I don't want to parse your question too much (even though that's what we do!) - it's a good one.
We all agree that we want to be consistently upper-division B1G. Everything else you want flows from that - NCAA tourneys, etc.
We all agree that we aren't there - the numbers are obvious.
We disagree (presumably) on the best way to get there from where we are right now.
I don't think arbitrary timelines are useful (or completely useless - they are certainly implied by anyone judging progress).
To me the metric is: Are we making meaningful progress toward the goal of upper-half B1G finishes?
I don't think we had been until the Reaves/Watkins recruiting class. It is easy to imagine (as the PC critics have) that we would be making more progress following the Carr/Stevens/
Hampton/Bostick recruiting class.
This year, you have to rationalize the results a bit with close-game outcomes, schedule strength, reliance on freshmen. The defense has been good and the Asst% is promising, but the offense has just been woeful.
As far as next year, the B1G finish is likely to be a great measurement, and should be fine. In close cases, I'd look past that to the underlying stats, though.
- Job 1: Recruiting. What's that trend?
- Job 2: Playing well. What's that trend?
It's conceivable we could fall short of the NCAAs next year but be playing and recruiting well. (GIVEN: If this group stays intact, it's hard from the current vantage point to imagine a stats-based case for playing well and ending up with a losing record.)
So, if next year is some kind of a close call from the B1G standings/W-L standpoint, to evaluate how the best way to get to the goal from where we are right then, I would look at:
Strength of 2017 signees
Quality of play of 2017-18 team (beyond W-L)
- Expected value of a coaching change
No. 3 is impacted by Barbour's expectation about whom she could land. Ideally, she would have someone in hand before making any change.
Sorry if that seems to dodge it, but by any facile analysis, we'd already be doing the Missouri thing.