Several Big Ten basketball coaches will be facing a whole new challenge this week.
They’re accustomed to having a fairly quick turnaround between the end of the Big Ten tournament and the start of either the NCAA tournament or the NIT.
This time around, with the Big Ten tournament ending today a full week ahead of Selection Sunday, they face the problem of having too much time between games. It’s possible that some of them could have close to two full weeks between games, and they’ve been scheming for some time how they’re going to deal with that.
"The one thing you can do is lose a competitive edge," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "So how do you balance that with giving your guys some time off?"
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who has been openly disdainful of playing the Big Ten tournament this early, admitted there may be positives to doing it this way. Teams that have key players banged up or sick will have time to get those players healthy.
"We’re thinking of going to the Bahamas the week in between and having a spring break," Izzo joked.
Some of these coaches have dealt with this before in other coaching jobs. Michigan coach John Beilein previously coached at Canisius and Richmond and found innovative ways to handle the extra time off.
He held wiffle ball tournaments with his players. At Richmond, he took his players fishing for a day or two.
He admitted that now that he’s at Michigan, it might need to be ice fishing.
"Anything to just change things up," Beilein said.
Beilein did say he plans to have at least one full-scale intrasquad scrimmage, complete with officials, during that week off.
"We’re just dealing with it the best I can," he added. "I’m not going to say I’m in favor of it or against it. I’m always in favor of playing the cards I’m dealt."
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon also dealt with similarly lengthy layoffs during his years as the head coach at Wichita State and liked it. He said it was "a huge advantage."
"I’m hoping it translates into a huge postseason for the Big Ten," he said.
Turgeon said on a teleconference with Big Ten coaches on Monday that he thought it was imperative that the Big Ten play its conference tournament in New York City.
"I think we had to do it as a league," he said. "We had to get to New York. We owed it to Rutgers."
Really? Seriously? Rutgers has been part of the Big Ten for four years. Iowa has been in the Big Ten for 119 years and the tournament never has been held in Des Moines. It’s also never been in Detroit, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Cleveland or Omaha.
Most of the teams in the league never have had the advantage of having the conference tournament played 40 miles from their campus.
It has been rough year for NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams in the Iowa-Illinois region.
Iowa and Illinois tied for 11th in the Big Ten. Northwestern finished 10th. Iowa State was dead last in the Big 12. DePaul, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, Chicago State and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville all are going to finish last or next-to-last in their respective leagues.
Twelve of the 17 NCAA Division I programs in the two states are assured of finishing with records .500 or below. Aside from four teams in the Missouri Valley Conference (Loyola, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Bradley), the only other team with a winning record is Illinois-Chicago.
But at least the two-state region will be represented in the NCAA tournament for the 43rd consecutive year. One of those four Illinois-based Valley teams is assured of winning the conference tournament today.
We know Molly Huddle as the personable young lady who has won the Quad-City Times Bix 7 twice and ran the fastest time ever by an American female runner in the race in 2014.
But she quietly is carving out a place as one of the great U.S. distance runners ever. She recently broke a 12-year-old American record in the half-marathon by running the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon in an hour, 7 minutes, 25 seconds.
Huddle, still fairly young at 33, already held the American records for 5,000 and 10,000 meters.