2021-22 Tradition Big Ten basketball coach power rankings
Big Ten basketball is back, and that means lists are back too.
This particular list? Our power rankings of this year’s Big Ten coaches heading into the season. Expect movement by the end of the year. Except for the top spot. That one’s pretty secure.
1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
The only man on this list with a national championship to his name, even if the trophy case is getting a bit dusty.
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Izzo has been in the Basketball Hall of Fame for 5 years already, and he’s added an 8th overall Final Four appearance since that induction.
With Mike Kryzyzewski retiring at the end of the season, Izzo will have no peer in all of college hoops this time next year.
2. Matt Painter, Purdue
Painter is a hallmark of consistency, leading the Boilermakers to 13 NCAA tournament appearances and 3 Big Ten titles since replacing Gene Keady in 2005.
The only thing missing is the Final Four trip that has eluded Purdue since 1979. Painter and the Boilers will have an opportunity to end that drought this season, entering the year ranked 7th in the AP preseason poll.
3. Juwan Howard, Michigan
It’s only his 3rd season, but all Juwan Howard has done is win in his return to his alma mater.
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Howard’s .714 winning percentage is tops among active Big Ten coaches, and it may climb even higher for the 6th-ranked Wolverines this season.
4. Mark Turgeon, Maryland
Turgeon has won two-thirds of his games at Maryland, though Terps fans are getting a little itchy due to recent March disappointments. The Terrapins have not reached the Sweet 16 since 2016.
However, Maryland was certainly one of the teams robbed by the pandemic in 2020. The Terrapins were ranked 12th when the season was canceled.
5. Chris Holtmann, Ohio State
Replacing Thad Matta was no easy task, but Holtmann has made it look that way.
The Buckeyes have reached the tournament every year he’s been there with the exception of 2020’s cancelation. A Big Ten championship of the regular season or tourney variety is pretty much the only thing he’s failed to do so far.
6. Brad Underwood, Illinois
Like Holtmann, he’s made a big impact since arriving on campus in 2017.
You could argue that Underwood belongs above Holtmann given that he led the Illini to last year’s Big Ten tournament title and has made one more Sweet 16 appearance.
But the Illini missed the tournament in 2018 and ’19, so I’ll take Holtmann’s consistency. For now. Underwood and the Illini may take a step ahead of the Buckeyes this season.
7. Steve Pikiell, Rutgers
This man led Rutgers to the NCAA tournament. If anything, we might have Pikiell ranked too low.
If the Scarlet Knights can do it again — this likely would make 3 straight years if not for the pandemic — there will be no questioning Pikiell’s credentials.
8. Greg Gard, Wisconsin
Aesthetically speaking, there are 344 teams I would prefer to watch over the Badgers, who rank 345th in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. Don’t blame me; blame Loyola Marymount for bursting onto the scene during my formative basketball years.
But even though I dread watching Wisconsin, the fact it works shows what Gard can do as a coach. He’s got a pair of Sweet 16s and a Big Ten title to his name.
9. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
McCaffery has led Iowa to 5 NCAA tournament appearances, but never gotten out of the second round. And the Hawkeyes haven’t won a conference title under McCaffery.
If your temper is going to make you a sideshow — and McCaffery’s certainly does — you’re going to have to do a little better. Like Gregg Marshall or Bob Knight. Fran ain’t them.
10. Chris Collins, Northwestern
Collins was in Pikiell territory a few years ago, but now he might be sliding into hot-seat country.
When Collins led the Wildcats to their first NCAA appearance in 2017, he looked like he was on a trajectory to possibly be the guy who replaced Coach K at Duke. Instead, he hasn’t even led Northwestern to the NIT since.
That should change this season. Northwestern has a solid enough roster to reach some form of postseason play. If they don’t, it could get interesting in Evanston.
11. Mike Woodson, Indiana
Woodson brings NBA cred to his new position, even if it was with the Knicks.
He also brings a direct connection to Bob Knight that much of the IU fanbase has longed for since 2000. It’s hard to properly rank a guy who has yet to coach a college game, but Woodson is winning fans over in Bloomington so far.
12. Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska
What does it say when you’re ranked behind a guy who hasn’t coached a game at the college level?
The Mayor may not get re-elected in Lincoln if the Cornhuskers have another rotten season, though it’s possible that a need to buy out Scott Frost’s contract could end up saving his bacon. Hoiberg had great success at Iowa State, but he’s only 14-45 at Nebraska.
13. Ben Johnson, Minnesota
It’s no coincidence Minnesota’s in-state recruiting went down the tubes when Johnson left Richard Pitino’s staff for an assistant position at Xavier.
We know he can recruit, which is what the Golden Gophers desperately need. Now we will find out if he can coach.
14. Micah Shrewsberry, Penn State
If he were higher than 14th on this list, Shrewsberry would have a better job than Penn State.
Shrewsberry’s record as a head coach is an uninspiring 15-48 (.238) at NAIA IU-South Bend from 2005-07, though lengthy tenures under Brad Stevens and Matt Painter offer hope that he’ll succeed his second time around.