When the time comes to announce the Big Ten Conference‘s Coach of the Year, one man is going to rightfully receive the honor he so well deserves, while another man is going to be so wrongfully snubbed of the award that he too deserves.
The two men I’m referring to are Michigan‘s John Beilein and Nebraska‘s Tim Miles. Both have done tremendous jobs this season, and the cool part about all of this is the fact that they come from two vastly different situations.
With Beilein, his Wolverines were coming off of a season that saw them reach the national championship game for the first time in 20 years. Furthermore, Michigan is Michigan and expectations in Ann Arbor are always sky high. Sure, this year’s team lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA, but still, they returned preseason All-American and another future lottery pick in Mitch McGary.
Michigan was fine. It was ranked No. 7 in the AP poll to start the season; led by McGary, the Wolverines were fully expected to once again challenge for a championship.
Fast forward to the way this season has actually played out: McGary’s dealt with back problems that have limited him to only eight games. Additionally, the Wolverines started the year 6-4 and that start included a loss to Charlotte. After those first 10 games, people greatly questioned this team and wondered whether or not it would even qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Well now, I think it’s safe to say they will. The Wolverines just won the outright Big Ten regular season title and are well on their way to at least a top-three seed in the upcoming NCAA tourney. Nik Stauskas has emerged as a star and Caris LeVert‘s development has been nothing short of incredible. From where they were after 10 games to where they are now, Beilein has done a masterful job this season at Michigan.
The job Miles has done at Nebraska, in only his second season, is equally as impressive. Miles inherited a Nebraska program that was greatly struggling prior to his arrival. The ‘Huskers had not appeared in the big dance since 1998 and there was no indication that this was going to change anytime soon.
Miles’ first year in Lincoln was a rough one — that was to be expected. Nebraska went 15-18 overall and just 5-13 in Big Ten play. Then-freshman Shavon Shields was the only young player worth watching and outside of that, there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about. That’s because at that time, Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford were still not eligible to play. They are now, and Miles deserves a ton of credit for being able to land two top-flight players via transfer.
Petteway is perhaps the leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. The Texas Tech transfer has surged on to the national scene and has become one of the top players and scorers in all of college basketball. Additionally in Pitchford, Miles and company have a big man who can really step outside and stroke it from deep.
What a difference one year can make. Behind the outstanding play of the sophomores Petteway, Pitchford and Shields, Miles’ Huskers have found themselves in an unthinkable position where a spot in the field of 68 is so near in sight. At the start of this season, not one person expected that. What a job Miles has done in resurrecting Nebraska.
Both of these coaches are elite and both have done elite jobs. For that, I’d love to see them both honored.
Matthew Sturgeon is a College Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @OfficialSturg27