Memo to Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney, all Big 10 coaches not named Tom Izzo, the cheerleaders on the Big 10 Network and flag-waving fans who still believe the conference ranks any better than fifth or sixth among the elite basketball leagues in the nation:
Michigan State is in a class by itself. All the rest of you need help, lots of it.
Let's be objective. That's a word you don't often hear when the subject of the Big 10 vs. Big East or ACC or Big 12 or Pac-10 or SEC comes up for discussion. But think for a minute.
After observing this weekend's NCAA tournament games, do you think there is a player, any player, on the Illinois roster who could break into the starting lineup at Connecticut, North Carolina, Villanova, Pittsburgh or Louisville?
For that matter, do you think there is a single player in the Big 10, with the possible exceptions of Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas and 6-10 Goran Suton, who could earn a starting spot on any of those teams?
And would you put Connecticut's Kemba Walker on the bench to make room for Lucas?
Look around the Big 10. Do you see any big, strong, physical, athletic, board-banging power forwards or centers who compare to the bruisers you saw on television this weekend?
Look around the state of Illinois. Most of the high school players named to the all-state teams are guards. There isn't a single 6-9, 250-pounder who reminds you of the head hunters you saw this weekend.
At Illinois, coach Bruce Weber has plenty of guards. But he still is looking for a true point guard. Current starters Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis and his tallest recruits of the future, Tyler Griffey of Ballwin, Mo., Waukegan's Jereme Richmond and Robinson's Meyers Leonard, hardly resemble Louisville's Terrence Williams, Pittsburgh's Dejuan Blair and Sam Young, Connecticut's Jeff Adrien and Villanova's Dante Cunningham.
Be honest. What you witnessed in Villanova/Pittsburgh and Connecticut/Missouri was unlike anything you saw during the Big 10 season in Champaign or Madison or West Lafayette. In fact, I had to check the roster to be sure those were the same Missouri players who lost to Illinois in December in St. Louis.
What transpired this season in the Big 10 and during the NCAA tournament could and should signal a wholesale change in the Big 10's recruiting philosophy, who they recruit and where they recruit.
This is the game the Big 10 used to play--physical, brutal, black-and-white. Now it desperately needs to improve its talent level and return to the way it was--with a big dose of athleticism for good measure--or it will continue to watch the Big East from a soft couch in late March and early April.