The future – immediate and distant – is bright

After taking a full day to go over my thoughts on the game, I’ve decided to come on here and share my thoughts before we get into the NIT Bracketology that will paper this website until Sunday night.

Coach Graves kept his word, he came and got us.

First off, congratulations to Butler.  The better team on Tuesday won that game, and you couldn’t have asked for better guys – led by coach Brad Stevens and his second, Matt Graves – to win a tournament championship.

If anything, I hope that our program realizes that if we eliminate as much as four RPI torpedoes, we’re in the discussion for an at-large bid.  Turn losses to Western Michigan, DePaul, Loyola and Buffalo into victories, and the team’s RPI is hanging in the forties range with a 23-9 record, and three top-50 wins compared to one sub-125 loss.  In this season, that’s an at-large team currently safe in the field.  Not to mention a home victory over Loyola would have won the Horizon League regular-season championship outright on that Thursday in Cleveland.

Milwaukee has the pieces to be an at-large team, we just had a poor shooting effort combined with a tremendous defensive one from Butler.

J.J. Panoske is just one home run in a stellar 2011 recruiting class.

Next season, we have players gone that are huge contributors this season.  Tone Boyle, though streaky at times, was the lynch pin to several victories this season.  He won games for us against Niagara and in the semi-finals against Valparaiso, which should be the game everyone looks towards when talking about Boyle.  His final season marked a huge improvement in his defense.

Anthony Hill will be much more difficult to replace.  He has become, going into the NIT, one of the five best post players in program history.  His development from an unsure outside shooter in high school to the most dominant post player in the Horizon League is a testament to the coaching job done by Rob Jeter, Brian Bidlingmyer, Chad Boudreau and Duffy Conroy (not to mention Chip MacKenzie and Ronnie Jones).

I do hope that the team takes to the NIT like it did to the back half of the conference season.  While it’s not an NCAA appearance, they do have the talent to make a deep run in the NIT and absolutely can make it to Madison Square Garden.  Take this loss to Butler and use it as motivation to go out a champion of a post season tournament, something never done in this school’s history.  Only four schools in the country get to end their season with a victory, and an NIT championship banner would look mighty nice on the wall at the U.S. Cellular Arena (for a couple years, anyway).

The future is looking awfully bright, and legitimately so.  Some points:

Get to know this face - this is the man who will lead us and awaken this sleeping giant.

– The incoming recruiting class of Shaq Boga and J.J. Panoske, added with redshirts James Haarsma (transfer junior) and Evan Richard (freshman), the 2011 recruiting class looks, on paper, to be the greatest recruiting class in the school’s history.  Obviously, on paper is just that and they have to get on court and graduate before we really know, but it makes for an exciting future.  And even more so with the potential recruits that we’re still trying to sign for next season.

– If all goes the way we want it to, the Interim tag will be ripped off Mike Lovell’s job title.  His time as IC since Carlos Santiago’s departure has been exactly what we needed, and he is just the man to take us into the future, academically and athletically.  He already has hit one home run as interim chancellor, and that’s with the hiring of…

– Rick Costello’s short term as Athletic Director has got everybody excited.  The very public departure of short term AD George Koonce had a lot of people in poor spirits for the past year, but Costello has really won over everyone I’ve talked to (and I talk to a lot of people – can’t give specifics of course).  He has his work cut out for him, but his track record at Rutgers, Delaware State and South Florida has shown that he can accomplish everything we need him to do, and that gives me a great feeling heading into our first offseason with a full staff in…how many years?

The basketball program will make it back to the NCAA Tournament in the future; of this much I am certain.  But they have a chance here to win postseason games, and the possibility of an NIT Championship is desirable.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the NIT and spend the next few days working on our own little Bracketology.

War Milwaukee!!!

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