With almost exactly one month until the college basketball season, we can finally start making predictions that likely won’t be accurate. The fun part of the offseason!
This week for “You’re Nuts,” we debate Who we think will be the 2023 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year.
Last week, we talked about whether or not we think Ohio State and head coach Chris Holtmann should deploy a three-guard lineup next season.
Connor won the majority of the vote with his answer of No, they should start one of the freshmen.
After 120 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
And now, this week’s debate.
Today’s Question: Who will be the 2023 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year?
Connor: Greg Gard
There’s typically two driving forces behind a coach winning the Big Ten Coach of the Year award. No. 1 — the coach leads their team to a Big Ten championship. No. 2 — the coach doesn’t win the conference, but his/her team does considerably better than they were expected to. I’m going with scenario No. 2 here.
Even though Purdue will probably win the Big Ten, I think there will be some fatigue with Matt Painter, and he won’t win it despite having the best team — kind of like why Urban Meyer never won Big Ten Coach of the Year. Tom Izzo, Kevin Willard, or Brad Underwood are all possibilities too, but none of those teams were bad enough last year that a top-four finish would be deserving of the award.
That means I have to give it to the coach of the team that I think is most likely to makee the biggest jump from last year to this year — and I think that team is Wisconsin.
The Badgers lost three of their last four games to end the season last year, sliding just out of the NCAA Tournament picture and into the NIT, where they wound up losing to North Texas in the semifinals.
Wisconsin brings essentially everyone back from last year’s team that just missed the Big Dance, including Chucky Hepburn, Connor Essegian, Tyler Wahl, Steven Crowl, among others. Getting old and staying old is the name of the game in college basketball, and Gard will have one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten.
But after missing the tournament with this same group, some folks might be asking, “why should we be confident in a group of guys who missed the NCAA Tournament and are just running it back?” That’s valid! While Essegian is entering his sophomore year, the rest of the Badgers’ core are experienced players. I am willing to bank on an improved Essegian and Wisconsin not crumbling down the stretch this year being the difference in them going from NIT semifinalist to an NCAA Tournament team. I think this Wisconsin team could wind up in the top-four in the Big Ten.
If it were to happen, this would be Gard’s third Big Ten Coach of the Year Award. He would join Tom Izzo and Matt Painter as the three active coaches in the B1G who have taken home the award three times.
Justin: Kevin Willard
To be honest, I almost put Chris Holtmann in this spot. I have the Buckeyes finishing fourth in the conference, so going from second to last place to a double bye in the conference tournament would be worthy of coach of the year.
However, I do think that since he isn’t turning anything around and last year was just a vast disappointment, that could hurt his candidacy.
Also, I think Maryland’s floor is higher. I have Ohio State finishing fourth, but they could finish anywhere from 4-8 to me. I have Maryland finishing third, but no lower than fifth.
For those reasons, I am picking Kevin Willard.
Maryland went 22-13 overall and 11-9 in the conference last season in Willard’s first season. They earned the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament and beat West Virginia in the first round in a great game to start March Madness, then lost to the No. 1 seed Alabama by 20 in the Round of 32.
With Jahmir Young, Donta Scott, and Julian Reese coming back and DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jamie Kaiser coming in as highly touted freshmen, this Terrapin team has a lot of potential and should be a top-20 team throughout the season.
They finished tied for fifth in the conference last season, so jumping to third isn’t a huge jump, but with Purdue and Michigan State being on a tier of their own in the conference this season, everyone else is fighting for third.
They might give it to Izzo, but I do think Michigan State would have to win the conference, and I am not sure they will. They won’t give it to Matt Painter for going from first to first, even if he may deserve it.
Who will be the 2023 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year?
This poll is closed
Connor: Greg Gard
Justin: Kevin Willard