Big 10 Basketball’s Evolution to Elite
It’s deja vu for Indiana, becoming the first team since Duke to earn and lose a No. 1 ranking three consecutive times in the regular season.
Pouring salt in the wound, all three losses have come to unranked teams (Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin). The loss and rank of Indiana should not be an indictment on Indiana, but confirmation of the league’s status as the best conference in basketball.
Many top analysts proclaim the Big 10 is this years best basketball conference. Nearly every team can make a case for possessing an All-Big 10 caliber player, while the league hosts at least five teams considered legitimate NCAA title contenders.
The evolution of Big 10 basketball has occurred with systematic hiring’s by each university’s Athletic Directors. A snapshot of the top Big 10 coaches provides insight into the workings of how the conference once again reclaimed its status atop the college landscape.
Purdue - Matt Painter: twice Big 10 coach-of-the-year, he has secured a home with his Alma Mater while averaging nearly 23 wins a season, becoming one of only 11 programs to reach the NCAA tournament in each of the last six seasons.
Wisconsin - Bo Ryan: Ryan is arguably the most underrated coach in the country. In his 12th year coaching at Wisconsin, he boasts a schools-best 268-101 record. His career record (651-204) only trails John Wooden, Roy Williams, Jerry Tarkanian, and Dean Smith in win percentage with coaches of at least 600 career wins. Beyond his five big 10 titles, his most eye opening stat may be his .917 win percentage at the Kohl Center (Home).
Michigan State - Tom Izzo: Izzo owns the longest active Big 10 Men’s basketball resume. Eight National Coach of the year awards, six final four appearances, seven All-Americans, seven Big 10 championships, while graduating 80 percent of players that complete eligibility. In his 18th season head of the Spartan program, he is Michigan State’s all-time winningest coach.
Indiana - Tom Crean: his story at Indiana is still being told. He inherited a program with severe scholarship reductions and hovering NCAA violations. He has rebuilt one of the nation’s most storied college basketball programs from scratch, and led them to a current No. 1 ranking. While at Marquette he averaged over twenty wins in nine seasons by developing NBA talent such as Dwayne Wade.
Ohio State - Thad Matta: known as a top evaluator and recruiter of talent, Matta, in only his eighth season at Ohio State, has already earned five regular season Big 10 conference Championships. Last year’s Final Four appearance was the second of Matta’s career. With the talent flowing through Columbus on an annual basis, expect Ohio State to be a perennial contender in the Big 10.
Michigan - John Beilein: Considered one of the best tactical basketball minds in the country, Belein has resurrected a once proud program. In his fifth seaso,n he has lead the Wolverines to their first Big 10 regular season championship in 26 seasons. In addition by recording his third 20-win season at Michigan, he became just the second Wolverine coach to win 20-plus games in three of his first five seasons. Michigan is anticipating making another deep run this upcoming NCAA tournament.
Minnesota: Tubby Smith: Last night, he led the Gopher’s to their first win over an AP top-ranked team since 1989. Former Kentucky coach, Smith, has amassed the most wins by a Gopher Coach in his first five years (103), and joins a list of only eight Gopher coaches to reach the 100-win plateau. The ageless Smith has collected national coach-of-the-year honors on three different occasions (1998, 2003, and 2005)
The acquisition of top caliber coaches has been the catalyst for the Big 10’s recent rise to the top of college hoops. With the conference entrusting it’s success to these Coaches it’s safe to say the Big 10 is not a flash in the pan, but a threat to dominance.