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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Landry the New Apple of Media Eye?

Remember back in the Mark Vershaw years when the shaggy-haired post player was constantly referred to as "the only married player in the Big Ten" on every Badger broadcast?

Or during the Mike Wilkinson era when every ESPN broadcast included gratuitous shots of Wilk's girlfriend in the band, with Steve Lavin following up right away with odd comments that in no way veiled his lecherous thoughts?

Every year, the national and regional media "unearth" one fantastic little tidbit and pound you over the head with it at every opportunity. Last year it was Bo Ryan's Soulja Boy dance video that made the rounds. This year, I'm afraid that Marcus Landry's burgeoning family may fit the bill.

Now that's Dana O'Neil has done a front-page college basketball article on Marcus Landry, the "Family Man", his story has hit the big time. (Pictures, no extra charge!)

The Landry family may get a lot of attention opponent's media sources looking for the human-interest angle when previewing an upcoming game against the Badgers. Not to mention the Big Ten Network, which is always looking for good filler. Joe Krabbenhoft is already a go-to guy for the media and as the only other senior, it would be appropriate for Landry to be another destination for quotes and such. That is, if he has time.

I still enjoy the publicity any time Wisconsin gets it and this actually is a nice storyline regarding Landry's growth as a person, not just as a ball player. In that sense, it would be hard to get sick of hearing about it. As a bonus, the attention paid to Landry spills over to the Badgers as a whole with another article on running the hill. However, I know that at some point in the season, we will hear something about Landry having three kids for the 20th time and the announcer will deliver it as if he really did "his homework" on the game. And I will roll my eyes. Or groan. Or both.

Best of luck to Landry with his enormous responsibilities. He has always been one of those soft-spoken guys that you find it easy to root for and I'm hoping for continued success for him on and off the court.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pro Prospects in the Big Ten

Another way to measure how low the Big Ten Conference's quality has dipped over the years is to look at the individual talents moving on to the next level. is currently evaluating the top NBA prospects from each major conference and released a two-part series (Part 1 :: Part 2) regarding legit pro prospects from the Big Ten.

For comparison's sake, note that the first subject in this series, the Big XII, had a three-part article covering 15 players. So the Big Ten, with only 10 players reviewed, cannot even muster enough star power to call itself the most talented conference in the heartland any more.

Take a look at the top of the list and you see the problem right away: Manny Harris is the top-rated player based on pro potential. Harris is a very nice player and opened some eyes carrying a poor Michigan team last season. But he is far from a household name and a far cry from the big-name value the Big Ten enjoyed with Eric Gordon coming in last year. As the team at Draft Express points out, Harris' game leaves a lot to be desired.

As you might expect, this list has no seniors on it. The seven sophomores and three juniors making the top ten largely consist off players that still have not proven anything yet, though I do like Evan Turner (#2) and Robbie Hummel (#5). With a marginal talent pool so young, none of these players are sure-fire NBA-caliber players yet.

Only three players were drafted from the league this summer, which unfortunately, was the fourth time in the last six years that three or fewer Big Ten players were chosen.

Fun with numbers
Checking those statistics inspired me to dig back further for more Big Ten draft data:

  • There have been 20 NBA drafts since 1989 when the format changed to become a two-round event. The Big Ten has seen 99 of its players drafted in that time -- 53 in the first round and 46 in the second round.
  • In the past 10 years, every conference school has has at least one draft pick, and every one but Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue have at least one first-round selection (Purdue's Carl Landry juuuust missed in 2007).

  • The glory days for men's basketball was back at the turn of the '80s into the '90s. The Big Ten pumped out a total of 17 draft choices in 1989 (7) and 1990 (10), with five first-rounders going each time.

  • From 1994 to 1995, the conference produced 15 total NBA draft picks, and three first-rounders in both years. Remarkably, seven different Big Ten schools produced a total of eight draftees in 1994, the most-widespread output of the past 20 years. (Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin did not have one).

  • The next best run started again in 1998, when 24 Big Ten players were drafted in four years, spearheaded four first-rounders and four second-rounders in 2000.

  • Individually, Michigan State has had the longest streak of any program in the conference, but not when you might expect. At least one Michigan State player got the call on draft day each year from 1991 through 1996. Seven Spartans were drafted in those six consecutive years.

  • Michigan set a record (since tied) in 1990 when four Wolverines were drafted by the NBA. But another team that also failed miserably trying to return to the Final Four that season, Illinois, had three players from it's Flyin' Illini team drafted as well. That was one of five times in the last 20 years when a Big Ten school had exactly three players drafted in one year. Iowa (1989) and Ohio State (2007) are joined by Michigan State, which has achieved the feat twice (2001 and 2006).

  • Broken down by program, the number of players drafted from each school since 1989 looks like this: 16-Michigan; 16-Michigan State; 13-Illinois; 12-Indiana; 10-Iowa; 10-Minnesota; 9-Ohio State; 6-Purdue; 5-Wisconsin; 1-Northwestern; 1-Penn State

Wisconsin's basketball pedigree has come along way, but being low on that last list will keep the Badgers from becoming elite. When you look at the hardware over the last ten years, most of the Badger faithful are alright with that.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

UW (Finally) Releases Schedule

Wisconsin has been slow to unveil its complete men's basketball schedule for the upcoming season due to television coverage intricacies, but now we have the real deal: 2008-09 Wisconsin basketball schedule.

The Badgers will appear on the ESPN family of networks at least nine times this season, with the opportunity to increase the number to 13, according to the schedule. A number of tip-off times at the end of the Big Ten slate are still flexible, which could affect how much national exposure the team will get. If a conference title is on the line, you can bet that the Feb. 22 match up with Michigan State will be a nice candidate to get picked up as a nooner by CBS.

I am still baffled by the decision to put the Marquette game on ESPNU. No matter how you slice it, that will be a big game and ESPNU is the pits. I get the same vibe from ESPN pushing its "U" channel that I get from David Stern pushing the WNBA.

Do you like the NCAA tournament's new 8-team "first-round" format?

What should Wisconsin do with the newly vacated scholarship?

Poll: Who will win the Big Ten?

Poll: Who was Wisconsin's first-half MVP (thru 16 games)?

Poll: How Many Regular Season games will wisconsin win in 2009-10?