The Big Ten once again has perhaps the deepest bench of coaches in the country.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, then that teams like Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin had a hotly contested battle for the regular season title in the Big Ten last season. Each week in 2013-14 seemed to feature a different Big Ten team in the national spotlight.
In other words, if you’re going to get angry at Athlon for ranking your team’s coach third, fourth or fifth in the Big Ten, at least wait to see the national rankings.
The league features Tom Izzo and Thad Matta, whose longevity, consistency, regular season success and postseason wins put them at the top. Not far behind are Tom Crean and John Beilein, who revived proud programs, and Bo Ryan, who defies the odds each season with a contender each year despite a lower recruiting profile.
*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular-season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.
And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.
Other conference coach rankings: ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Record (all at Michigan State): 439-178 overall (.712), 209-95 Big Ten (.693)
NCAA Tournament: 39-16, six Final Fours, one national championship
Tom Izzo will have two McDonald’s All-Americans on his roster in 2013-14 in Keith Appling and Gary Harris, a rarity for the longtime Spartans’ coach. Few coaches have weathered the changes in college basketball as well as Izzo — the changes in the NBA Draft rules, the ups and downs in the Big Ten and all the challenges that come with recruiting. Izzo has assembled the Big Ten’s most consistent program without a glut of first-round draft picks (none since 2006) or early entries to the NBA Draft (none during the one-and-done era). Consider this: Appling and Adreian Payne are looking to avoid becoming the first senior class to play all four years with Izzo and miss the Final Four.
2. Thad Matta, Ohio State
Record at Ohio State: 250-73 overall (.774), 111-45 (.712)
NCAA Tournament: 22-11, two Final Fours
More often than not, Matta has had the most talented roster in the Big Ten, especially since the Thad Five led the Buckeyes to the national championship game in 2007. The Buckeyes have advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in four consecutive seasons, though the 2011 team that stalled in the Sweet 16 was a major postseason disappointment. In 13 seasons as a head coach at Xavier, Butler and Ohio State, Matta has claimed at least a share of a regular season title an astoudning eight times.
3. John Beilein, Michigan
Record at Michigan: 112-85 overall (.589), 55-53 Big Ten (.509)
NCAA Tournament: 13-8, one Final Four
Beilein is, in college basketball coaching terms, a self-made man. He’s never been an assistant, making his route to Michigan that much more unique. But now that he’s made the journey from community college to Le Moyne to Canisius to Richmond to West Virginia to Ann Arbor, we’re getting an idea of what Beilein can do at a Big Ten powerhouse. Beilein is the most successful coach at Michigan since the Fab Five days, and he shows little signs of slowing down. He’s signed elite recruits like Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III while developing a point guard Ohio State ignored in its own backyard (Trey Burke) into the national player of the year.
4. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Record at Wisconsin: 291-113 overall (.720), 144-60 Big Ten (.705)
NCAA Tournament: 16-12
The 2013-14 season was further testament that no matter what happens, Bo Ryan will have a top-four team in the Big Ten. Point guard Jordan Taylor moved on, then heir apparent Josh Gasser was lost for the season with a torn ACL in October. No matter, Wisconsin still finished 12-6 in the Big Ten, finishing in the top four in the league ever season under Ryan. Ryan has good reason to be confident in his formula: He’s been able to develop players in his system year in and year out. In 11 seasons at Wisconsin, Ryan’s teams have ranked in the top 10 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency eight times and in the top 30 of offensive efficiency eight times. The only knock, though, is Wisconsin’s bad luck in the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers haven’t advanced beyond the Sweet 16 since 2005.
5. Tom Crean, Indiana
Record at Indiana: 84-82 overall (.506), 33-57 Big Ten (.367)
NCAA Tournament: 9-7, one Final Four
Crean has brought Indiana back to national prominence in a way that’s been lacking since the Bob Knight era. Crean reestablished Indiana’s recruiting clout in state, starting with the signing of Cody Zeller and continuing with Yogi Ferrell and Jeremy Hollowell. After a breakthrough season which saw Indiana win only its second post-Knight Big Ten title, it’s time to see if Crean can keep Indiana on top.
6. Matt Painter, Purdue
Record at Purdue: 176-95 overall (.649), 84-56 Big Ten (.600)
NCAA Tournament: 8-7
Painter knew he would be rebuilding after the Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore class left campus. The Boilermakers performed admirably under the circumstances in a loaded Big Ten last season, finishing 8-10. This could be a key season for Painter, though, as his program enters the second season of the post-Hummel era.
7. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 54-50 overall (.519), 21-33 Big Ten (.389)
NCAA Tournament: 2-5
McCaffery resurrected Iowa to NIT status the last two seasons, and he should have the Hawkeyes in contention for their first NCAA Tournament since 2006. If Iowa reaches the Tourney, it will be the fourth reclamation job McCaffery has led to the Big Dance, joining Lehigh, UNC Greensboro and Siena.
8. John Groce, Illinois
Record at Illinois: 23-13 overall (.639), 8-10 Big Ten (.444)
NCAA Tournament: 4-3
Groce made an immediate impact at Illinois, leading the Illini to a win in the Maui Invitational, a 12-0 start and victories over Ohio State and Indiana. Not bad for a team that wasn’t nearly as balanced as other top Big Ten programs last season. Groce has an all-time conference record of 42-40 in five seasons as a head coach at Ohio and Illinois.
9. Tim Miles, Nebraska
Record at Nebraska: 15-18 overall (.455), 5-13 Big Ten (.278)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
Nebraska and Penn State are the Big Ten’s toughest jobs, but Miles has two things on his side: Plenty of enthusiasm and a new arena. Miles has already rebuilt one program, improving his win total at Colorado State every season from 2007-08 through 2011-12 and recruiting the core of last season’s 26-9 team.
10. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
Record at Minnesota: First season
NCAA Tournament: None
Pitino showed immediately why he’s more than just a famous name. FIU’s basketball program was a mess after three seasons under Isiah Thomas, but Pitino led the Golden Panthers to the brink of the NCAA Tournament in a two-point loss to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Tournament final. The 11-9 season in conference was FIU’s first winning league record since 1999-2000.
11. Chris Collins, Northwestern
Record: First season
Northwestern is as hopeful as it’s been in a while with Collins taking over the only major conference program that has never made the NCAA Tournament. For better or worse, Collins takes over a program that has made the NIT in four of the last five seasons, but the former Duke assistant is hopeful to push Northwestern over the edge.
12. Pat Chambers, Penn State
Record at Penn State: 22-41 overall (.349), 6-30 Big Ten (.167)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
As if the Penn State job isn’t tough enough, Chambers has dealt with a season-ending injury to Tim Frazier and a transfer from Jermaine Marshall.