One Man's Opinion: Ranking the Big Ten Coaches

Jeff StineCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2009

Welcome to the first installment of my new periodic feature titled One Man's Opinion.  Here I will provide (and support) my personal evaluation of sports figures, programs, or entities in today's sports. 

Some will be just for fun (see my ranking of the Big Ten's cheerleaders here at ).

Most will be to generate serious discussion.  After all, isn't that why our hosts created this most interesting of mediums?

Without further adieu, here is One Man's Opinion of the current crop of Big Ten basketball coaches, starting at 11 and counting down to one.

11) Ed DeChellis (76-99 in seven years at Penn State)

In his 7th year at the helm of the Nittany Lions, DeChellis has had some success.  But while the team had a great year by PSU standards this year, they still failed to make their first NCAA tournament under DeChellis, something Jerry Dunn was able to do twice in his eight year tenure.

A good game coach, DeChellis simply hasn't recruited well enough to compete consistently in the Big Ten.  Although they anticipate the return of All-Conference point guard Talor Battle, DeChellis will lose a tough competitor in Jamelle Cornley and sharpshooters Stanley Pringle and Danny Morrissey and figure to take a step back in 2009-10.

10) Todd Lickliter (28-35 in two seasons at Iowa)

Coach Lickliter inherited a bit of a mess at Iowa from Steve Alford and his rebuilding efforts have been hampered by injuries and departures in his first two years. 

He is starting to put his stamp on the program with young talent like Matt Gatens and Jake Kelly, but his recruiting prospects the next couple of years are just okay and his was the only team to lose to Indiana in Big Ten play this year.

9) John Beilein (30-34 in two years at Michigan)

After coming off the worst season in Michigan history in his debut, Beilein's squad had one way to go, up!  And up they went, improving from 9-22 in 2007-08 to 20-12 in 2008-09. 

But while the had some big wins this year (Duke, UCLA, Purdue), Beilein's team was far too inconsistent.  They seemed to fall in love with the three point shot and frequently forgot 2nd team all Big Ten center Deshawn Sims was on the floor.

To be fair, Beilein doesn't yet have HIS players on the court yet and he did have good success at West Virginia.  Still, I haven't seen enough from him yet on the sideline or in recruiting at Michigan to elevate him above his peers in the Big Ten.

8) Bill Carmody (130-148 in nine years at Northwestern)

This is not so much a knock on Carmody as it is appreciation for the guys above him.  Carmody's guys play hard and his offensive and defensive sets can wreak havoc on any team. 

But withthe recruiting challenges he faces at Northwestern, his teams can't afford to have the mental lapses that frequently occur late in games.  Numerous late game errors in 2008-09 cost the Wildcats their first ever NCAA tournament berth.

7) Thad Matta (123-45 in five years at Ohio State)

This rank may surprise some as being too low, but I think it is deserved.  Matta is a tremendous recruiter, as evidenced by the likes of his ability to lure Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Evan Turner and William Buford to Columbus.

But it's what he does with that talent that drives this ranking down.  Coming off an NIT season that never should have occurred, I think it is indisputable that Ohio State had at worst the second most talent (to Michigan State) in the Big Ten in 2008-09. 

And yet, the best they could muster was a 10-8 finish in the conference and a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament.  Matta has to do better with what he has at his disposal.

6) Tom Crean (6-25 in one year at Indiana)

If Todd Lickliter inherited a mess from Steve Alford, Tom Crean inherited a cyclonic event from Kelvin Sampson.  Given that, you almost have to completely discount this season when evaluating his body of work.  Almost!

While it is true that Crean had Indiana playing with a very high level of effort during a difficult season, they struggled more than a well coached team should have when it came to fundamentals.  With a great recruiting class coming in 2009-10, it will be interesting to see if those fundamental errors continue.

And before you suggest Crean should be rated higher due to the success he had at Marquette, realize that outside of that amazing run to the Final Four with Dwayne Wade, Crean has coached his teams to exactly one NCAA tournament victory since that run occurred seven years ago.

5) Matt Painter (81-49 in four years at Purdue)

Matt Painter inherited a Purdue program that was declining after years of success under legendary coach Gene Keady.  Painter's first year was a struggle as his top two players were lost for the year due to injury. 

Since then, however, the Boilermakers have been on a roll.  Three consecutive NCAA appearances and a preseason Top 10 ranking in 2008-09 (derailed a bit by a stress fracture to star Robbie Hummel) have generated high hopes in West Lafayette.

Painter has molded the right blend of toughness and athleticism.  With no seniors among the starting five and good recruiting classes the next couple of years, Painter should have the Boilermakers at or near the top of the Big Ten for years.

4) Bruce Weber (152-56 in six years at Illinois)

Another of Gene Keady's disciples, Weber burst onto the scene in Champaign and led the Illini to a 29 game winning streak to start the season and an NCAA runner-up finish in just his second year.

After two more NCAA berths, Weber came back to earth in 2007-08, finishing a disappointing 16-19.  This elicited questions about whether Weber could win with his own recruits (the early success was primarily with Bill Self's recruits). 

Weber answered that question in 2008-09 by finishing a surprising second in the Big Ten with a largely unheralded group of players.  With some outstanding recruits arriving in the future, it appears 2007-08 will be the anomaly rather than the norm.

3) Tubby Smith (42-24 in two years at Minnesota)

Tubby Smith came to the Big Ten in 2007-08 with an impressive resume.  He was the first coach in history to take three different programs to the Sweet 16 (Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky) and led Kentucky to a National Championship in 1998.

There was some question as to whether that success would translate to Minnesota.  With one 20 win season in the preceding nine years, Minnesota wasn't exactly a destination job. Smith has already eclipsed that total by leading the Gophers to 20 and 22 wins in his first two years. 

2) Bo Ryan (192-71 in eight years at Wisconsin)

Ryan inherited a team that had some success under Dick Bennett (and interim coach Brad Sonderberg) and immediately took them to another level.  Wisconsin hadn't won a Big Ten title since 1947 and Ryan led them to a title in each of his first two seasons at the helm.

By employing discipline and hard nosed play, Ryan has since elevated Wisconsin even further, compiling a 61-11 record in 2006-07 and 2007-08 combined (the third most wins in Division one), and doing so without the Five Star recruits most elite teams have.

1) Tom Izzo (331-135 in 14 years at Michigan State)

After inheriting the Michigan State program from Hall of Famer Jud Heathcoate, Izzo has truly become one of the elite coaches in the country.  In 14 seasons, he has lead the Spartans to four Final Fours and a National Championship in 2000.

As both a strong recruiter and a great game coach, there is little doubt that Izzo will have the Spartans in contention for Big Ten and National titles for years to come. 

So there you have it, just One Man's Opinion.  By no means is this a definitive list.  You are strongly encouraged to respond with your opinion.   You might even convince me to change my list.  Maybe...


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