ROSEMONT, Ill. — One of his Big Ten peers didn’t hesitate to lob some tongue-in-cheek thoughts in the direction of Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery when asked about college basketball’s new bench decorum rules.
“I told Fran he can’t throw any more chairs,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Thursday at the Big Ten’s preseason tipoff event. “That’s going to be hard on him, but the rest of us should survive just fine.”
McCaffery took his frustrations out on a chair during a timeout in a lopsided loss at the Breslin Center a year ago, slamming to the court as he challenged his team’s intensity in a display which earned a reprimand from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
Izzo told McCaffery that he had mentioned the incident, and the Iowa coach took it in stride.
“They ask Izzo about bench decorum and he throws me under the bus,” McCaffery said.
Izzo said that coaches and officials share responsibility in making the new rule work.
“In basketball, it’s different than football because you are so close and you get caught up in the emotion of the game,” said Izzo, beginning his 30th season on the staff at MSU. “The officials have to do a good job, and we have to do a good job. Good officials can handle a coach, and good coaches can handle the officials, as long as both parties are doing their jobs.”
Big Ten’s best
Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller was named as the Big Ten preseason player of the year and was the only unanimous selection on a five-player preseason all-conference team selected by a media panel.
Returning all-conference players Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State landed spots on the team as did Trey Burke of Michigan and Tim Frazier of Penn State.
A first-team all-conference pick a year ago, Frazier is among 17 returning all-conference selections from the 2011-12 season.
“It does mean something to get mentioned, especially with the talent that you see in the league this year,” Frazier said. “It means I had a good year last year and somebody else expects me to follow it up with another good season.”
All is well
McCaffery said there are no hard feelings between he and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan after the Badgers’ Jarrod Uthoff transferred to Iowa.
“We had dinner at the same table last night,” McCaffery said. “I don’t see it being an issue. Maybe the first time people will bring it up, but over time it’s us against them.”
Ryan said he has dealt with in-conference transfers before and suspects he will again at some point in the future.
“It’s the nature of the game,” Ryan said. “As far as Fran and I go, everything’s good. I think we both have plenty to do getting our teams ready for the season.”
First-year coaches John Groce of Illinois and Tim Miles of Nebraska took different approaches, but expressed optimistic hopes at the onset of their tenures.
Groce said he has been pleased with the willingness to learn he has seen from the Fighting Illini, while Miles talked about the task of building a Cornhuskers program which last reached the NCAA tourney in 1998.
“You have to have a starting point,” Groce said. “Our guys are excited. They see this as a new beginning of sorts, and I’m excited for them. They’re buying in and giving me everything they have.”
Miles’ sense of humor came through as well. He took a Twitter video of the room full of reporters, saying as he panned across that he wanted to “preserve the moment” before going back to work.
“People always talk about Nebraska football, but when you peel back the onion, you see great volleyball, track and field, wrestling and women’s basketball programs,” Miles said.
“You don’t have to look far to see that the commitment is there for the entire athletic department, and that gives us a chance.”
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Hawkeye center honored
Iowa post player Morgan Johnson was chosen by Big Ten women’s coaches to their preseason all-conference team.
Johnson and Penn State’s Alex Bentley, a guard who shared league preseason player of the year honors with Ohio State’s Tayler Hill, were the only two seniors named to the seven-player team.
A second-team all-conference choice last season, Johnson averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds for Iowa. She led the Big Ten in field-goal percentage and finished second in the league in blocks.
“It’s good to be noticed and hopefully I can play my way onto the team at the end of the season,” Johnson said. “That’s the one that means the most to me.”
In addition to Johnson, Bentley and Hill, guards Rachel Banham of Minnesota, Maggie Lucas of Penn State and Courtney Moses of Purdue join Nebraska forward Jordan Hooper on the team.
Lions, Huskers top women’s poll
Penn State and Nebraska topped the preseason women’s polls selected by both the league’s coaches and the media.
Purdue filled the third spot on the coaches poll, while Ohio State was the third choice of a media panel.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder agreed with the top two picks and wasn’t surprised that the third spot was a split decision, calling the third through sixth spots in the league race “up for grabs.”
Still, Bluder doesn’t mind that her team was overlooked on the ballots.
“I can go back, throw that in my players’ faces,” she said. “Good motivation.”