Big 10 Ready To Expand Its Presence In The NCAA Tournament This Year
Shannon Boy, NCAAMReview Author
A generation or two ago if you were to ask sports fans about which teams, athletes or coaches were their favorites in the Big 10 Conference you would be sure to hear names such as Woody Hayes, Drew Brees, Joe Paterno, Desmond Howard, Eddie George and so on.
But this is today’s Big 10 Conference and one question you may be counterasked with today is, “Football or basketball?”
Yes… the Big 10 no longer has a giant footprint on the college football world but also on the hardwood. Today sports fans of the Big 10 can not only remember names from their favorite gridiron days but also the names from the arenas in the winter.
Steve Alford, Damon Bailey, The Fab Five, Magic Johnson, The Badgers, Bobby Knight, Mike Conley and Draymond Green just to name a few.
There is no denying what time of year it is in the Big 10 right now. On September 2, 2017, the passion that defines college football in the Big House, Beaver Stadium, Camp Randall and Ohio Stadium among others will be at a fever pitch. Soon though (to paraphrase a quote from Game of Thrones and my personal favorite), ‘Winter Will Be Coming….. “. So who will be the names that will be rolling off the tongues of many diehard hoop fans this season when winter does come?
Big 10 Preview:
2016-17 finish – #1
If it is something that the Boilermakers will not be lacking it is height. This year’s returning team is stacked with seven players over 6’4 and four of those over 6’8. Purdue has always been known for intensity since the days of Gene Keady and now with coach Matt Painter at the helm, nothing has really changed. The Boilermakers will be sure to look to attack the rim over and over by sheer power on the interior while bringing huge basket protection with great length on the defensive end.
2016-17 finish – #2
Wisconsin had 13 players on the roster last year who were not seniors and all but two of them were rookies and sophs. So in a season that saw them lose to Florida in the Sweet 16 on a 4 second sprint up the floor on a floating 3 pointer by guard Chris Chiozza in OT, it would be a safe bet to be sure that the Badgers want nothing more than to make sure that they come into the season with a united mindset of taking care of business in regulation. Lets also make it known that one of the mainstays for the Big 10 Conference in the NCAA Tourney the past few years has been the Badgers. Tough, gritty and a hit you in the mouth attitude has propelled them into basketball’s elites of teams you really don’t want to play.
Lets take a look at a short preview of the rest of the teams in the Big 10 and use it as an appetizer for the upcoming season. Here we go!
Big 10 Conference:
The Contenders Race
Maryland – Coach Mark Turgeon puts a team on a floor every year ready to compete. Do not overlook the Terps in their quest to gain the top spot in the Big 10 Conference. College Park is as tough a place to play as anywhere.
Michigan State – Coach Tom Izzo. Does anything else really need to be said? The Spartans are always a tough out in the regular season or the NCAA Tourney. Fab Frosh Miles Bridges will need to carry a big load, but the Spartans should have enough to make the big dance.
Northwestern – Ok… this is not a typo. Northwestern is a team that does not need to be overlooked. Chris Collins is slowly building a powerhouse in the north and that was evident by the way the Wildcats showed that they belonged in the NCAA Tourney last year. Northwestern was one of, if not the, most exciting teams in the tourney last year. I mean…they did take National Finalist Gonzaga to the wire. The Wildcats are for real.
Michigan – Coach Beilein went from the blue and gold of West Virginia and went to the maize and blue of Michigan. What has he done? Same as in the Mountaineer state…. win! Michigan is a team that is waiting to break out and become a regular at the top of the Big 10 pack. Look for the Wolverines to be a factor in who wins the day in the Big 10 Conference this year after last years showing in the NCAA Tourney.
Works In Progress
Coaching changes are always a tough thing no matter how credible of a coach you get. In the Hoosier state, basketball is king…. and queen……and the prince and princesses. Indiana fans are always strong supporters of their teams and diehard fans but they also long for the days when Keith Smart and Isaiah Thomas took them to the promise land. No matter the coach, coaching transitions will be tough….but beware…. It is Assembly Hall and this isn’t just basketball…..its Indiana!
As in Bloomington, there is a coaching change and Thad Matta isn’t just your average Joe. Thad Matta, just like Tom Crean (the dismissed coach at Indiana) is a winner. The college coaching business is a tough business and like the music industry…it can be very fickle sometimes. Cue Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes hired away Coach Holtmann from Butler University. So what has Holtmann done so far? Four days in he suspended player Derek Funderburk, but he has also aligned himself with head football coach Urban Meyer in wanting to establish a winning culture at Ohio State. So while the Buckeyes may be going through some transition times it is clear to see that Coach Holtmann is putting together a culture at Ohio State that is one to be dealt with in the future. Just look at what he did when he stepped in at Butler. Butler hasn’t missed a beat….but they will miss Chris Holtmann.
Ok. Rutgers is definitely a work in progress. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance being in 1991, Coach Steve Pikiell took on a task that is equal to the President of the United States getting rid of our trillions of dollars of debt. But…this is why we love college basketball. A year before taking the Rutgers job, he took Stony Brook to the NCAA Tourney with a 28-7 record. So why write so much about the Scarlet Knights? Coach Pikiell just brought in a 3-star guard from the small mountain town of Gate City, Virginia. You think Rutgers has mountains to climb? Gate City was the only opening in the Appalachian Mountain range in the 1700’s that allowed Daniel Boone to head to Kentucky to explore the west and Cumberland Gap. If Daniel Boone doesn’t face down Indian massacres and the death of his son to keep going west who knows how soon our country would have expanded westward. But soon after, everyone else headed west and well… you know what happened next. So maybe it’s a great omen for the Scarlet Knights to get a small town three star guard who literally flew under the radar with over 40 dunks his junior year and had an over 60 point showing in a regional state tournament game. Pikiell has also brought in a 4 star recruit Mamadou Doucoure who locks in at a solid 6’9 220, and looks to help out the Rutgers frontcourt. Let it be known that while they have been near the bottom, the Scarlet Knights are looking to make waves in the Big 10 Conference.