Coach Weber at the B1G Media Day
What a whirlwind day! Even though it ended at 12, it started before 6am for this gal. Wisconsin’s basketball coach Bo Ryan said it best: “It’s great to be here with the idea that everybody is still undefeated and we’re all going to see what kind of mix we can put our teams into.”
Optimism was infectious today at the Big Ten Media Day at the Crowne Plaza Hotel O’Hare, as that’s how coaches always act at the beginning of the season. Some coaches (Thad Matta, Ryan) have more to be excited about than others (Patrick Chambers, Fran McCaffery) and then there are the coaches who have no clue what to expect (Bruce Weber, Tom Izzo).
The day began with Tubby Smith up first, and boy was he looking sleepy. While Smith has a guy on the preseason Big Ten Team in Trevor Mbakwe, it’s not clear what else he is working with, and he lamented over the loss of what he calls the team’s two best players in Devoe Joseph and Al Nolen. Regardless, Smith boldly stated that he expects for his team to be in the postseason this year.
Nebraska’s Doc Sadler was next, and he seemed pretty stoked to be part of the B1G and praised the way the conference welcomed Nebraska into the fold. He also commented that he might be more excited to play in some of the Big Ten arenas than his players. Sadler would also like to move into Big Ten states as much as possible and steal their recruits. Perhaps he didn’t say it exactly like that, but Nebraska will definitely be scouting some new states now that it has entered the B1G Conference.
Bill Carmody of Northwestern headed to the podium next, and as usual he had a smirk on his face as the lowly reporters asked questions. When asked about how the team will cope with Juice Thompson graduating, he started off on a positive note with this to say: “I never think about replacing a guy. I just think the dynamic changes every year: this guy gets better; this guy improves. You have freshmen coming in and how are they going to fit into the mix.” But then, he finished his statement off with these heartwarming words: “I’m forgetting about Thompson.” Okay, then.
When asked the inevitable question about whether there is added pressure to get to the NCAA Tournament because his team has never been, he had this to say: “I was hoping to get through this conference, press conference without that. But I guess five questions in it’s all right.” He continued on to say that this year the team has a shot. Well, technically ever year they have a shot, no?
Penn State's New Coach
Ohio State took the floor next, and as much as I want to dislike Thad Matta, I can’t. He is clearly sitting pretty on the top of the Big Ten, but he was humble throughout the interview. He commented that Jared Sullinger is stronger, faster and a better player than last year, which is not something any other team wants to hear.
Penn State’s new coach Patrick Chambers is all of 12 years old, and not quite hip to the fact that PSU doesn’t have a prayer this year without Talor Battle. Regardless, he was giddy as a school boy to be up at the podium talking about his team: “Our message is we’re a great program, great institution, a young coach that’s going to be there for you and who is going to drive you but is also going to put an arm around you, love you up a little too.” I wracked my brain to come up with a question for the poor guy to stop the sound of nothing but camera’s whirring, but even I was at a loss to help him out.
Of course the Purdue topic of discussion was the return of Robbie Hummel: “A lot of times when you have guys that have success and they’re out for a little while, I think it gets a little mythical, like they had a cape when they played before,” Matt Painter commented. He also noted that the Mackey renovations didn’t affect the team, though I’m not sure why they would have.
Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan came next, and the seasoned professional is a pro at sitting at the mic and announcing his excitement for the upcoming season. Looks like Jordan Taylor will need to deliver because a lot of hopes are pinned on his PG shoulders. Best quote: “Bruesewitz was not a McDonald’s All-American, despite what he looked like with that red wig, with his red — I mean, not wig, his red hair. He was called Ronald McDonald at a few places.”
Coach Weber was next, but of course he’ll get his own special treatment in a different post.
Let’s be honest, after Weber my mind wandered a bit, but luckily good ol’ Tom Crean was up next to bring be back to reality. For one thing, Crean was all shades of brown/orange as if he went to the spray tanning booth especially for this event. Luckily, he was wearing a suit, rather than the track suit he showed up in at his first game in Champaign. Crean did a lot of talking about how the team has more experience and this is going to be the year that they break through, though I feel like he’s said that in the past. A lot of attention was paid to Cody Zeller, who may or may not be the second coming in Bloomington. Let’s take a look at this beautiful story from Crean about Zeller:
Northwestern's Carmody, right before the smirk.
“We were scrimmaging and we were playing some short games and he wasn’t touching the ball much, and the team that was playing with him wasn’t winning the game. And stopped practice in a very emphatic way and said that the basket didn’t count — or we weren’t going to score unless he touched it. It didn’t mean he had to score it, but he had to touch it in a scoring position.” – No ego there!
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery took the podium next, and he still could be mistaken for a chemistry professor. Apparently Iowa has a lot of injuries this year. The room was slightly more animated than during PSU.
The Michigans were the last to go, with John Beilein going first. Everyone was very concerned with the loss of Darius Miles to the NBA, or rather to the lockout, but Beilein looked rather confident. Many people think that Michigan is going to be a surprise this year and some polls have them ranked in the top 25 for the preseason. My take, eh, we’ll see.
Last but never least was Tom Izzo of Michigan State. Like Illinois, MSU is in a year of transitions. Draymond Green is on the preseason B1G team, but the rest of the team is rather young. When introduced by the Bow Tie Moderator as having two returning starters, Izzo joked that he wasn’t sure who the second starter was. When asked if he enjoys uncertain seasons like this, Izzo remarked: “Hell no!” Though he pointed out that if the bad seasons are made up of winning 19 games, playing a tough schedule and getting a Tourney big, then it’s not all that bad. Izzo doesn’t like to be an underdog, but he is enjoying the challenge.
And that’s all the news that’s fit to report from the B1G Basketball Media Day! Stay tuned for a report strictly on the Illini, and whether or not Brandon Paul will be sporting a mohawk again this season.
Crean's tan is easier to see next to bow-tie guy.