Wednesday, March 20, 2013

OU Finished....and on the "lousy" MAC

OU had a really tough assignment last night.  They had to fly a long distance on short notice to play a road game against a good team with an unusual style of play, and while the Bobcats made a valiant effort, they eventually fell to the Denver Pioneers.

This gives us a good opportunity to look at the MAC, which has been the subject of two interesting pieces in The Blade recently...only one of them dealt with BG directly.

The first was by John Wagner, the Falcon beat writer and was in his Falcon Fodder blog.  He admitted to waking up "grumpy" and responded to messages blaming him for Shafir not getting MAC POY and then an apparent deluge of angry emails related to the decision to keep Louis Orr around.

He makes the case that BG did it because of concerns about how it would look to buy Orr out while laying faculty off.  Unless I have missed it, he has never even cited a background source for this and it is his theory...but it certainly is plausible.

Then, he moved on to the MAC.  Apparently, Falcon fans have been that the program will fall "further behind" the other programs in the MAC.  Wagner goes on to say that the MAC is not good and therefore, this should not be a concern. ("To which I say: Really?" he writes.)   The idea that the MAC is not good was reinforced today in a column by Dave Hackenberg.  (He quotes an unnamed MAC AD as saying the conference is "lousy.")

I'm not here to argue that point, because I think it is true.  MAC basketball is not strong, especially historically, and I think it is suffering at the hands of the drive to keep FBS football, and I have written that before.

As it relates to BG, however, I believe it makes the state of our men's basketball program look worse and not better, and I do believe we risk falling further behind.

Two years ago, as noted by Hackenberg in another column, BG had 4 players who would end up as 1,000 point scorers:  Thomas, Brown, Crawford and Calhoun.  BG finished 9-7 in conference play.

This year, with just two of those players, BG finished 7-9.

And, as I have already written, it is my belief that the team next year will be hard pressed to be as good as this year's team.  Also, I don't believe there is any reason to think based on the record that Coach Orr can turn the program around.

Now, if going from 9-7 to 7-9 to something less than that (if it happens) isn't falling behind the rest of the MAC, I don't know what is.

And, the fact that the conference is not strong doesn't make it better, it makes it worse.  People aren't passing us, we're sinking.

Now, I think it is true that even a new coach would probably struggle next year.  But you'd be on year one of a turnaround as opposed to having that turnaround not start until 2014 and you might start to combat the "apathy" that people feel around the the same time, you might need to win games for that to truly happen.

Not that a turnaround is a guarantee.  Falcon fans should keep in mind that a new coach is far from a guarantee on its own.  Keith Dambrot has said there are only 3 schools in the MAC making a monetary investment in basketball...Akron, OU and UT.

In fact, data from the US Department of Education, compiled on (part of the mighty shows that BG is last in the MAC in spending on men's basketball, in the most recent data (2011).  BG spends about half what OU does on men's basketball.  (The data also belies Dambrot's claim, but you can see that for yourself.)

In other words, it is more than the Coach.

It has been frustrating to see UT and EMU (for example) go from absolutely awful teams to better than us in short period of time, while our post-Dakich rebuilding program more or less never happened.

This is a good chance to remember that Dan Dakich won 8 conference games in his last two seasons combined, and Coach Orr's teams have never won fewer than 6 in any season.  The program is not thriving (I have said "languishing"), but it has also not reached the Dakich depths--or the depths that UT, EMU, or NIU reached.  Coach Orr might have one winning season and one .500 season, but he also has no seasons under .400.

I think the point Wagner was making was that it isn't that hard to turn things around in this conference.  I just feel like we are falling behind and we're lucky the conference isn't good and for right now we better hope it doesn't get good.

I didn't expect us to buy Orr out and we didn't and I can understand why that might have been.  Even with valid reasons, we shouldn't pretend like it was a decision without downsides.

No comments :