Rise and Fall: Big Ten Program Review

July 21st, 2008

Like civilizations, all great basketball programs eventually fall.. replaced by an upstart newcomer. In this week's Rise & Fall series, we'll take a look at which BCS programs are rising, falling, or merely treading water. Up today, the:





From a sky-high RPI of 2 in 2005, its been all downhill to 103rd last year. Another blah season should be expected as Pruitt & Randle depart, and there's no real incoming class to speak of. Its not all bad though, as the Illini have some serious talent lined up for 2009 (and 2010 if Crandall Head continues his speedy development).. but in the meantime, another sub-.500 conference record should be expected.



Not much to say here. Y'all know the Hoosiers situation as well as I do. If you want a good laugh, head over to IUHoosiers.com to check out their roster for 08-09..



While the Illini's drop from 2 to 103 looks bad, how about Iowa's tumble from 7th to 193rd in just three seasons. The transfer of Tony Freeman to SIU was just one of many recent blows, and its going to take awhile to turn this ship around. Players like Cole, Tate, and Kelly are alright talents who should improve, but "alrights" won't get it done in the Big Ten. And while this year's deep recruiting class looks promising on paper, it lacks that one wow talent that can get things rolling along quickly. Todd Lickliter deserves patience to turn things around, but 2010 is the earliest any real results should be expected.



Michigan hasn't really been good since before this website even existed. Last year's horrendous season was an aberration against a long line of mediocre NIT-level teams. Now that talents like Harris, Sims, and Grady are a year older.. getting back to that 70ish RPI, fringe-NIT team range is probable (though losing Udoh was a blow since he had serious potential.) Luckily for John Beilein, half the conference is in rebuilding mode, so the current mediocrity will fit right in.



Tubby Smith never got the credit he deserves, but he might finally get that credit in a few years if Minnesota improves as expected (or at least as I expect). While last year's 20-win season is a bit misleading because the Gophers barely beat any top-150 teams.. there's definitely some positive momentum brewing. This year's recruiting haul is better than recent seasons, and local product Royce White joins the program in 2009.



While there haven't been any remarkable MSU teams in recent seasons, Tom Izzo has still been churning out Top 25 clubs. This year's crew could be the best since 2001 (not even taking the welcome additions of Roe and Lucious into account), as it has legitimate Elite Eight potential. Neitzel's impressive career is over, but he handed over the torch to the new era early in his senior season.



If anything, the program is somehow on the downwards turn as last year's 7-22 debacle was an embarrassment to major-conference basketball. (I guess not on the level of Oregon State though..) This year's recruiting class, mediocre by usual Big Ten standards, is actually the Wildcats best of the new millennium. The problem is that serious improvement, ie a 20 win season, might not come until the next millennium..



After hyper-speed, supersonic growth in 2006 & 2007, the Buckeyes are back to your normal garden-variety type of improvement. An underrate senior (Butler), and an overrated freshman (Koufous) depart, clearing the way for another monster recruiting class. If Mullens and/or Buford go pro after next season, major gains could once again be retarded.



A program perpetually on the verge of getting decent, but who never manages to put it all together. The Lions have easily been the worst program in the Big Ten for the last 8-9 seasons or so.. occasionally managing to make Northwestern look like All-Stars.



Last year's big national surprise should once again be good.. but I'm not sure if the Boilers will be that much better. The Big Ten was simply bad last year and Purdue feasted on a lot of struggling teams that will be better this time around. In fact, the 25 wins only yielded a mediocre RPI of 45 (though an AP ranking of 20th). So while the computer ranking should jump into the high 20's, it might not be the super-breakthrough many fans are expecting. The loss of Scott Martin to ND was a small crack in the armor, and this year's class doesn't add much to the mix. Still, you can't argue that things are heading in the right direction.



Bo Ryan is consistently the most underrated coach in the country, and last year's surprise 31 win season was just another in a long string of good years. Losing Brian Butch, who came up clutch in some late-season wins, hurts.. but its nothing that won't be overcome. There's no reason to expect anything less than the now expected push for the Big Ten title.. right there with Michigan State.


- up next is the Pac-10 -