by Troy Sparks
Now that the Packers are done for the season, it’s time to review the state of the four NCAA Division I Basketball teams in Milwaukee. And the outlook doesn’t look that promising for two of them.
The Marquette and UW-Milwaukee men’s and women’s teams are supposed to entertain those who watch them at their home games, but the fans are not getting their money’s worth.
When you look at the programs, the losing by two of those teams are magnified ten times over.
Without a football team to cover the failures of the UWM men’s and women’s teams and take the attention off all that losing, the accountability of those programs fall on the head coaches.
In the coaching business, you are judged by the wins and losses. You don’t see many coaches stick around if they’re losing.
Sometimes, a coach might get a pass if he or she has a bad season and then they promise to do better the next time.
So what about the coaches who are on the job more than ten years? Either the athletic director likes them as a person in addition to being a coach or there’s really no one who wants to stick around, instead using a low profile job as a stepping stone for that next big job if they’re successful.
Take MU men’s coach Buzz Williams. He has been successful every year that the Golden Eagles competed in the Big East.
He led his teams to the NCAA Tournament every year as the head man and back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances.
No one gives Marquette a chance to compete in the toughest conference in the country.
The team likes being the underdog because they sneak up and surprise some people, in spite of being undersized and without an All-American candidate this year.
Williams must be doing something right because for the last four years, he had the best players on the team either drafted in the NBA or playing professionally on the other side of the globe.
And in the midst of a successful program, he’s been mentioned as a candidate for other higher profile jobs.
For a team that was predicted to finish in the middle of the pack, the Golden Eagles sits third in the Big East Conference with a 4-1 record and 13-4 overall. It looks like they will make it to the NCAA Tournament again.
The same can’t be said about the MU women’s team. Coach Terri Mitchell has been on the job for a long time, and she likes her job.
Unfortunately, she might be long on tenure but short on time for an NCAA tourney bid. She doesn’t have a top-20 program, but there are some hard-working young women on that squad.
Right now, the women are about in the middle of the pack of the Big East with a 2-2 record and are 10-7 overall.
The Lady Golden Eagles have been to the NCAA Tournament a handful of times and to the WNIT plenty of times, winning the WNIT Championship once.
If the pressure is on Mitchell to get her team to the Big Dance, then maybe she isn’t showing it. They would have to basically be in the Big East postseason title game to get an at-large bid.
It’s tough when they have three or four of the teams in their conference who are ranked in the top-25. The MU women have to make the most of what’s left of their season.
Probably the biggest disappointment of the four Division I college teams in the city are the UWM men’s team. Here’s a team that made the NCAA’s two years in a row.
The year before Rob Jeter became head coach, they made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
The next year, which was his first, the Panthers made it to the second round.
Since then, they haven’t had much postseason success.
Moving the home games back on campus from the U.S. Cellular Arena was supposed to increase attendance and draw enthusiasm to the program. That decision didn’t sit too well with arena officials.
It doesn’t matter because they still get the same results as far as attendance goes.
They draw big for the big games and get scarce crowds for the not-so-important contests.
Beating Davidson was huge for the Panthers early in the season. Now they are last in the Horizon League with a 1-4 record and 5-14 overall, and that doesn’t include Butler, who left for the Atlantic 10 for better exposure.
Guess they wanted to move on up because they got tired of dominating the Horizon.
Behind the scenes, supporters of the program want someone else as Jeter probably realize that time has passed him by and it’s time for someone else to turn that program around.
Kyle Rechlicz took over for longtime coach Sandy Botham, who took another job in the UWM administration.
It was probably not her choice, but she took it with stride. Unlike the men’s team, the Lady Panthers aren’t in the basement of the Horizon League. They’re one step above Valparaiso, who’s on the bottom looking up.
Before you pass judgment on the women’s 1-2 record and 5-10 overall, give Rechlicz some time to get quality players into the program in the next two years.
If she recruits locally and regionally in the state and maybe bring along some junior college transfers, she will be okay.
So there you go. Four teams with four different outcomes and two of those teams are losing.
It was disappointing when the MU and UWM men’s and women’s teams stopped playing each other for the time being. The MU men’s team has to carry the banner and represent us in the postseason.