As the college football season steamrolls into the second half, don’t look now, but basketball season is closing in quickly.
By next week, Michigan State will be playing its first exhibition game and Michigan is on the court the following week. Within three weeks, the games will start counting.
Before all that, however, the Big Ten will hold its media day on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York. Not exactly the footprint of the conference, but commissioner Jim Delany has been pushing the Big Ten east into markets like New York and Washington D.C. by adding Rutgers and Maryland in recent years, and this season the conference tournament will be played at The Garden.
So, clearly, that means taking media day to the Big Apple.
Judge that however you please, but while it might get lost in the city that never sleeps, there will be no shortage of issues to be discussed by the conference’s 14 coaches and more than 30 select players.
At the top of the that list is sure to be the recent FBI investigations into basketball recruiting that has already claimed the job of Louisville’s Rick Pitino, a Hall of Famer.
No Big Ten teams have been implicated in any wrongdoing to this point, but that doesn’t mean the conference teams don’t have an interest. Last week, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was asked how he would fix things.
“I’ve been saying that for 10 years. I think the summer model has got some issues,” Izzo said. “I think in general most people would agree that there’s just too many people that touch these players now.
“My only piece of advice (to recruits is) don’t let the process ruin you, because we will. I blame myself. And keep your group small, whatever that is, keep it small. You’ve been raised by Mom and Dad for 17 years, and things are OK. You’ve been raised by Mom and Grandma, whoever it is. For the most part that’s who is your group. They’ve done a pretty good job, because you’re eligible in school and you can become a big-time basketball player. Why all of a sudden do we need 20 other people coming into your world?”
In a poll conducted by the Associated Press, only Michigan State and Wisconsin said they conducted internal reviews of their recruiting and compliance in the wake of the FBI investigation.
At Iowa, coach Fran McCaffery said it’s up to coaches to turn in offenders, and that he’s confident in the practices used by the Hawkeyes.
“Any time the game is cleaned up, it’s better for all of us,” McCaffery said. “We do things the right way. We do things a certain way. We have a certain expectation here as to how we’re going to react day-in and day-out and how my staff is going to function. So hopefully moving forward they’ll find whoever was guilty of those transgressions and react accordingly. We’re just going to be business as usual here. Nothing changes for us.”
While the FBI investigations surely will be talked about, there’s plenty regarding what will happen on the court this season that is sure to be discussed.
The fact the Big Ten is in New York will be one, as the conference tournament is a week earlier than normal and has created a compacted schedule, not something a lot of coaches love.
They’ll also be talking about the fact there will be a move to a 20-game conference schedule next season. It’s something the coaches and administrators have been discussing and at last spring’s Big Ten meetings it appeared to be a done deal. A recent report from CBS Sports said it is.
How that affects non-conference scheduling remains to be seen.
“It really depends. You know, it obviously will change some things,” McCaffery said. “Other opportunities will present themselves, which we want to take advantage of. We’re always going to be in a tournament somewhere. Next year, for example, we’re going to be in New York. It’s going to be Oregon, UConn, Syracuse and Iowa at Madison Square Garden. Those are the kind of things we want to take advantage of.
“Will it change the non-conference scheduling? Yeah, it will. To what degree, I don’t know.”
Other topics that likely will come up will be the arrival of three new coaches — Archie Miller at Indiana, Brad Underwood at Illinois and Chris Holtmann at Ohio State — as well as the fact Michigan State enters the season as the heavy favorite.
In a recent media poll, the Spartans were the unanimous pick to win the Big Ten while sophomore Miles Bridges was the unanimous Player of the Year and Jaren Jackson Jr. was Freshman of the Year.
“We really think we have a chance to be a good team,” Izzo said.