Continuing with our “Coaches on the Hot Seat” series, we’ll take a look at the NCAA basketball coaches in the Big Ten. The conference, as you can see, is full of coaches who could make themselves quite comfortable. The conference was once known as predominantly a football conference, but despite the numerous zingers that people like to throw their way concerning the lack of scoring (i.e. To save money, the Big Ten could remove the third digit from their scoreboards, they never use it anyway.), the conference has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of overall basketball talent. However, despite the upswing, there are two coaches who could be feeling a bit of heat this offseason and it’s probably not coming from the approaching summer temperatures.
It’s chilly in here (translation: not going anywhere):
•Matt Painter, Purdue
•Tom Izzo, Michigan State
•John Beilein, Michigan
•Thad Matta, Ohio State
•Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
•Bruce Weber, Illinois
•Ed DeChellis, Penn State (saved himself this season)
•Fran McCaffery, Iowa (pass because it was his first year)
•Tom Crean, Indiana (pass because he’s rebuilding a devastated program)
The Heat is on:
Let’s be honest here, the bar hasn’t been set very high at Northwestern. The Wildcats are the only Division I Basketball program to have never qualified for the NCAA tournament. NEVER! Not even once.
In 2000, after years spent as the laughingstock of the Big Ten, they brought in Bill Carmody to succeed former coach Kevin O’Neill. Carmody’s first eight years at the helm were largely uninspiring (zero postseason appearances, one .500 conference record), but he’s started to show some semblance of hope these last three years, earning NIT berths each season.
Still, this team has squandered some excellent chances to end the tournament drought. There has been some real talent on this team the last few seasons, namely G Michael Thompson and F’s John Shurna and Kevin Coble, but Carmody hasn’t been able to get this team to the promised land.
I don’t think Carmody is in any immediate trouble. He’s shown progress, albeit slow progress, and he’s at a very tough academic school that’s very hard to recruit at. Despite all that, he’s going to need to get Northwestern to the tournament eventually or he’s going to get the can.
When the Gophers downed North Carolina and West Virginia in November to win the Maui Invitational they looked like an underrated team that would be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten. Then, from January 29th until the end of the season, they lost ten out of eleven games. They finished 17-14 overall and 6-12 in the Big Ten, both the worst marks of coach Tubby Smith’s tenure. Talk about a tailspin. An injury to G Al Nolen didn’t help and neither did the transfer of talented wing Devoe Joseph or the legal trouble of F Trevor Mbakwe, but those are not acceptable excuses for a skid that included a loss to Indiana and two to Northwestern.
Smith was courted by a few schools once the season ended, namely Oregon, but elected to remain at Minnesota. Just like Carmody, I don’t think he’s in any immediate danger. He’s a very well-respected coach with an excellent resume and Minnesota was lucky to be able to lure him to campus. However, another season or two like 2010-11 might earn him a pink slip.
Next up: Big XII