Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Contemplating the future

Freddy's three thoughts of today's events ...

1. Feeling like-minded: Sorry to bring up a term that rubbed so many people (myself included) five years ago, but does Minnesota State's announcement Wednesday that it has applied to join the NCHC mean it's a different program than it was five years ago? Well, it should because it is. Since the first six NCHC teams (St. Cloud State and Western Michigan came later) got together on this day (July 13) in 2011 to announce their like-mindedness, Minnesota State has undergone quite the extreme makeover, especially once Mike Hastings came aboard as coach. The program has won 100 games in four seasons and has been one of, if not the best team in the new WCHA. The Verizon Wireless Center has been modernized both for the team and the fans and the commitment of support from the MSU administration is real and visible. The Mavericks might have been ignored in 2011 (see below), but they've put themselves into a position to be considered now.

2. What are the chances? Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald writes that the NCHC's decision on expansion could come by October. He also says the yay or nay on MSU largely depends on what the NCHC wants to do with Arizona State, which is looking for a conference home right now. If the league lets in the Sun Devils, it will want a 10th team. Would MSU be the perfect fit? If what I wrote above fits into their criteria, so does geography. According to a cool site that an old map nerd like me could lose hours on, Mankato is basically geographic center (in this case, the center of minimum distance) of the current NCHC (actually, it's closer to New Ulm). MSU would also be a Minnesota school and one close to the Twin Cities where the NCHC is still playing its tournament championship. More local fans could only help that event, provided that league is still doing that in 2018 after the WCHA and the Big Ten abandoned theirs.

3. What about the WCHA? In a statement, commissioner Bill Robertson expressed deep disappointment in MSU's decision to explore other conference options for the future and is hoping to convince the school to stay in the league. The Mavericks may not have a choice, if they're rejected by the NCHC (why it's better to be up front about the potential move, I think). Despite some of the financial issues due to crazy travel and low attendance at conference tournaments, the new WCHA has been good for Minnesota State from a competitive standpoint, and all of MSU's officials spoke positively about the league. Mike Hastings today said he's more concerned about the WCHA this season than what's to come in the future (Hey, his team plays Michigan Tech in a mere 86 days!) A lot of credit has to go to the WCHA and several of its members in the post-realignment era. What MSU, Tech, Ferris State and Bowling Green (Would the Falcons be a potential NCHC member? Western Michigan and Miami would like that.) have done has been impressive, and it will continue to be a tough league for its members and nonconference opponents this season, I believe. But MSU does have to look out for itself and its best interests. If there was a lesson to be learned five years ago, it was that.

Deep thought: Speaking of five years ago, I recall being asked about what Minnesota State did or didn't do to not get invited to the NCHC the first time around. (Remember: St. Cloud State wasn't on the original guest list either.). My thought was that MSU wasn't on their minds. The top teams went off together to form a Super Conference (remember that term?). Minnesota State wasn't on the radar back then. Sort of reminds me of one of the great lines in Casablanca:

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