ROSEMONT, Ill. — When Michigan coach John Beilein arrived at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare for Big Ten Basketball Media Day, he picked up right on the same grim note he left off on last season: Answering questions about his players’ freak injuries.
Senior guard Caris LeVert and junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. are finally back to full strength, Beilein said two weeks ago, but the same still can’t be said for junior forward Zak Irvin (back) and senior guard Spike Albrecht (hips), both of whom are recovering from offseason surgeries.
Irvin had been suffering from “a few aches and pains” late in the summer before his back suddenly flared up in an open gym session, forcing him to undergo an MRI and ultimately go under the knife to correct the problem. Beilein declined to provide a medical term for Irvin’s injury, but he believes his starting forward will be ready to go soon.
“We’re still on schedule for the beginning of the season,” Beilein said. “Hopefully in November, he will be back playing — that’s our hope. He’s going to begin (conditioning) this week. We have all the underwater treadmills and the different things, that (he is still) conditioning. Basketball-wise, he’s shooting foul shots now.”
Albrecht is much farther along on the road to recovery, but he still has been frequently spelled by junior Andrew Dakich to get extra rest during practice.
“He’s progressing,” Beilein said. “I feel somewhere near the start of the season, he’ll be at 100 percent, but he’s not as limited as Zak is right now. He was absolutely shut down from April (to) August. He’s shooting the ball really well, and he’s seeing the floor really well, but right now, defense, ball-handling, all those things — (he’s) still trying to catch up.”
NEW RULES: One of the major challenges facing every college basketball coach this season is the NCAA’s recent rule changes, which include a 30-second shot clock and a rule that players, not coaches, must call live-ball timeouts.
The Big Ten coaches expressed varying opinions on the NCAA’s decision.
“I’m not sure I love the no-timeout deal,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. “There’s some of the timeout stuff I like, but at the same time, the no live-ball thing — it’s kind of our livelihood, so I think I’d prefer to have that control.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo disagreed.
“If it were up to me, if I was the Czar for the day, I’d try to get every rule like the NBA, personally,” he said. “I just think that we’d have a better working relationship. It would make sense to me.”
Beilein, citing the fact that the live-ball timeout rules have changed on other occasions over the course of his career, seemed indifferent to the new rule.
“It’s not a big adjustment,” Beilein said. “The players are going to look at (me), I’m gonna say, ‘Call timeout,’ and they’re gonna call timeout.”
RYAN’S FINAL SEASON: Apart from the rule changes, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s impending retirement was another hot topic among the coaches gathered in Rosemont. Some, like Maryland’s Mark Turgeon, were skeptical that the legendary coach would actually hang it up following the season. Others sounded practically excited to see him go.
“I was very hopeful that he’d make that announcement,” Beilein joked. “If you look at our record against him, I was very hopeful.”
He may be glad to be rid of Ryan, but Beilein had no shortage of praise for the Badgers’ coach.
“He’s just a tremendous coach,” Beilein said, “But what I love is that he’s done it at the other levels that a lot of coaches don’t know about, and I know about. Those championships in Division III are so hard to do, and he wins those. And then Wisconsin doesn’t know what it’s like not to go to the NCAA Tournament.”
RIVALRY WEEK: The Big Ten coaches may have come to Chicago to talk basketball, but the events surrounding the Michigan-Michigan State football matchup this weekend had Tom Izzo’s mind wandering elsewhere.
A year after the Diag’s block ‘M’ was painted green, the statue of Magic Johnson on Michigan State’s campus was discovered Thursday morning bearing a block ‘M’ and ‘BEAT STATE’ in maize spraypaint.
“First, I’ve gotta say that this is rivalry week, and you’re not supposed to like your opponent,” Izzo said. “There’s a lot of great Michigan kids, but there’s some idiots. There’s some idiots on our side, too, that do crazy things. Messing with Sparty is a bad thing, like messing with their ‘M’ is a bad thing. But messing with Magic, that’s the worst thing. I’ll make sure that, from now on, maybe the basketball team will sleep (out there).”