Best Big Ten coaches: Groce No. 6
Last week ESPN.com began a series listing the top 50 coaches in the country based on what they’re doing right now. They listed Nos. 25-50 at once and will be counting down the remaining coaches one per day until July 3. It doesn’t appear that ESPN has Groce inside its Top 75. Here’s how I’d rank the Big Ten coaches from 1-12.
1. Tom Izzo,
The Spartans coach has won seven Big Ten titles, a national title and had his program a win against eventual NCAA champion UConn of reaching a seventh Final Four this past season.
2. Bo Ryan,
For 13 straight years he’s had the Badgers in the top four of the Big Ten and they were a desperation shot by Kentucky away from playing for a national championship in April.
3. John Beilein, Michigan
It took some time to get it going in Ann Arbor, but Beilein has the Wolverines rolling as they were also a desperation shot by Kentucky away from reaching the Final Four in April, a year after playing for the NCAA title.
4. Thad Matta,
Though last year was a down season by his standards, the Hoopeston native has been to two Final Fours and won five Big Ten titles during his 10 seasons on the bench in Columbus.
5. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
Based on right now, the 31-year-old deserves his rating after leading the Gophers to the NIT championship during his first season in the Twin Cities. And with the majority of his roster back, expectations are growing.
6. John Groce, Illinois
Wildly exceeded expectations during his first season in Champaign and had the Illini within a couple of shots of reaching a second NCAA tournament with a roster featuring a bench that consisted of five freshmen.
7. Tim Miles, Nebraska
Popular for his engaging personality, Miles has turned things around in Lincoln, reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. Huskers won’t sneak up on anyone and will have to start winning away from Pinnacle Bank Arena.
8. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
The fiery McCaffery has energized the rabid Iowa fan base, leading the Hawkeyes to the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years this season, but a remarkable late-season slide has taken the shine off that feat.
9. Tom Crean, Indiana
The former Marquette coach has had some of the most talented rosters in the Big Ten the last few seasons, but those teams have underachieved, including last year’s bunch that failed to reach the NCAAs or the NIT.
10. Chris Collins, Northwestern
Surprised folks in the Big Ten and around the country, winning six conference games during his first season, so the outlook in Evanston is promising and recruiting efforts have improved, too.
11. Matt Painter, Purdue
After winning a Big Ten title and reaching back-to-back Sweet 16s four years ago, the Boilermakers have been regressing, including a 12th-place finish in the league last season, Painter’s ninth at his alma mater.
12. Patrick Chambers, Penn State
Chambers proved he can coach at Boston U, leading the Terriers to the NCAA tournament in 2011, but in three seasons at Penn State, he’s not been able to finish better than 10th in the Big Ten.