The three new men’s basketball coaches in the Big Ten have each led teams to at least the Sweet 16.
But, in their new positions, they have something else in common: They are all trying to install a new coaching system with limited practice time.
Michigan coach John Beilein, Iowa coach Todd Lickliter and Minnesota coach Tubby Smith were all hired this spring. But because of NCAA rules that restrict summer practices, they have had just two full weeks to work with their players.
At Big Ten Media Day yesterday, Beilein’s players said they have been working on fundamentals and having some trouble making the reads required to succeed in the timing-based offense.
“It’s not everybody, but there are a lot of people who aren’t picking up on the system as well as others,” senior Ron Coleman said. “But it’s a lot of little things, the things we can correct at practice. … Everybody’s still learning, though.”
Whereas Beilein is starting on the offensive side of the court, Lickliter is starting with defense. At Butler, Lickliter coached teams known for their gritty, defense-first style.
He has already started instilling that philosophy in Iowa City.
“We’d really like to have an identity of a team that competes on the defensive end with urgency and purpose,” Lickliter said. “I don’t think you can do that if you don’t emphasize it.”
In addition to the limited practice time, the unfamiliarity between coach and player has had an effect. The players on these rosters were recruited by the previous coaches, meaning that the current teams had to buy into the new systems.
“That’s why our freshmen, I see them pick up things quicker than our veteran players,” Smith said.
But with fewer than two weeks until the season starts, the new Big Ten players and coaches must make strides for their teams to be successful.
“It’s a lot to learn, but, every day, we learn something,” Iowa senior guard Justin Johnson said of practices.
That sentiment rings true in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis, too.
A little decorum, please: For years, NCAA rules have said coaches should be penalized for conduct that detracts from the game.
This year, the NCAA will make a point to enforce this rule.
The NCAA is encouraging officials to issue technical fouls for coaches leaving the coaching box or displaying excessive antics.
But some Big Ten coaches oppose this enforcement.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo says good referees know how to control a game anyway.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said that the rule would force him to control his emotions. He joked that some coaches might need to use medication before games to keep calm.
The referees will have an incentive to keep the coaches cool.
“The Tournament committee has made it clear that officials who do take good care of the benches, coaches’ behavior, coaches staying in the box are going to have a better chance of being selected for the Tournament and advancing in the Tournament,” said Rich Falk, coordinator of men’s basketball officials.
He said responsibility for enforcement of this rule started as a joint effort between university administration, conference commissioner and basketball coaches.
Eighteen is the new 16: If Michigan’s Big Ten schedule looks larger this year than the last few years, that’s because it is.
The Big Ten expanded its conference schedule from 16 to 18 games.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said fans of Big Ten schools would be more interested in seeing two more conference games than two nonconference games.
“The cost of nonconference games is getting higher, and I think the interest for the local fan bases is lesser,” Delany said.
But, some have complained that more conference games could lead to fewer NCAA Tournament bids for the conference. Delany dismissed this notion, saying the long-term effects couldn’t yet be predicted.
Ryan doesn’t think 18 is enough. If it were up to him, he would like to see a conference schedule where each teams played every other team twice.
“I want as many games against Big Ten schools as we can play,” Ryan said. “Scheduling nonconference games are so tough. I have an assistant coach that’s aged 20 years in the last five years just scheduling.”
The Big Ten season had 18 games until the Big Ten Tournament started in 1998.
Preseason pick ’em: The Big Ten released its preseason picks and all-conference teams.
Wolverines were nowhere to be found.
The media picked the Michigan State to win the conference, followed by Indiana and defending champion Ohio State.
Michigan State point guard Drew Neitzel was named preseason player of the year.
Penn State guard Geary Claxton, Ohio State guard Jamar Butler, Indiana forward D.J. White and Illinois center Shaun Pruitt joined Neitzel on the preseason all-conference team decided by the media.