This is always the best time of the year for college hoop junkies. Unfortunately, for the teams who don't get to play in the big dance, or even meet expectations, one person typically gets blamed. That one person is the head coach. Here's where we think things stand in the Big Ten ahead of the conference tournament and Selection Sunday.
Disclaimer: this list could change dramatically over the next three weeks
Safer Than Safe
1a. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Izzo has earned the right to stay as long as he wants to at Michigan State. Honestly, he's probably had the second most successful coaching run ever in the conference behind Bob Knight. However he did just turn 60, so it's only a matter of time until other coaches use his age to negatively recruit against him (that is, if they haven't already).
1b. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Again, this guy can leave when he wants to; hands down the best coach in Wisconsin history. I feel he could find five guys at the YMCA, teach them the swing offense, and still have a winning conference record. He's that good.
3. Thad Matta, Ohio State
Ron Guenther's mistake became Ohio State's treasure. The "one that got away" will continue to haunt Illinois on and off the court as he continues to steal Illinois prep players. Yes, John Groce is a protégé of Matta and is credited with jump-starting the recruiting for the Buckeyes, but it really hasn't fallen off since he left. More on Groce later.
4. John Beilein, Michigan
In my opinion, Beilein is one of the best in the country in terms of X's and O's. I am already dreading the Illinois-Michigan game on Thursday simply due to him and his scheme. Look at this National Runner- Up Team, only two composite top-50 players (Robinson III and McGary).
5. Tim Miles, Nebraska
This year has been quite a disappointment for the Cornhuskers, especially considering they were ranked by nearly every major news outlet to start the year. There's been some definite regression, but Miles will always keep it interesting with his style and approach in his attempt to make Nebraska more than just a football school.
6. Chris Collins, Northwestern
Collins has a big rebuild on his hands and was trained by one of the best in Coach K, but it will always be a tough sell in Evanston. I do, however, feel that he will be the man to finally get Wildcats to their first-ever NCAA Tournament. Bold prediction: it happens next year.
7. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
McCaffery is another good X's and O's coach. It took several years to fully install his system which worked well at Siena, but the last couple of years is probably the ceiling in terms of results.
8. Eddie Jordan, Rutgers
Former NBA coach and Rutgers player. Watching him in tears after the Wisconsin upset early in the year shows just how much it meant to him as a coach; it also made me realize how low the expectations are for the Scarlet Knights. Seriously, the potential National Player of the Year wasn't even playing. He has a long leash moving forward given the circumstances of how his predecessor's tenure ended.
9. Matt Painter, Purdue
He has sort of resurrected himself this year and has that massive long term contract which will keep him there no matter what for a few more years.
10. John Groce, Illinois
Let me preface this by saying that a vast majority of Illinois fans want Groce to succeed. With that said, a vast majority of the fan base also expects to make the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis.
Transfers could very well end up defining Groce's tenure at Illinois. Darius Paul may or may not still be considered one of those of transfers, but he'll need to have a strong season with the impending departure of Nnanna Egwu this offseason. I won't go as far as saying that the program's 2015-16 tournament hopes are riding on his shoulders, but he'll need to play a major role.
Groce seems like a genuine, hard working man and always says the right things--but In the end you have to win games, not press conferences. There's a decent chance Groce could be out the door if Illinois misses the tournament in three straight seasons.
11. Mark Turgeon, Maryland
I was surprised to find out that this will be Maryland's first NCAA tournament since 2010. How is that even possible? This was perennially an ACC top three finisher for about twenty-five years and won an NCAA title in 2002. Recruiting seems to be picking up, but an early exit in the NCAA tourney could get portions of the fan base re-energized for change.
12. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
It's only Pitino's second year, but this guy really hasn't shown me anything besides having an in on recruits his dad deems not good enough for Louisville. An interesting hire for sure--he even has his dad's mannerisms down. I could say more but I won't.
13. Patrick Chambers, Penn State
This has to be the toughest job in the Big Ten (that's what may be the saving grace for his job status). But even Ed DeChellis went to one NCAA tourney and then basically took a demotion to get out in order to go coach Navy the same season.
14. Tom Crean, Indiana
Not looking good for Tom Crean, but he's currently protected by a massive buyout.
The Indiana of today isn't even close to resembling the Mike Davis Era, let alone the Bob Knight era. As an Illinois fan, I want him to stay since he seems to be an above average recruiter, but a terrible bench coach. His biggest problem is also John Groce's biggest problem; Indiana used to have Indianapolis locked down, whereas now it's in play for all the blue bloods as Chicago has been for a couple of decades now.