Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We're Number ... 39?

Street and Smith's, one of my favorite prognostication publications before the advent of knowledgeable Internet sites, is coming out with a special issue ranking the top 100 NCAA Division 1 basketball programs of all time.

According to AthensOhio.net, S&S used "15 categories to determine the top 100, including NCAA and NIT appearances and wins, conference championships and tournament championships, graduation rates, all-time winning percentages, and NBA first-round draft picks." I understand most of them, but find the conference/tourney championships (other than NCAA) specious, and NBA first-round picks misleading. But the list has to go by something, so I can accept the panel's methodology.

This list is obviously for fun and discussion, as most lists of this type are. So let's have a fun discussion while running down the top 50.

1) Kentucky
3) North Carolina
4) Kansas
5) Duke

No surprises so far. Each of these programs has a long history of excellence and has won numerous national titles over the years.

Two things I find interesting here:

1) If memory serves, going into the 1990-91 season, the one that began the Decade of Dereliction of Duty, Notre Dame was third in NCAA appearances behind only Kentucky and North Carolina. I can't help but wonder if ND would be higher on the list had the Decade not happened.

2) Every one of these programs has a major practice (and, in some cases) venue facility upgrade to their credit, either in progress or in the recent past. If these programs find it necessary, it underscores the importance of not only doing it but also doing it right.

And yes, I realize only one of those five schools -- UCLA -- has a semi-decent football program to go along with basketball. But as much as people like to point out Duke football when talking about the relative merits of ND basketball vs. football, it's UCLA football that I believe should represent our minimum standard. The expectations are high, the support is strong, and the program has done some pretty good things over the years while laboring in the shadow of its more-famous brother.

6) Indiana
7) Louisville
8) Arkansas
9) UConn
10) Cincinnati

Now we start getting a little shaky. Indiana, sure -- success under multiple coaches, even bad ones. Louisville, OK. Arkansas? They're top 15 in win percentage but not in the top 20 in wins. And let's not discuss graduation rates. UConn? In the last 15 years, OK, but if this is an all-time list, I think they're a little high. Ditto Cincinnati.

This group is at least four-for-five on the facilities list, too ... I'm not sure what Arkansas has, I suppose I'll look it up at some point.

11) Utah
12) Ohio State
13) Oklahoma State
14) Arizona
15) Syracuse

Now the "football schools" start to appear. Ohio State is another good example of where ND basketball should be -- they're probably one of the biggest "football schools" out there, and yet here they are at #12.


16) Penn
17) NCState
18) St. John's
19) Princeton
20) Temple

Here's where we start getting into the "what the hell are these schools doing ranked ahead of ND" section. I understand St. John's tradition, and Penn and Princeton have been an Ivy powerhouse for long and long. I suppose a case could be made for Temple, although a shaky one. But North Carolina State? There is no reason ND basketball should be in a state where the Wolfpack rank higher on a list like this.

21) Georgetown
22) Kansas State
23) Texas
24) Oklahoma
25) Michigan State

Three "football schools" in here, two of which are probably the biggest in the category (and have pretty kick-ass facilities to boot). They do it. Why can't ND?

Again, the list skews recent, as evidenced by Texas and Oklahoma.

And again, more entries in the "what the hell" category in Kansas State and Michigan State.

Edit: Let me clarify here -- the "what the hell" category doesn't mean Notre Dame has accomplished more than the programs in that category. It means a well-run Notre Dame basketball program has the potential for and should be capable of a lot more than what those programs should be able to accomplish at their highest level.

26) Michigan
27) Illinois
28) UNLV
29) San Francisco
30) Purdue

That ND has not appeared on the list ahead of most of these schools is, frankly, embarrassing to me. Michigan? The poorest-run, biggest waste-of-resources basketball program in Division 1? Illinois? A UNLV program that has Jerry Tarkanian and little else? A program like San Francisco that actually shut down for a couple of seasons along the way? It's a testament to the inadequate leadership of the ND program since the mid 1990's.

At least Purdue is a basketball school. They should probably be embarrassed they're behind those four as well.

31) Western Kentucky
32) Villanova
33) Marquette
34) West Virginia
35) Maryland

Cripes, a mid-major. The embarrassment grows.

But again, we're skewing recent here. Maybe the methodology needs some tweaks after all.

36) BYU
37) Houston
38) Missouri
39) Notre Dame
40) Iowa

Ah, there we are, in the midst of powerhouse programs. Yikes.

41) Cal
42) Wyoming
43) St. Joseph's
44) Stanford
45) Creighton
46) Wake Forest
47) Miami (Ohio)
48) Xavier
49) UTEP
50) LSU

I started this conversation saying it would be fun. Suddenly, it's not so fun.

If I were John Affleck-Graves, I would take this list and thumbtack it to my wall where I would have to look at it every day. Every day, I'd see some of the programs ranked ahead of ND like Arkansas, Western Kentucky and BYU, which are dwarfed by ND's financial capabilities. Every day, I'd see some of the programs ranked ahead of ND like Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Oklahoma, which have used football success to jump-start a strong basketball program. Every day, I'd see some of the programs ranked ahead of ND like Michigan and San Francisco, which should not be blueprints for anyone building a decent program and yet appear ahead of the Fighting Irish.

That list would remind me of how this once-strong program was neglected for more than 10 years. That list would remind me of the work that needs to be done to not only overcome that neglect but also to put ND basketball back where it belongs. That list would remind me the positive momentum generated with the facilities announcement must be continued and strengthened.

It would remind me it's time to get to work.

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Blogger Hermano said...

I'm no fan of Cincinnati either, but they do have a National Championship to their credit back in the day and have had several eras of great programs. The same with Michigan State basketball - even if you ONLY look at the Heathcoat and Izzo eras, they've accomplished more than ND basketball. Maybe the Irish should be higher than 39, but not at the expense of the Bearcats or the Spartans.

10/10/2006 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't take as much to build a basketball program as it does a football program, but the first step has to be a facilities upgrade (which should help the hockey program as well, if done correctly). As I understand it, this is underway.

I didn't take your rant as attacking the list, I saw it as frustration at ND's lack of standing in the basketball world -- if anything I thought ND ranked pretty high given its recent history.

10/10/2006 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

Let me be clear -- I don't think ND deserves to be any higher than they are right now. In fact, I was a little surprised they'd stayed top 50 given the mismanagement of the program during the 1990s.

What I want is a commitment to improve the quality and perception of the program so they don't appear so low on these lists.

10/10/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to ask how the various criteria are weighted. The MSU's that you have a problem with have won one or more NCAA championships and have more Final 4 appearances than ND's 1.

10/10/2006 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

I've edited the entry to clarify what the "what the hell" category means. It doesn't mean those programs aren't accomplished, but rather that ND should be more capable of success than those programs and should have done more by now.

10/10/2006 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 'all time' modifier skews this list substantially, especially when looking at schools with success in both, or multiple, sports. I can only assume OSU is getting major credit for the Jerry West era.

Florida and Texas are the only schools able to have success in both football and bball at same time in recent history. You could look at Stanford and their Sears Cup success, but I would prefer accoplishments biased toward the major sports.

10/10/2006 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that football program was also suffering during most of the same years as basketball. I would love to see basketball succeed, but I am more worried about football first. We have not yet regained the level of dominance achieved in past eras. To me, a basketball NC would be nice, but not as much as football.

10/10/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NC State has two national championships, and both are in the modern era, dude, so I think I can guess what the heck they are doing in there.

10/11/2006 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Want to move up the list Mike Montegomery is the answer!!!! he knows how to recruit at a Higher Learning University.

10/11/2006 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm confused by much of this ranking system all together. I do not understand how programs like Ohio St. or Utah come in ahead of Syracuse, or how any Ivy League program comes in ahead of Georgetown. I guess it comes down to the criteria they used.

Also, ElK, I'm not sure if you object more to our place on this ranking, our to the leadership of Notre Dame allowing us to be righfully ranked 39th, or some of both. It sounds like more of the latter. I don't know where we can whine since it looks like the list skews to the recent as you've said. For the last 15 years our body of works consists of 3? 1st Team All Americans(Monty Williams, Garrity, Murphy) and a blowout loss in the Sweet 16. I don't think that's too impressive, especially when you consider that those McCleod teams from 1992-1998 were a disgrace to the word "competition."

10/11/2006 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

It's some of both. ND basketball should never have been allowed to degrade to the point where it (probably correctly) was ranked #39 on a list like this.

I've no doubt most of the other teams are deserving. But the point is ND shouldn't have let those teams pass them, and now needs to work to move to a place ahead of them.

10/11/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Utah? How about 4 Final Fours, including the '44 title to go with 28 tourney appearances. 9th winningest program. Granted they've been in the MWC, WAC, Skyline conferences, but they've got a boatload of titles. They've had a bunch of 1st rounders - Bogut, Van Horn, Miller, recently. They're probably ranked where they should be.

10/11/2006 08:41:00 PM  

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