Friday, March 2, 2012
No-Brainer – Crean Should Be Big Ten Coach of the Year
The regular season ends Sunday, which means Big Ten awards are coming, and one of the biggest will be coach of the year.
In the Big Ten, the choices seem clear –- Indiana’s Tom Crean, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Michigan’s John Beilein.
All three men have directed their teams to top-20 status. All have done what all good coaches do –- get their guys to play to their potential and, at times, just a little bit more.
Let’s look at the credentials of each.
Izzo has won before and will win again. He’s a strong recruiter who constantly mines the strong talent of Michigan, and occasionally taps into that of nearby states.
Yes, that means Indiana. This year Gary’s Branden Dawson is a freshman. Hamilton Southeastern’s Gary Harris is coming next season.
Last year the Spartans grossly underachieved. Not this season. They are the only Big Ten team to be undefeated at home. They have won at Ohio State and at Wisconsin. When is the last time somebody has done that in the same season?
They have do-everything forward Draymond Green, who should be the conference MVP. They have a bunch of big, strong, fast, athletic guys who understand how to play the game. They have won close and won by blowout. They are, by far, the league’s best rebounding team, and that intensity is a direct reflection of the passionate Izzo.
Michigan State is 24-6 overall and 13-4 in the Big Ten. It already has clinched a share of the conference title and can win it outright with a home victory against Ohio State this weekend.
Michigan (22-8, 12-5) can win a share of the Big Ten title if it wins at Penn State this weekend and Ohio State beats Michigan State. It’s done this with a freshman at point guard. Yes, Trey Burke is no ordinatry freshman, but still. To have the poise, patience and vision to put up the kind of numbers he has -– he’s second in the Big Ten in assists (4.8) and in the top-15 in the league in scoring (14.2) –- is impressive.
Beilein is a veteran coach whose unique approach to offense and defense makes his teams hard to beat. He’s dialed back the 1-3-1 zone he’s used so often in the past, but still relies heavily on three-pointers. He wants a team full of guys who can consistently hit from beyond the arc. He’s also ratcheted up his recruiting, which in part reflects the way Michigan has ratcheted up its facilities.
The Wolverines are poised to be really good for a really long time.
That leaves Crean. The guy is reaping the rewards after enduring three straight seasons of misery. He stayed true to his beliefs and approach, and payoff has arrived a year early.
The Hooisers are 23-7 overall and 10-7 in the Big Ten. They have won six of their last seven games. If they beat Purdue on Saturday and make at least the semifinals of next week’s conference tourney, they might earn a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
IU has beaten No. 1 Kentucky, No.2 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan State, plus No. 15 Michigan. Yes, all were at home, but how many teams could do that?
Remember, the Hoosiers opened the season 12-0 and soared to No. 7 in the country before Big Ten reality hit them, as it has every team this season. There’s a reason why the Big Ten is considered the nation’s best conference.
Indiana is a year ahead of schedule. After three straight 20-loss seasons, by far the worst stretch in school history, logic suggested a NIT berth this season, and then start rolling.
But the Hoosiers wanted no part of logic. They believed in their improvement and the impact freshman forward Cody Zeller would have. They wanted to win big now and they have.
This is a direct reflection of Crean's coaching.
Crean has upgraded the talent, and when you look at his continued recruiting, shows no signs of slowing down. Like Michigan, IU is poised to be really good for a really long time.
The bottom line -– the Big Ten coach of the year is a no-brainer. It has to be Crean. You can make a very strong argument that he should be national coach of the year.
In fact, we just did.
Thanks for all the comments letting me know that Crean did not mean “WARDROBE” but “WAR DRILL” when he talked about Michigan State and its “infamous war drill comes to life.”
Most of the comments nicely corrected us. One was not so nice. It happens.
When you reach a certain age, what you hear and what is said can get confusing. In fact, a lot of things get confusing.
At least, so we have been told.
Just who know that it would happen at age 29?