Friday, March 29, 2013

Did CSU miss a chance to move up?

Going into the last weekend of the Horizon League schedule in 2010-11, Cleveland State was in first place with Milwaukee and Green Bay visiting the Wolstein Center.

The Vikings, led by future first-round draft pick Norris Cole, had a chance to earn homecourt advantage and a bye to the semifinals of the league tournament.

But an 87-83 loss to Milwaukee in the penultimate game of the regular season stripped the Vikings of those luxuries. With no bye, they beat UIC and Wright State in the early rounds of the HL tournament before losing to Butler in a semifinal and setting for the NIT.

What if the Vikings hadn't lost that game, and won the conference tournament on their home court to advance to the Big Dance for the second time in three years?

Could those NCAA tournament berths, plus producing an NBA player, have given CSU enough momentum to move up and out of the Horizon League, as Butler has?

CSU wouldn't end up in the new Big East like the Bulldogs, because it is neither Catholic nor private (although the Vikings might have put up more of a fight than DePaul has in the past few years).

But the spots vacated by schools moving out of the Atlantic 10 or the Missouri Valley could be for the taking by a non-football school like CSU, right?

Maybe not.

Yes, CSU started a nice run with an NCAA tournament bid in 2009, and they should have gotten more out of the 2011 season. Yes, Cleveland is a big-enough market.

But CSU runs into trouble because it's not a big part of the market. Cleveland has two all-sports radio stations, and CSU games aren't on either of them. Cleveland also has two regional sports TV networks, but eight of the Vikings' 10 TV appearances in 2012-13 were on ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN 3. This is a pro sports town first, Ohio State second. CSU and the MAC get what's left.

Also, even with the capacity in the Wolstein Center cut from 13,610 to 8,500 by a curtain, they are lucky to draw half the house.

Perhaps some more attractive opponents would help CSU sell more air time and tickets.

But there seems to be a feeling that if CSU can't move up to a higher-profile basketball-first league during all the conference shuffling going on now, when will it?

- Howard Primer


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