LIVE! Big Ten Media Day

LIVE! Big Ten Media Day

Brad Underwood wrapped things up in the morning session. Some highlights:

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Final coach up before Illinois' Brad Underwood is second-year Indiana coach Archie Miller. He's excited about the start of the season. I'm putting money on first question for him being about Romeo Langford (and I was right).

On Langford

Romeo is, No. 1, a terrific kid. That's the one thing you're really getting a chance to see. He's doing everything we've asked him to do. There's a lot of hype around him. Being from the state, going to IU is going to make it an even bigger story. He's always had a lot of eyes on him and always been a guy that's calm under pressure. He's being coached. He's asking questions. He knows he's not perfect. He's just trying to find his way and learning.

On multiple newcomers

You hope the returners are further ahead than all those guys os you have a core group you're trying to add to. You can tell in practice who's a freshmen some of the times. As we develop our team, we want to add pieces to the puzzle that add to our rotation and make us deeper.

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John Beilein is up next at the dais. Michigan made it to the national championship again last season ... and also lost again. Beilein said the league is as balanced as it has ever been and foresees lots of excitement this season.

On moving forward this season.

I think it's more than just the players (Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Moe Wagner and Duncan Robinson). It's the style we could play with those guys. We've got to adapt again. We had to adapt midway through the season last year to some things. That's something I love — embracing change. 

On B1G in the national title game

With our league, Wisconsin's been there. Michigan State's been there. We've been there. We're right there. It will all come back around. Our programs are just too good not to win a national championship somewhere down the line.

On 20-game schedule

At first I didn't think I'd like the 20, but scheduling is so difficult trying to get teams to play you home-and-home. I'd say let's do it (a 26-game Big Ten schedule). We have 25 Power 5 type games. That's really good, but that's hard to schedule. Getting home games for your students in December is everything. Packed arenas. It was great. One of the best moves we've made playing in December.

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Purdue's Matt Painter said the Boilermakers had a good summer (like everybody else) and are excited for the season (like everybody else). Purdue, though, does have to go about replacing four senior starters.

On how he might use Carsen Edwards

He's a very dynamic. He's unique from a physical standpoint. He's got the body and speed like a Saquon Barkley. Last year when he got it going we couldn't get it to him enough. I think he'll play with the ball more. He's kind of been our point guard in transition, and he'll have more responsibility there, but I never want to take away his ability to score.

On Ryan Cline moving to starting lineup

I think he needs to do the same thing he's been doing. He's going to have more opportunities and cracks at it. The ball's going to be in his hands. He can hit difficult shots. He can hit shots off the dribble. He can hit threes with people on him.

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Next up, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann. He's got the best 2019 recruiting class in the conference and ... can't talk about any of those guys. No E.J. Liddell questions. Holtmann does say the Buckeyes have some questions that need to be answered. Perhaps ... What do you do with Keita Bates-Diop? That would seem to be a big one.

On freshman Luther Muhammad

Luther Muhammad was an important recruit for us given our lack of guard depth. We have loved coaching him. He has a tremendous work ethic and capacity for work. He is really competitive, and I think he has the ability to impact the game on both ends. He's going to play an important role really from day one for us. 

On some standout Big Ten freshmen

Obviously I think Romeo Langford is one of the very first ones that come to mind given many people are aware of his talent and ability and what he's going to mean for Indiana. I think the young man from Michigan (Ignas Brazdeikis?) has a chance to have a real impact from day one. I think there are many others. I know Minnesota has a terrific, versatile big (Daniel Oturu?).

On moving forward from last year

We tried to put last year as quickly as possible in the rear view mirror. We tried to quickly turn the page as much as possible. Many of the major components of last year's team are gone. Focused on development and growth of this team on a day-to-day basis.

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Iowa's Fran McCaffery takes his turn. He's looking for the Hawkeyes to be better defensively this year. Their offense was fine last season. Their defense? Mostly bad.

On getting better defensively

Clearly, it needed to be and it was our focus this summer. It was a good year to have extra time to work with our team. I think it starts with, to a man, coaches and players taking ownership of what we didn't do and what we obvioulsy needed to do better. We spent more time on it. We really drilled. You break it down and you put it back together. In particular in transition and ball screen action. I think the focus and energy and concentration was there for the players.

On Tyler Cook

The thing about Tyler Cook that's been most impressive to me, obviously he looked through making the jump (to the NBA). I thought he was incredibly professional with how he went about that. The critical thing is when you come back to come back with the right attitude. I think he recognizes now the jump he has to make, and he has made it in my estimation. He probably should be upset (he wasn't preseason All-Big Ten). 

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The dean of Big Ten coaches, Tom Izzo, is up now. He, too, has a comment about moderator Satvik Patel's teal blazer. Spartans are looking to juniors Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and Josh Langford to lead this season. They've "been through the wars" per Izzo.

On chemistry even after roster turnover

The way that happens is if you're ego-less. One thing Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges taught this program was you can be great wihtout being entitled. This day and age that's not always common. The chemistry is really good. Nick Ward probably had the best five months he's ever had on the face of the earth.

On offseason work

I thought in all honesty this offseason was really important to get Nick back in the fold since he tested the waters. Thank God it was no work. Sometimes I see guys half in when they come back, and that's what people warn you about. Nick was all the way in. The way the NCAA has done it now we get more time in the offseason. It's mostly good. I thought we had a great summer. We knew we were a good team last year, we knew we got beat by a good team and we knew we iddn't play well. Our battle cry this summer was "we've got to finish the job."

On Cassius Winston

He got into Harvard. I don't have a lot of guys that do that. His mother, she'd rather him be a great student than a great player. He's done a great job in the classroom and he's a very accountable kid. If I'm working on something with Cassius it's the urgency to be great instead of just really good. To be an NBA draft pick, you have to hit that elite status. Sometimes his unselfish, I'm trying to get him to be a little more selfish. That's a cool quality to have to coach. You're not going to get many better kids than Cassius Winston.

On 20-game Big Ten schedule

You get mad at Jim Delany because he keeps moving this thing up, then you see what it does for our league with exposure. He's brilliant. You'd like to have the flexibility to schedule a bunch of other games nonconference. An average conference game is usually tougher than a very good nonconference game. It's going to be an interesting challenge. I think the madness behind it usually works out for the student-athletes, the media and the fans. It gets you the exposure you're looking for. For a coach sometimes it's harder because you're constantly grinding.

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Maryland's Mark Turgeon takes his turn at the dais. It's the 100th year of Terrapins basketball apparently. I didn't know that. Shoutout to Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams. Surprise, surprise — Turgeon likes his team. I'm waiting for a coach to come out and say he just really hates his squad this year and nobody's any good. Like maybe a guy looking for an exit strategy.

On playing Loyola

I go way back with Porter Moser. We really tried to play a nice nonconference schedule. Adding that game in Baltimore was great for us.

On recruiting scandal and ongoing trial

I think our sport, to be honest with you, is in great shape. I think we have great depth throughout college basketball. It continues to grow. I think we have great coaching. I'd like to think it's not going to have a big impact on our game. Besides what's going on in the courtroom, I think college basketball is in great shape.

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Richard Pitino up next. Wonder if he'll get any questions about his dad — or his dad's Twitter account. Probably won't happen. Pitino the Younger is (jokingly) very fired up for Big Ten media day.

On Jordan Murphy

Personally for him I know he wants to play in the NBA. I told him, "You've got the numbers." Now it comes down to, "Can you show how hard you can play every possession." Don't get away from what you're really, really good at.

On Isaiah Washington

He's been really good. He's grown a lot on the court. With all freshmen it's habits. For him, as difficult all the injuries were, it thrusted him into meaningful minutes. Now it's a matter of terminology and understanding offensively and defensively. I think he's had a terrific summer and terrific fall.

On how he's handled last few years as a coach (some real ups and downs)

I'm a lot better as a coach when we have a healthy roster. When you're building a program to get some stability it takes some time. I thought last year was going to allow us to really, really build some great momentum with the new facility and with two really good seasons in a row. We can't allow last year to derail that momentum. 

On transfer guard Brock Stull

He was not with us until early September because he was doing his academics. It was hard with him at Milwaukee. I expect Brock to be ready to go. He's a smart player, and he's produced at a high level.

On 20-game schedule

I do like it. I think it's good for everybody. Commission Delany has brought it up a couple times. We've got to figure it out from a college basketball standpoint how to capture our fans in November and December. To get quality fans in your building early is important. Certainly we don't want to lose, but if you can stack up as many quality quad one and quad two wins as you can, it's great. I think a lot of Power 5 teams will go to that.

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Nebraska's Tim Miles is up. Strap in everybody. This guy is great. His summer golf regimen, apparently, kept him in the same weight class as last season.

On James Palmer's growth

James has been very impressive. As he came from Miami, he's gotten a lot stronger and his ball skill have improved. His jump shot has improved. His everyday habits are really good. One of the smartest players I've coached in a long, long time.

On having top four Big Ten talent

Pretty sure we were fourth last year, too. I like this group because I really think all of these guys are getting better. We have four guys anybody in the league would take. That hasn't always been the case. We have guys that have a lot of talent and could carry a team.

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Chris Collins up next and he starts his opening statement by mentioning the passing of Tex Winters, who was on his dad's coaching staff with the Chicago Bulls and was part of the Northwestern family. The Wildcats are still trying to figure out how to incorporate six newcomers (four freshmen and two transfers), but Collins is looking forward to being back at renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena.

On getting back to NCAA tournament

It's a mindset. It's a consistent work ethic. We're very proud of what we've done over the past five years and how we've grown. Last year, could never put all the pieces together and find that consistency. You have to work every day like you've never won a game. I've been very proud of our guys and how they've handled the offseason. We don't talk about last season. I think that's redundant. We look forward.

On adding Ryan Taylor

We would get into ruts offensively at times (last year). It's hard to win when you have 6-8 minutes without scoring. (Taylor's) an elite level shot maker and scorer. I feel like we have more shot makers that we had in the past. The ability to have more guys that can put the ball in the basketball will hopefully help some of the offensive woes we went through last year.

On finding a new point guard

We have a couple guys in Jordan Ash and Ryan Greer who are more point guard types. I also think you'll see us take a look at more unconventional lineups. I feel like we have a lot of guys on the perimeter who have length and size and can score and do a little bit of everything. Certainly we don't have anybody who will do what Bryant McIntosh did ... but I think we can be effective in some different ways.

On Vic Law (on a question from Vic Law)

I hope he plays some defense. Vic was the first guy who committed to me when I got the job at Northwestern. We have a special bond because of that. I really believe he's a leading candidate for defensive player of the year in the conference with his defensive versatility to guard four positions. I'm really going to challenge him from a leadership perspective.

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Apparently Penn State coach Pat Chambers is now going by Patrick. I might still call him Pat. Seems less formal. Side note, apparently Penn State season ticket sales have picked up steam. Chambers is also high on his frontcourt, which makes since given Mike Watkins (and hopefully his mustache) are back this season.

Greg Gard and Steve Pikiell didn't have much of an opening statement. Chambers must have taken his cue from James Franklin, who set the record at football media days in July in Chicago.

On season tickets

The last five games of the year we averaged close to 11,500 fans. It really became a home court advantage for us. I think Penn State fans want good basketball. They're craving good basketball, and they're sensing incredible buzz with what we're doing.

On taking next step as program

Tony Carr was a great player. You're never replacing a kid like Tony Carr. He was our first draft choice since 1999. It's got to be a collective effort led by Lamar Stevens, Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins. The next step for us is rebounding a little bit better. defending a little bit better and doing the little things a little bit better. This year we have the leadership, and that should help pull us through.

On replacing Carr in the backcourt

Right now Jamari Wheeler is playing great basketball. Great defender. Also really good at managing the team right now. Setting the table for Josh, Lamar and Mike to be sucessful on the offensive end.

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Rutgers' Steve Pikiell up net. The Scarlet Knights were picked to finish 14th in the Big Ten this season — per usual — but Pikiell said good things are happening at Rutgers.

On sophomore guard Geo Baker

What I'm most excited and I think has been the pattern since I took over the program is the improvement from year to year. He's going to be our exclusive point guard. He really knows how to play and has a swagger about him. He's shown signs of being a leader. He's in the gym all the time. When I took over the program two years ago I wanted to build a culture of those kind of guys — maybe under the radar guys that can really play and want to be at Rutgers and want to be a part of building a program. He's jumped on board.

On Big Ten as a league

Last year I guess the sentiment was our league was down, but the fifth-place team in our league made the national champioship game. It's the best league night in and night out in the country with terrific coaches. These guys can flat out coach, and there's good players every year. This league just continues to push itself at a great level.

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Wisconsin's Greg Gard is the first coach to the dais. The Badgers return almost their entire roster, including sophomore guard Brad Davison and redshirt senior and All-Big Ten forward Ethan Happ.

On Happ's usage rate

I think you've got a young man that brings a lot of experience back. Looking through things with him statistically, he's going to go down as one of the best to play at Wisconsin. But we have a lot more people around him that can come to his aid. I think we saw more balance as we went through (last) year. But we understand how much of an impactful player he can be.

On Davison's offseason

The shoulder injury he had repaired as soon as our season was over last March. He's back full go right now. The thing that jumps out about Brad that shines everywhere is his personality. He's impactful in so many ways. His fingerprints were all over the improvement and how we played at the end of the year. I know he's excited to be healthy.

On motivation after missing NCAA tournament last year

This group has done a terrific job of kind of harnessing what we went through last year and learning from it. How do you take those experiences and utilize them? There's an experience level they went through last year that's created an edge for them and created a competitive drive internally. That in itself raises the level with how we're able to compete in practice with each other. 

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Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was the first at the podium this morning. A sampling of what he said:

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While the Big Ten media released our preseason All-Big Ten team on Wednesday, the conference put out its 10-man preseason team this morning. Purdue guard Carsen Edwards was named preseason Player of the Year and was one of two unanimous selections (Wisconsin's Ethan Happ the other) on the All-Big Ten team.

The other eight selections? Indiana's Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan, Maryland's Anthony Cowan Jr., Michigan's Charles Matthews, Michigan State's Nick Ward and Cassius Winston, Minnesota's Jordan Murphy and Nebraska's James Palmer Jr.

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Just about to get started here in Rosemont. Last night was apparently a fun one for Illinois basketball players Aaron Jordan and Trent Frazier.

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Good morning from Rosemont. Just saying that feels right. Big Ten basketball media day is back where it belongs in the Midwest after stops in Washington, D.C., and New York City the last two seasons as the conference continued to try to expand its footprint to the east coast. 

Beat writer Scott Richey (that's me) was among the first media members to arrive at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare for a full day of basketball discussions. Part of that is my inability not to be ridiculously early for everything. The other part? An excitement for the arrival of college basketball season. I'll have updates throughout the morning as all 14 Big Ten coaches head to the podium to provide some preseason insight on their teams.

Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood will be the last of the 14 coaches at the podium during the morning session. That almost syncs up with where the Big Ten media selected the Illini to finish this season in the preseason poll.

Let's dive into that a little bit. Illinois was picked 13th and just head of perennial basement dwellers Rutgers. The response from Illini fans — at least in replies on the IlliniHQ Facebook account — is that ranking is either too low, spot on or doesn't matter. In truth, preseason rankings are tricky. None of these teams have played, but given the sheer number of newcomers on the Illinois roster it makes sense people have questions about what exactly the Illini will be.

The rest of the preseason polls and player awards were fairly predictable with Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana at the top, Purdue's Carsen Edwards as preseason Player of the Year and Indiana's Romeo Langford as preseason Freshman of the Year. 

Plenty of updates are coming your way this morning, so be sure to keep following along right here at IlliniHQ.com. 

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