Last night's Marquette-Milwaukee game brought an end to the contract between the two schools. While both Marquette head coach Buzz Williams and Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter have expressed interest in the series continuing, the fanbases of both schools have their reservations.
Marquette fans have a valid point: The Golden Eagles won all five games on this contract to move their all time record against the Panthers to 39-0 and have nothing left to prove against a Milwaukee program that has noticeably improved since 1998, the last time the two squads hooked up before this contract.
Milwaukee's side of the argument is solid as well. PantherU's Jimmy Lemke made this point, after pointing out that Milwaukee had turned down 2 for 1 series with Missouri and Cincinnati because of other conflicts:
If Wisconsin and Marquette are willing to work out a deal that is more equitable from the Black and Gold perspective, I’m all for it. Anything more lopsided than a 2-for-1, however, is pushing it too far and would call for the end of the series until the high-majors understand this isn’t low-major "Wisconsin-Milwaukee" anymore.
Otherwise you’re just catering to their desire, for the contract to continue giving us an annual loss by design.
So we have two fanbases that aren't particularly thrilled about the series continuing in its current format. I can't bring myself to really assess things from the UWM side, but let's take a look at what Marquette got out of the deal that just finished and what they could get out of continuing it.
I took a look at where Milwaukee sat in the KenPom rankings during this series to see how this game was affecting Marquette as far as competition goes. Obviously for this season, I can only look at where they are right now as opposed to the end of season numbers for the last year. Milwaukee has never been lower than 155th on the KenPom rankings and has improved since the start of the contract, moving from 155th each of the first two years up to their current ranking of 86th. In addition, Milwaukee has always been in the top half of Marquette's non-conference opponents. So at worst, Milwaukee isn't detracting from Marquette's overall profile at the end of the season.
Let's take a look at finances. In the now expired deal, Marquette paid Milwaukee $58,000 in 2007, $60,000 in 2008 and $62,000 in 2009 for what is the time honored tradition in college basketball of guarantee games. For the game contested last year in US Cellular Arena and last night's game, both schools kept all money generated from their arena. Considering that Marquette announced an attendance of 14,917 for the game, up from 13,593 for Northern Colorado and 12,848 for Jacksonville, it would seem that Marquette is showing a financial benefit from playing Milwaukee. The downside here is that crowd is down from the 18,283 that Marquette drew against Milwaukee on a Friday night back in 2007 in the first game in the contest. I can't speak to how much Marquette pays the Mount St. Mary's and Jacksonvilles of the world to come in, but I have to imagine it's well more than $60,000 considering that Milwaukee's travel expenses to the Bradley Center are exactly the same as for their home games across the street.
So let's ask the question: Is this game better for Marquette than dragging in some 4th rate SWAC or Southern Conference team for a cupcake padding of the schedule? I've long been a proponent of ditching those conferences in favor of the lower end teams in the MAC and Missouri Valley Conference, so I have no problem continuing this series.
What say you?