New Nebraska coach Tim Miles takes our picture!
Aside from losing my computer cord, I would say today’s Big Ten Basketball Media Day was a success. There were a couple of new faces like Illinois’ John Groce and Nebraska’s Tim Miles and some seasoned B1G vets like MSU’s Tom Izzo and Wiscy’s Bo Ryan. Everyone was excited to congregate in the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, and there was lots of talk about how awesome the conference was going to be this year.
With Indiana picked as preseason champs and Cody Zeller dubbed preseason Player of the Year, there was a lot of hype surrounding the Hoosiers. Let’s not forget that out of the 12 Big Ten Teams, three are ranked in the preseason top 5 (#1 Indy, #4 OSU, #5 Mich) and two more got a top 25 shoutout (#14 MSU and #21 Wiscy). While preseason rankings mean next to nothing, a lot of people think that this is the conference to beat.
Usually these things are done in alphabetical order by team, starting with Illinois and finishing with Wiscy, but this year they mixed it up and went backwards. Our moderator wore a bow tie, which elicited a few comments from coaches along the way, while others were just focused on talking as much as possible (I will refrain from listing who, but I’m sure you could guess).
Wisconsin – Bo Ryan
Ryan was among the jokesters, and commented he thought the bow-tied moderator was the valet guy. Sounds like Wiscy will have some good guards this year, which has Ryan excited. Zach Bohannon, brother of the successful Jason who was also a Badger, is taller, loves the game, is ahead of the others coming in and can shoot 3′s. As for the high rankings in the league, Ryan thinks it’s great for the B1G and great for RPI.
Matt Painter looks like he shed a few pounds.
Purdue – Matt Painter
Purdue’s Painter was next, and it looks like the guy lost some weight! Congrats to him, as his waistband had been expanding as of late. Though he said he was excited, you could tell Painter wasn’t thrilled to report that he lost four starters. He says there is some talent on the Boilermakers, but not a lot of experience. “It’s going to be a youth movement for us,” he said. “I do like our talent level, I don’t like our experience.”
Penn State – Patrick Chambers
Oh yeah this guy! When fresh-faced Chambers took the podium I sort of forgot that he existed. He is excited about going into his second season, and there was a lot of talk surrounded Tim Frazier, who was named to the preseason All-Big Ten Team. When asked about the controversy surrounding the football team, he had this to say regarding recruiting: “I talk to the parents about it and the kids about it and I don’t want it to be the elephant in the room. I would rather get it out in front of it and let’s discuss it and if there are issues, then this might not be the right place for you.”
Ohio State – Thad Matta
Sitting pretty at #4, OSU may have lost William Buford and Jared Sullinger, but they return two all-Big Ten selections including Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Craft. “I think they’re very aware of the challenges that lie ahead,” Matta said of the team, “and I like their demeanor to this point.” Deshaun Thomas is reportedly thinner and lighter, and has a better understanding of the game and is focusing more on defense. When asked about new Illini coach John Groce (who worked under Matta at OSU), Matta said the guy has a lot of passion for the game, and for the University of Illinois.
Northwestern – Bill Carmody
Apparently this is Carmody’s 13th year with NU, so perhaps this will be the lucky year when they finally make the tournament? Without John Shurna, that might be tough. “We have four starters back, we lost a good kid in Shurna and four starters back sounds great, but we have nine guys on our team that have never played for Northwestern,” he said. Drew Crawford will work to replace Shurna as the face (and everything else) of the team.
PSU Coach Patrick Chambers
Nebraska – Tim Miles
The first B1G newbie of the day was Miles, who came out with a huge grin ready to have a lot of fun. He cracked jokes throughout and had this to say about entering the conference “Technically, I haven’t had my brains beat in yet, but I would like to thank the Big Ten for starting us at home against Michigan State, and the beginning of the schedule, thanks, Rick! Santa is going to give him some coal in his stocking.” As a kid, Miles had a dream to turn Notre Dame into a basketball school, but he said he’d like a real challenge and thus came to Nebraska. Before stepping off stage he took a panoramic picture of us media goobers and tweeted it to his followers.
Minnesota -Tubby Smith
Far less energetic than Miles, Smith has been a head coach since 1991, and enters his sixth year as the coach of the Golden Gophers. Things are looking up for the team that has been injury (and other issues) plagued as of late, Minnesota has 11 returning players, including 4 starters. Trevor Mbakwe had a knee injury last year, and some legal trouble (DUI) this year. He’s been cleared to play, and Smith believes he will be able to step in and contribute. Smith had this to say about Mbakwe: “Trevor is a fine young man, hell, I’ve never had a problem with him on the basketball court or in practice or in the classroom. He’s graduated, he’s working on his Masters degree.”
Michigan State -Tom Izzo
MSU has 11 letterwinners returning, and Izzo joked they must have had a lot of walk-ons. The team has some youth and some depth, including guys who have been to the Final Four. With such a strong conference, Izzo knows the season will be tough, and credits the coaches for all of the B1G accolades.
Michigan – John Beilein
New Illini head coach John Groce
With just 3 returning starters (out of five is that really so bad?), Beilein believes he’s got some challenges ahead. “We have challenges because so few of our players have a lot of game experience,” he said. “But, there is great opportunity because of the young talent we have and the returning players who haven’t played
a lot but have worked hard at their game.
Iowa -Fran McCaffery
Coach McCaffery still looks like a chemistry teacher, and kind of speaks like one, too. It was nice to see him get fired up last year when he slammed a chair during a game against MSU, because in these things he doesn’t have much of a spark. “We have to be cautiously optimistic because we’re still a very young team despite the fact that we have 87 percent of our offense back, there is going to be a lot of young players in the mix,” he said. “I think we’re the biggest we’ve been in a long time and the deepest we’ve been in a long time, and I think we have a chance to be very good.”
Indiana – Tom Crean
Just as the media peeps started to get tired, out came the two of the most talkative guys in the bunch. Tom Crean came out without a tie, while pretty much every other coach had a tie that boasted their teams’ colors. Although, I suppose we should be glad he at least wore a sports jacket. Crean spoke for about 10 minutes before a question was even asked of him. But, with all the hype surrounding the team, it’s understandable to be excited. Despite the attention, it’s business as usual and he isn’t taking anything for granted. He had this to say as part of the Zeller lovefest: “Cody Zeller epitomizes so many things about the program and number one is the humble spirit he has. He’s confident but he has a humbleness, and he has a desire to improve.”
Illinois – John Groce
Last but not least, new head coach John Groce came out to the podium with a deep orange tie (maybe a little too dark, but I’ll let it slide) and a nice shiny head. Like football coach Tim Beckman, Groce is pretty intense. Groce had a lot to say about the guys working hard and showing improvement, especially Nanna Egwu, who will be trying to fill the big shoes of a guy that no one really mentioned: Meyers Leonard. Myke Henry, Jo Bertrand and Tracy Abrams were also given shoutouts. As for Brandon Paul’s inconsistency, Groce says they’ve been working on it, but we’ve heard this before. He refers to this Pat Riley quote with Paul: “Coaches will take consistency over greatness any day.” Perhaps that inspiration will do the trick.