Big Ten media day notebook


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ROSEMONT, Illinois — While the Iowa men’s basketball team won’t play against a Big Ten team until the penultimate day of 2014, the season unofficially started Thursday when representatives from all 14 Big Ten teams were in one place.

Wisconsin preseason favorite

Shortly before Illinois head coach John Groce took the podium to kick off media day, the Big Ten announced its preseason rankings and preseason all-conference team. Members of the media unanimously chose Wisconsin as the favorite, followed by Michigan State and Ohio State. The only other unanimous pick was the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky as the preseason player of the year.

Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, Michigan’s Caris LeVert, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway, and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker were the other four selected.

For Wisconsin, however, that hype means nothing. After all, the team hasn’t played a game yet.

“Well, [the expectation] doesn’t really affect us when we’re doing our transition defensive drills; I don’t think my guys are thinking about that,” Badger head coach Bo Ryan said.

He’s right, because preseason expectations are meaningless in some sense, but they’re also a way to gauge how the conference will be as a whole.

After averaging roughly 14 points and 6 rebounds as a junior last season (including 16.4 and 5.8 in the Big Dance), Kaminsky’s focus is on the team’s performance not winning the Nasmith or any other individual postseason award.

“We want to make it to the Final Four, we want to achieve that this season, so we’re just going to work the same way we did last year,” Kaminsky said. “We have goals for ourselves; they might be higher expectations, but at the end of the day, we need to achieve them.”

Big Ten elite, but no results to show

Over the past few seasons, the Big Ten has been one of, if not the, best conferences in the country.

Last season, the league sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament, with three of those teams advancing to the Sweet 16, two to the Elite Eight, and Wisconsin in the Final Four. Two years ago, Michigan fell to Louisville in the NCAA Final.

Conference teams have been close, but none have managed to take the title since 2000, when Michigan State topped Florida in the title game.

What gives? When will a Big Ten team finally manage to get over the hump and take that crown this year?

Dekker thinks it’s just a matter of time.

“I just think there are so many good teams in the league that battle all year round that you never know what’s going to happen. A great team can have one bad night, and you’re knocked out,” the junior said. “Last year, we were one possession away from not making the Sweet 16, and we were one possession away from making the championship.”

The league’s elite standing won’t change this year, either, as the Big Ten boasts six teams in the preseason coaches’ poll.

“I don’t think you can judge the conference per se by that we haven’t won,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “… I’m very pleased with where Big Ten basketball is, and yeah, I’d love to see one of us win one, that’s for sure.”

Changing the schedule

Beginning this season, Maryland and Rutgers are officially in the Big Ten. With this comes a change in scheduling to accommodate the two new teams. As it did last year, Iowa is still scheduled to play 14 nonconference games but will suit up for two more Big Ten contests.

Several coaches weighed in on the manner, presenting a mixed bag of results. The change also brought up the conversation of whether there should be additional changes to the conference schedule.

As it stands, teams are scheduled to play five teams twice and the other eight once, bringing the total number of conference games to 18. Iowa is scheduled to play Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern twice.

It’s unknown if things will change in upcoming seasons, but the coach of the league’s best team is certainly in favor of more conference games.

“Let’s play 26. Ernie Banks said, 'Let’s play two,' didn’t he?” Ryan said. “No, 20 would be great … I think it would be great for the league if we could squeeze it in, if we could do it.”

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s basketball team.

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