Making It Work

In B1G Ten country there’s lots of success stories in this college basketball season. Maryland hasn’t been the runaway favorite but they are scary due to the fact that they are still getting better and haven’t played near their best. Michigan State is as deep of a team there is in the country (considering interchangeable parts) and next year is when they bring in a highly-rated recruiting class. Iowa has a National Player of the Year candidate and has finally broken through into the Top 10 after 3 or 4 years of being a good team that could be better.

Then there’s an Indiana team with a coach (Tom Crean) that everyone had on the hot seat coming into the year. They keep winning even after losing James Blackmon Jr. for the season. In-state rival Purdue had Caleb Swanigan coming in and has been one of the best defensive teams in the country and is always a tough matchup. And there’s obviously some teams with issues. Ohio State has a team of talented individuals but a not a great team. While Northwestern and Illinois had the talent to perhaps take the next step but don’t look like they have a chance.

The two best coaching jobs this year in the conference, if not the country, have been at Michigan and Wisconsin. First, at Michigan John Beilein has had a successful system but wasn’t expected to have much of a team this year. Caris LeVert has been hurt all year (just came back this weekend) and they’ve still beaten Maryland and are 19-7. Making the NCAA tournament is very much a realistic goal. And they should only get better.

Wisconsin lost Bo Ryan to retirement as the season got off to a rocky start, but interim coach (and should-be permanent head coach) Greg Gard has gotten this group to play and play well. They’ve beaten both Michigan State and Maryland on the road and have won 7 games in a row in the process. They don’t do anything particularly well and they aren’t going to run you out of the building. But they will play hard and won’t lose the game with costly turnovers.

While there aren’t any great teams in college basketball this year, there are many very solid teams. And looking at the B1G Ten as well as the ACC and others is the best way to see that. There’s going to be some more interesting results and will likely have at least 2 teams tied for the regular season crown. Purdue is my pick for conference tournament winner with the home crowd behind them (over Indiana).

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