Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the Big Ten

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Michigan State edges Ohio State in balanced crop of coaches

Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the Big Ten in 2014

The SEC has football dominance. The ACC has the defending football national champion and three Basketball Hall of Fame coaches. The American has the defending basketball national champion.

However, one of the strongest leagues in terms of football and basketball coaching tandems is the Big Ten.

Names like Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, John Beilein and Thad Matta would end up on anyone’s list of top 20 coaches in college basketball right now. Tim Miles and Richard Pitino are among the league’s rising stars. Meanwhile, the football side has seen marked improvement. Adding Urban Meyer and James Franklin from the SEC has added an edge to the Big Ten football coaching ranks. Kevin Wilson and Jerry Kill have at least made their programs more competitive.

Where the SEC and Pac-12 had few schools with balance between their basketball and football coaches, the Big Ten is flush with them.

1. Michigan State
Football:
Mark Dantonio | Basketball: Tom Izzo

The Spartans have a good chance of sweeping Big Ten coach of the year honors with Dantonio already receiving both the coaches’ and media awards with a Rose Bowl-winning season. Izzo will have some tough competition with the coaches at Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota for basketball honors, but the Spartans could still win a conference title despite a rash of injuries to key players. A healthy basketball squad this season would be in contention for Izzo’s second national title and seventh Final Four.

2. Ohio State
Football:
Urban Meyer | Basketball: Thad Matta

Meyer is well on his way to replicating his Florida tenure at Ohio State. The Buckeyes won his first 24 games before losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and Clemson in the Orange Bowl. This is not Matta’s most complete team on the basketball side, but he’s led Ohio State to at least a share of the conference regular season title five times, the conference tournament title four times and a Final Four appearance twice.

3. Wisconsin
Football:
Gary Andersen | Basketball: Bo Ryan

Ryan’s consistency at Wisconsin has been astounding with NCAA Tournament bids and top four finishes in the Big Ten for every year of his tenure since 2001-02. Moreover, Ryan is 12-3 against Izzo and 13-1 against Michigan’s John Beilein. The only thing missing from his resume is a deep NCAA Tournament run. Andersen also kept the football program a consistent program in the Big Ten. In his first season, the Badgers went 9-4, with three of those losses coming by one score.

4. Michigan
Football:
Brady Hoke | Basketball: John Beilein

One thing we’ve learned over the years: Never count out a Beilein-coached team. A season after losing the national player of the year in Trey Burke and playing most of the season without rising star Mitch McGary, the Wolverines remain in contention for the Big Ten title. On the football side, Hoke appeared to have Michigan on the path to Rose Bowl contention, but the Wolverines’ win total has decreased in each of the last three seasons.

5. Iowa
Football:
Kirk Ferentz | Basketball: Fran McCaffery

Ferentz has had only one 10-win season and top-10 finish since the Hawkeyes did so three seasons in a row from 2002-04. Still, Iowa enjoyed rebound season in 2013, finishing with its first winning record in the Big Ten since 2009. In four seasons, McCaffery has rebuilt an Iowa program that hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and hasn’t won a Tournament game since 2001.

6. Indiana
Football:
Kevin Wilson | Basketball: Tom Crean

If Wilson can find a defense to match the offense in Bloomington, this tandem will rise near the top. The Hoosiers have improved from 0-8 to 2-6 to 3-5 in the Big Ten in his three seasons. Though Indiana’s disappointing 2013-14 season began with a Sweet 16 exit from the NCAA Tournament last year, Indiana emerged from NCAA sanctions to spend much of last season ranked No. 1.

7. Minnesota
Football:
Jerry Kill | Basketball: Richard Pitino

Kill’s program has enjoyed incremental improvement in each of his three seasons, remarkable given that Minnesota finished 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten even as Kill was limited for seven games while he dealt with epilepsy. Pitino, the youngest basketball coach in the Big Ten, has the Gophers in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth in his first season.

8. Nebraska
Football:
Bo Pelini | Basketball: Tim Miles

Pelini will need to use the Gator Bowl victory over Georgia to turn the momentum for his program. Nebraska is consistent, but a little too consistent for fans’ tastes. The Huskers have lost four games each season under Pelini, including a few head-scratchers. The charismatic Miles has Nebraska in postseason contention in 2013-14 after going 5-13 in his first season.

9. Northwestern
Football:
Pat Fitzgerald | Basketball: Chris Collins

Fitzgerald generally gets the most out of his team, making last year’s 0-7 finish that much more befuddling. The losing season ended Northwestern’s streak of five consecutive bowl games, but five postseason appearances in six years outpaces any other coach in Northwestern’s history. Collins, a former Duke assistant, is early in his tenure with the basketball program, but the Wildcats already earned road wins over Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota during his tenure.

10. Penn State
Football:
James Franklin | Basketball: Pat Chambers

If Franklin can weather the next few years of NCAA sanctions, the Pennsylvania native who led Vanderbilt to three consecutive bowl games could return the Nittany Lions into a Big Ten title contender in short order. Penn State is one of the toughest basketball jobs in the league, but the Nittany Lions have already topped their win total from each of Chambers’ first two seasons.

11. Maryland
Football:
Randy Edsall | Basketball: Mark Turgeon

After a transfer-filled first season and injury-plagued second season, Edsall’s program showed signs of momentum in Year 3 as the Terrapins went 7-6. With a 3-5 record in conference play, Edsall will be hard-pressed to show more progress in the first season in the Big Ten. Maryland still has a way to go before it is a power in basketball again. Turgeon is seeking his first winning ACC season in three years with the Terps.

12. Purdue
Football:
Darrell Hazell | Basketball: Matt Painter

Hazell built from the ground up at Kent State, experience he’ll need to pull Purdue out of the 1-11 hole from his first season. Painter’s program was in Big Ten title contention when Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore were on campus, though they couldn’t all stay healthy at the same time. Since then, Purdue has struggled to stay above .500 in the league.

13. Illinois
Football:
Tim Beckman | Basketball: John Groce

Groce had a veteran team in his first season, leading the Illini to 23 wins, the Maui Invitational title and the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. This year’s squad has been a team in transition hovering around the .500 mark. Beckman doubled his win total in his second season, but going from two wins to four probably isn’t what Illinois expected when they hired the successful Toledo coach.

14. Rutgers
Football:
Kyle Flood | Basketball: Eddie Jordan

Not great news for a Rutgers program taking a step up in both sports in the Big Ten. Jordan has NBA credentials, but his first season has been a rough ride in the American. After a starting 7-0, Flood is 8-11 in his last 19 games.
 

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