Izzo: Big Ten is best it’s been in a decade

Conference media days are all about self-praise. That’s mostly the point of having them.

OK, maybe it’s not just self-praise. It’s about praising every one else in your conference to show them respect, then hoping the assembled media prints said praise to make the conference look good, which in turns helps the conference’s profile with important people like television executives and recruits.

So there wasn’t much of a surprise that a lot of that was going on at Big Ten media day on Thursday in Chicago.

This time, though, the league’s coaches might actually be justified.

The league is coming off a season in which it put nine teams in postseason, including seven in the NCAA Tournament. One of those, Michigan State, advanced to the national title game. Most of the players that got those teams there are coming back, as 11 of the 15 players on the three All-Big Ten teams are back, plus seven honorable mentions. Returning players accounted for 73 percent of the league’s points last season. The national media and coaches have noticed, and the Big Ten has five teams in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25, which was released Thursday.

“I think the league’s gotten three times better,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, whose Spartans are ranked No. 2 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and are favored to win the Big Ten. “I’ve been in the league 27 years as a GA on up. I definitely thought early it was great when I first got in with all of those great coaches. We’ve had a little bit of a lull. Then in 1999 and 2000, we had two teams in the Final Four, and I thought it was really good. But I think this is the best it’s been since maybe that date. I honestly think there are 8-9 teams that realistically could win the league.”

That won’t make it easy for Indiana, picked 10th in many preseason polls, to start climbing.

“I think they’ll take a step forward,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “But how big step will probably be determined by the rest of the league. That’s the problem. We think we’re improved, but everybody else is improved in the league. Your quality of your players and the quality of players is what makes the league so tough. I think that’s Tom’s biggest dilemma right now. He could’ve come into the league at a different time when it was a little bit down, he might have been able to make a bigger step.”

3 comments

  1. IU will knock off a few of the middle of the pack teams this season. If it could happen only one time, I would want it to happen against Weber’s Illini.

  2. Last year up in Chicago, Crean promised they’d win the BT Championship soon. Any news on when this is going to happen?

  3. We Hoosiers have to be patient!!!

    Because we have been great and are impatient, we look at our team through rosy glasses.

    IU will be much better but we are rebuilding and have more talent but need more experience!!!

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