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2/11/2008

Ranking the Big Ten coaches

Purdue, Michigan State's opponent Tuesday, is the most surprising team in the Big Ten this year. The Boilermakers are led by freshmen Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore and get big production out of sophomores Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer. None was the type of blue-chip recruit expected to lead Purdue to the NCAA tournament at this stage of their career, but at 19-5, 10-1 the Boilers are an NCAA lock and closing in on their first league title in 12 years.

If voting was today, Purdue's Matt Painter would win Coach of the Year by a wide margin, and that's saying something since the Big Ten has the best collection of coaches in college basketball. Here's how I think they rank, top to (almost) bottom.

1. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin: Routinely does more with less talent than any coach in America.
2. Tom Izzo, Michigan State: Excellent big-game coach and even better motivator
3. Tubby Smith, Minnesota: Besides Izzo, only coach in conference with a national championship
4. Matt Painter, Purdue: The job he's done this year speaks for itself
5. Kelvin Sampson, Indiana: Recruiting improprieties knock him down a notch
6. Thad Matta, Ohio State: Besides Jamar Butler, name one player off their 2006 league title team?
7. Bruce Weber, Illinois: Gets a bad rap for recruiting shortcomings, but excellent in-game coach
8. Todd Lickliter, Iowa: Has gritty Hawkeyes playing above their head with four conference wins
9. John Beilein, Michigan: Very successful at West Virginia; gets downgraded for not coaching to his players' strengths this year

So I left Penn State's Ed DeChellis and Northwestern's Bill Carmody out of my rankings. I actually think both are wise X-and-O men. Unfortunately, there's little chance either succeeds in the Big Ten.

2 Comments:

Blogger World of Isaac said...

dave,

how is ryan better than izzo?

If coaches were judged strictly on regular season performances, than that would be another story...hek, given that criteria, Gene Keady would be a top five coach of all-time....

but Ryan has yet to show he can compete and succeed in the tournmant....

and until then, putting him above Izzo or even a guy like Tubby Smith is a bit shortsighted.

11:19 PM 
Blogger Dave Birkett said...

Isaac, thanks for your thoughts. I really do believe the Big Ten has the best collection of coaches in college basketball so in no way are my rankings meant to slight anyone. In fact, the top three are virtually interchangeable and with a few more years Painter will make it the top four.

As for the Izzo-Ryan debate, Izzo is a fantastic coach. He built MSU into an elite program, won a national championship and did one of the best coaching jobs I've ever seen last year, hands down.

But I put Ryan first on my list for three reasons. Since Ryan took over in 2001, Wisconsin's had two draft picks (Alando Tucker and Devin Harris) to MSU's five, but more conference wins (68 to 61). Head-to-head, Ryan is 8-3 against Izzo. And on a personal note, just about every time I watch Wisconsin play I walk away appreciating Ryan's ability.

This is a great debate because there's no wrong answer. No matter who you prefer, you're splitting hairs to get there.

11:50 AM 

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