kayla Timmerman of Wayzata, and Jade Martin of Kennedy) will do battle with the Fury's Beth Doolittle of Hill-Murray and Lisa Loeffler of North St. Paul. Advantage Stars.

So then it should be perennial rivals Tartan versus Stars Borowicz at 4:10.

Meanwhile, the 15 & U final at 1:50 figures to match North Tartan Hedstrom and Minnesota Stars Taylor/Smith. Tartan can throw another wave of guards out there, including Mikayla Bailey and Rebekah Dahlman, and swing players Tesha Buck, Kali Peschel and Whitney Tinjum, plus Kadidjah Shumpert inside. The Stars feature guards Janay Morton, Allina Starr and Taylor Stewart. Saturday's semi's should also feature Minnesota Fury Cerisier and guards Mariah Adanane and Molly Simpkins, and North Tartan Blue with guards Kaylee Dorn, Whitney Olson and Ellie Zeller.

11:30 a.m. Again, if all goes according to the seeds--and apologies to those who are going to upset them on Saturday but are not mentioned here--the 14 & U final would pit Minnesota Stars Smith/Taylor with Savanna Trapp and Paige Waytashek against Minnesota Fury Peper and Natalie Van Whye.

12:40 p.m. At 13U, North Tartan Alexander with Grace Coughlin, Micaela Noga, Issy Odor and Tonia Wade is the top seed.

10:30 a.m. North Tartan Kuppe is the top seed in the 12 & U class, and T. T. Starks of Mpls. North is their ticket. If you only see one game, well, it's hard to go against the 16U final but, still, I'm not sure you shouldn't stop by earlier in the day to see what Starks can do. She is pretty clearly the top Minnesota prospect since Tayler Hill.


4th Quarter D Lets Lynx Down Again

The Minnesota Lynx faded down the stretch again last night in Seattle, losing the 4th quarter 24-16 and the game 79-76. The Lynx led 60-55 after 3, and 62-55 after Monica Wright opened the 4th with a J off an assist by Lindsay Whalen. Minnesota still led 64-58 at the 7:17 mark, when....

Coach Cheryl Reeves has talked a lot about building the Lynx around a strong defense. Well, everybody knows that Seimone Augustus, Rebakah Brunson and Candice Wiggins are not playing yet, and it couldn't be more obvious that the 3 of them will improve the Lynx substantially, though on offense more than on the D, don't you think?

So, anyway, the point is that Seattle scored on 9 of its final 10 possessions to pull out the win. The Lynx weren't bad on offense, making 7-of-14 shots in the 4th though their turnovers outnumbered their offensive boards, 3-1. But the D was non-existent down the stretch, just as it was against Washington the other night. The Storm hit 3-of-4 from 2-point land, 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, and 4-for-4 from the line.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lynx Need Augustus, Wiggins and Brunson in the Worst Way

It took the Washington Mystics a good long while to get un-tracked tonight at the Target Center, but once they did the Minnesota Lynx were no match for them. The Lynx led 33-18 at the 8:20 mark of the 2nd quarter as Lindsay Whalen had already scored 10 points. But over the next 2-and-a-half quarters, Washington hammered Minnesota 63-30 for their largest lead of the night at 81-63. The final was 87-76.

The Lynx made 16 of their first 28 shots (57 percent). But from there the Lynx made just 12-of-42 (29 percent) the rest of the way, and Whalen scored just 2 points in the final 25 minutes of play.

Monique Currie led Washington with 27 points, while Crystal Langhorne added 16 and 9 boards. In the battle of the Lindsays, current Lynx point guard Whalen got just slightly the better of former Lynx point guard Harding, who had 14 points, 4 assists and 3 turnovers. Whalen had 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals to go with her 12 points.

From 33-18, the Lynx still led by 10, 39-29, at the 5:00 of the 1st half. But by half-time the momentum was swinging to Washington, who closed the half on a 20-9 run to get within 43-38. Currie already had 18 points.

The Mystics came out red-hot in the 3rd period, however, scoring the 1st 8 points for their 1st lead of the night at 46-43. Rashanda McCants scored the next 5 points for a 48-46 Lynx lead, but Washington scored 8 of the next 10 to take the lead for good. Minnesota's last lead was at 50-48, but Currie hit a put-back and then Katie Smith hit a pair of 3s for a 56-50 Mystics lead. Minnesota stayed within about 6-8 points the rest of the quarter, but then Washington opened the 4th with another run, 18-7, to put the game away.

The possession game was pretty even as the Mystics got 2 more offensive rebounds than the Lynx (11-9) and the turnovers were 17-17. But Washington shot about 50 percent (30-for-61) and got to the FT line 29 times to the Lynx' 15. Overall, the Lynx shot 41 percent but only 20 percent (4-for-20) from beyond the arc. Minnesota looks like an all-time great FT shooting team, however, making 14-of-15 after a 15-for-17 performance at Tulsa on Saturday night.

Charde Houston and Rashanda McCants continued to be the Lynx' big offensive threats with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Houston was the Lynx' co-leader in rebounds, too, with 4, but then all 5 of the Lynx starters had 4 rebounds each. Whalen led all players with those 7 assists and 4 steals, but Nicky Anosike led all players with 5 turnovers.

Monica Wright continued to look like a rookie, scoring 5 points though her turnovers were much reduced after having 7 against Tulsa. And other than McCants, the Lynx' bench right now is virtually non-existent. Nuria Martinez in particular continues to be completely over-matched as the back-up point guard.

The Lynx are now 1-1 after the 1st 2 games of the Lindsay Whalen era. With the roster the Lynx have right now, .500 might even be on the high side. They need Seimone Augustus back in the worst way, as if you didn't know that. Rebekah Brunson and Candice Wiggins wouldn't hurt, either. Hopefully they're not going to be in too deep of a hole in the standings by the time the 3 of them return.

Lynx Do What They Have to Do

So far, so good. The Lynx have done what they had to do in order to set the stage for the 2010 home opener. They've given local basketball fans a chance to get excited about the WNBA. They brought Lindsay Whalen back home, they've assembled the most talented roster in their history, and they're riding a 1-game winning streak into today's home opener. So far, so good.

The Lynx used 3 runs to beat the lightly-regarded Tulsa Shock last night, getting out of the gate faster than Lookin' for Lucky for an early 21-7 lead. The Shock, er, shocked the Lynx by roaring back from a 34-18 2nd quarter deficit to an early 3rd quarter lead at 39-38, but the Lynx responded with a quick 9-2 run. The Shock never got within 3 again, and a 15-6 Lynx run across the 3rd and 4th quarter break pretty much iced it.

Rookie Monica Wright scored 8 of those 1st 21 Lynx points, as the Shock had difficulty maintaining control of the basketball. The Lynx had 6 steals, 2 by Nicky Anosike, in the 1st 20 possessions for each side. Then Charde Houston took over, scoring 5 of 9 and 10 of 15 points in the Lynx' 2 2nd half runs. She made 6-of-7 shots, including 2-for-2 beyond the arc, at crunch time.

Three Stars: 1. Houston, 2. Anosike, 3. Whalen

Still, let's be honest. This is not a very good Lynx team yet. Of course, there aren't many basketball teams that are really good with 3 of their starters MIA. Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins are recovering from injuries and/or surgery, while Rebekah Brunson is still finishing her European season. Only Whalen and either Anosike or Houston among last night's and today's probable starting lineup still figure to be among the 1st 5 when the roster is back at full strength.

And there are some obvious bright spots such as Houston. We do not have a problem. She was the best player on the floor last night, the reason the Lynx were able to get that 1st victory, leading all scorers with 21 on 8-of-18 shooting but 6-of-7 when it really mattered. Then, of course, there's Lindsay. The Shock and coach Nolan Richardson promised that the Shock defense would be "40 minutes of hell" for opponents. And, granted, the turnovers ended up about even, 20 for the Lynx and 22 for the Shock, with the steals 14 on a side. But when your whole game plan is predicated on winning the possession game, you've (the Shock) got to do better than that. Lindsay and the Lynx at least neutralized what the Shock was trying to do.

And Rashanda McCants continued her pre-season impression of a totally different player than the one you saw last year, as she hit 6-of-9 shots for 15 points.

You could almost miss the contributions, then, of Anosike, who made just 1-of-3 shots for 5 points but contributed team highs in rebounds (9), blocks (5), steals (4) and plus/minus (+13); and of Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, who added 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

Wright got off to the hot start but, otherwise, played like a rookie, shooting 6-for-18 with 7 turnovers. She and back-up point guard Nuria Martinez were the only Lynx who finished with a minus on the plus/minus--Wright at -6 and Martinez -3 in very limited minutes. Other than McCants, the bench added just 1 more point. Martinez, in particular, looked completely over-matched, so Whalen had better be in shape to play a lot of minutes.

The bottom line was, the Lynx just out-shot the Shock. Otherwise the stats are all remarkably even, with the possessions going 81-81--the Shock had 3 more offensive boards and 2 more turnovers. And, actually, the 3 point shooting was a wash, too. The Lynx hit 5-of-16, the Shock 5-of-14. But from inside the arc the Lynx made 25-of-56 shots (45 percent) and the Shock just 20-of-52 (38 percent). And the Shock totally squandered their chances at the FT line, making 19-of-30 (63 percent) while the Lynx drained 15-of-17 (88 percent).

The Mystics are going to be a completely different kind of opponent that what the Lynx faced last night with Monique Currie, former Lynx Lindsay Harding and Crystal Langhorne, among others. And they too are off to a good start, avenging last year's play-off loss to the Indiana Fever last night at Indiana 72-65 as Currie and Langhorne combined for 40 points and 15 boards. They, too, have injury issues, however, as last year's leading scorer Alana Beard (16 ppg) is recovering from surgery on her Achilles tendon.

In short, tonight's home opener will be a stiff test for the 2010 Lynx, V. 1.0. A victory by any margin will be an impressive one as the Lynx try to survive until V. 2.0, with Augustus, Brunson and Wiggins, arrives on the scene.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Gopher Men Sign a Maverick

Tubby Smith added a 5th recruit to his incoming class of 2010 yesterday in 6-1 point guard Maverick Ahanmisi. Ahanmisi told a reporter that Tubby told him that he (Ahanmisi) would come off the bench initially. (Ya think?) I mean, Ahanmisi was supposed to be going to Boise State last year but ran into academic issues and spent the year at Stoneridge Prep in Tarzana, CA. The other contenders for his services as of yesterday were Chicago Loyola and UCSB.

So either this is a pretty low level signing or a kid who has been massively underrated.

On the plus side, he scored 20 ppg for a 25-3 team, Golden Valley High (CA), as a senior, including 41 points in a post-season play-off game. Not bad. And his club coach, Bob Gottlieb, who knows whereof he speaks, has been talking him up big time: "a major league scorer and a great shooter." "He handles defensive pressure well and gets to the (rim easily." "Great defensive instincts, picks off a lot of passes." Gottlieb is the former head coach as Jacksonville and Wisconsin-Milwaukee and former assistant at Creighton, Kansas State, Long Beach State and Oregon State. Of course, he might also be a little biased as a major college signing boosts the visibility of his club.

So we'll have to wait and see what Maverick has got, besides one of the more colorful names in Gopher history. (He's half Filipino, and half Nigerian.) The hope, of course, is that he's better than Justin Cobbs, whose scholarship he is for all intents and purposes inheriting after Cobbs announced his intention to transfer closer to his home, which is also located in the sunshine state. The other question is whether Al Nolen can regain his eligibility for the Gophers. If not, Maverick will probably see some minutes, ready or not.

Local reporter Marcus Fuller said in his blog that if, as Ahanmisi claims, Tubby told him he'd be coming off the bench, that this must mean that Nolen will be back at the point and Devoe Joseph will be moving over to the 2. A reader posted a reply, reminding Marcus of a fellow named Blake Hoffarber, and predicting that Nolen would be coming off the bench until he could prove that he can handle the academics and is back in fighting trim.

I think that's right. But what that means is that Ahanmisi, widely described as a 1, could see more action as a frosh at the 2. He is sometimes described as a combo guard, and if he's half the shooter and scorer Gottlieb says he is, you'd think he could handle it.

But let's be honest. We'll find out this coming fall whether this is a kid who can play in the Big Ten or not. Right now, it's even money.

Recently I advanced the following as a worst case for the Gophers in 2010-2011.

Starting Lineup

C/F--Colt Iverson
C/F--Ralph Sampson
F--Rod Williams
PG--Devoe Joseph
SG--Blake Hoffarber


C-- Elliott Eliason, a likely redshirt
C--Mo Walker, a freshman
F--Dominique Dawson, a walk-on
F--Oto Osenieks, a freshman
G--Bryant Allen, a walk-on
G--Austin Hollins, a freshman

Now, add in Ahanmisi, and let's also look at a best case alternative.

Starting Lineup

C/F--Colt Iverson
C/F--Ralph Sampson
F--Rod Williams
PG--Devoe Joseph
SG--Blake Hoffarber


C-- Elliott Eliason, a likely redshirt
C--Mo Walker, a freshman
F--Dominique Dawson, a walk-on
F--Trevor Mbakwe
F--Oto Osenieks, a freshman
F--Royce White, unlikely, "no change" in his status has been reported
G--Maverick Ahanmisi, a freshman
G--Bryant Allen, a walk-on
G--Austin Hollins, a freshman
G--Al Nolen

Bottom line:Even if Nolen can come back, without Royce White this bench is gonna scare absolutely nobody, Maverick or no.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hamline Women Get a New Coach

Hamline hired Kerri Stockwell as their new women's basketball coach and so now it's official. The biggest problem the Pipers will face next year is over-confidence. Not that Stockwell is given to such things, I mean on the part of Hamline fans. The point is that the Pipers have a bunch of talent coming back and, now, a coach who seems to know how to, er, coach.

I happen to have seen the Pipers this past year--meaning, I wanted to see the surprising Lady Scots of Macalester, and by the time I managed to get on over to the Leonard Center, Hamline happened to be the opponent. Macalester won pretty easily 74-48 and, to be honest, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the Pipers. I only learned later on that Hamline had lost 3 starters--Stephanie Robinson, Rochelle Sather and Kristin Sczublewski--to injuries during the course of the season. All 3 started the Pipers' first game. Then Robinson came off the bench for 3 games until returning to the starting lineup as a result of a season-ending injury to Sather. Robinson went down in the very next game, however, and Sczublewski joined her on the sidelines another 6 games later.

Sather was the only senior on that roster, so assuming everybody comes back healthy, well, again, Hamline is going to have a lot of talent. In fact, its front court could dominate a lot of people. But while there's a lot of guards, you can only put 2 or 3 of them on the court at one time, and so Hamline's guard play remains a question mark.

Center--The post is 6-foot-1 Mary Wilkowski, 1st team all-MIAC and honorable mention D3 all-America last year as a junior. Wilkowski scored 17 points per game and added 9 boards, while becoming just the 9th Piper woman to score 1,000 points in her career.

Wilkowski's back-up is Tromesa May, also 6-1, from St. Louis Park who, as a freshman, has already won an MIAC 6th Player of the Year award after only joining the team in January. She contributed 9 points and 7 boards to the cause. A key question for Coach Stockwell will be whether she can get Wilkowski and May on the court together. May doesn't look like somebody who can play away from the basket, however, and do you want to move your all-American out of her comfort zone? Questions, questions.

Big Forward--At the big forward is Jessica Englund, 6-2, from St. Francis, who started 14 games last year after the injury bug hit, contributing 5 points and 5.5 boards. She will be a junior next year.

Small Forward--Of course, Hamline can go small, as it did at the start last year with Sather and Sczublewski, both nominally guards. If so, this time the best options look like Sczublewski and Robinson. Sczublewski, who will be a senior this coming season, started the first 11 games last year, contributing 9 points, 4 assists and 3 boards. She shot a mediocre 36 percent from the field, however. Robinson, who will be a junior, on the other hand, shot a stellar 56 percent, scoring 9 points, but with 3.5 turnovers.

Point Guard--Both point guards are back and both earned all-conference honors: Nikki Klink, senior-to-be from Hibbing, was honorable mention and her back-up, Kara Poirer, sophomore-to-be from Eau Claire, WI, made the all-1st years. Klink scored 9.5 points with 4 boards, 4 assists and a team-high 2 steals. Poirer scored 6 points per game. The 2 had 4 turnovers per game between them, not bad, but they shot 38 and 31 percent, respectively. Clearly, the objective is to get them better shots and fewer next year.

Shooting Guard--Senior-to-be Jackie Kelly, from Blaine, was the #2 scorer at 11 points per game, and added 3 boards and 3 assists. She made more than half of the Pipers' 3s at a stellar 43 percent clip (64-for-149). Somehow, however, she managed to make just 23-of-70 2s, or 33 percent.

The primary issue will be shooting. When Wilkowski, May or Kelly (from beyond the arc) are not shooting the ball, the percentages are pretty bad. Other than Kelly, the Pipers shot barely more than 25 percent from 3 point-land. Redistributing the shots, generally, and finding another 3 point shooter will be among Stockwell's primary challenges.

Then there's turnovers. No one player seems to have an excessive number, it's just that everybody has their fair share and so the Pipers ended up with 10 more turnovers than their opponents. That also represents an inability to create the turnover and some easy baskets. Opponents shot just 40 percent overall, but 36 percent on 3s, and scored 68.5 points. Stockwell will surely be looking to cut that back by a few points a game.

Which brings us back to the new coach. Stockwell's resume is pretty impressive, consisting primarily of 7 years as Paul Fessler's head assistant coach at Concordia (St. Paul). During Stockwell's tenure, the Bears went to D2 post-season play 6 straight years, making it to the Sweet 16 in 2005. They won the Northern Sun regular season championship 3 times and the post-season title 3 times. Previous to that, she coached at North St. Paul. As head coach from 1999-2002, the Polars went 45-29 and played in the 2000 girls state high school tournament. She was section 6AAAA coach of the year in 2000. As an assistant there for the 4 years previous, she helped the Polars to the 1998 and 1999 state tournaments as well.

Again, one of Stockwell's primary issues will be dealing with high expectations, something Hamline has rarely had. Hamline has never won an MIAC women's basketball title, and over the past 6 years the Pipers won 72 while losing 77 under coach Melissa Kruse-Young. But with everybody, including a major talent such as Wilkowski, back from an injury-marred 13-12 season, Hamline should probably be rated right behind perennial powers St. Thomas and St. Ben's in the pre-season poll. No pressure here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Big Ten Expansion? Go for It!

The Big Ten is studying expansion again, and this time it looks like darn near a sure thing that the conference is going to get bigger. The motivation for the Big Ten is pretty strong--and it has something to do with increasing revenues, I think. (Ya think?) And, the motivation for somebody to join is pretty strong, too. The Big Ten TV network paid $22 million to each school last year, whereas Big 12 teams get $6.5 million from their network, and even Notre Dame gets a mere $15 million from its national TV football contract. In the Big East, it's less than a lousy $3 mil.

So something is going to happen.

Now, let's be honest. Football is where the action is. Merely by increasing from 11 teams to 12, the Big Ten will be able to have a post-season championship football game. That alone is worth several million bucks, even if the expansion goes into a crappy TV market such as Nebraska, or if it adds a crappy football program that happens to be in a good TV market (read: Rutgers). And if it adds a football powerhouse and a good TV market, well, suddenly it's a gravy train.

Of course, the only candidates that are football powers and represent a solid TV market are Notre Dame and Texas, and the smart money says they're not coming in. So while it's possible the Big Ten will add just one team, it can't accomplish all of its goals that way.

So, if the Big Ten is going to add more than one team, how many do you want? Right now, most of the speculation is three for a total of 14. But five for a total of 16 isn't out of the question. After all, there are as many as a dozen teams being talked about:

ACC: Boston College
Big East: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big 12: Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M
Independent/Big East: Notre Dame

Again, the smart money (and Notre Dame spokesmen) say that the Fighting Irish aren't interested, so the hell with them. And Texas A&M is only being touted on the assumption that the Texas legislature would never let the Longhorns leave all by their long gone lonesome. It says here, they won't let 'em go at all, with or without the Aggies.

And then Boston College just left the Big East a few short years ago, but so what? That just proves their mercenary enough to do it again, and the ACC TV network pays less than the Big 12 (though almost twice what the Big East pays). Connecticut and Rutgers are the other schools that bring in the big eastern mega-media market, though it's also true that Syracuse has a big following in the New York City area.

Missouri gets you the St. Louis market and a terrific rivalry with Illinois. Nebraska gets you another big name in the football game. But, let's be honest. Iowa State, Pitt and West Virginia bring almost nothing to the Big Ten. Penn State already delivers the Pittsburgh TV market, and West Virginia is academically suspect. And the smart guys aren't talking about Iowa State, that's just some fanboy talk.

So where does that leave us? Well, Boston College, Rutgers and Syracuse deliver the eastern TV market; Missouri has been described as a done deal pretty much from the get-go; and Nebraska is just too good to pass up (and the Big Ten too good for the Cornhuskers to pass up, it would $eem). Still, BC and Nebraska aren't slam-dunks, and therein lies the difference between a 3 and a 5-team expansion.

But if 4 teams accept an offer and either BC or Nebraska says no, then Connecticut looks like the next best bet.

Again, all of this is mostly about football. But this here is a basketball blog. How does this affect Big Ten basketball? Well, unlike the Big East, you go to divisional play, even though you don't need a post-season playoff. You've already got one.


Boston College or Connecticut or both*
Penn State
Ohio State
Michigan State


Nebraska (or not)*

The problem with any divisional set-up is that your most central states that could swing either east or west each has 2 Big Ten schools--Michigan and Michigan State, and Indiana and Purdue. Depending on where the new Big Ten schools are located (regardless of whether it's 1 or 3 or 5) you might have to split them up. Or, do something completely illogical such as leapfrog Ohio State out to the west, while leaving the Michigans or the Indianas in the east. For football purposes, it might make sense, however, to get two each from among Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State in each division.

In basketball, it really doesn't matter because you've got a post-season tournament to fall back on. During the regular season, you'd probably play a round robin within your division (for a total of 1o or 12 or 14 games) and just enough games with the other division to get to your number, whatever it is. (There's been talk lately that 18 Big Ten games is too many. I guess everybody wants more laughers than that.)

So in summary:

Option 1: Add 1 team and a football playoff and make a few million bucks. If you add 1, obviously you want Notre Dame. But since the Big Ten is not going to get Notre Dame, then maybe Missouri is inevitable, but I don't care. If it's 1 team, I want Syracuse for the added eastern media markets.

Option 2: Add 3 teams, and now you damn well are going to go after the big media money, so it's Boston College or Connecticut, Rutgers or Syracuse. But, at this point, maybe Missouri does become inevitable and you can only get 2 eastern teams. Then I want BC or Connecticut, along with the Orangemen.

Option 3: Add 5 teams. And, like I said, now you grab BC, Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri and Nebraska, and if anybody says no, then Connecticut. If 2 teams say no, then cut Rutgers and scale back to Option 2.