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Big Ten Coaches Pave Way to Success

Charles E. Sutton | 2/8/2013, 6:44 p.m.

The Big Ten conference is clearly the best basketball league in the nation. Why, you ask? Simply because the Big Ten's coaches are the most stable in America. It became evident once again Saturday night when No. 1 Michigan and No. 3 Indiana took the national spotlight.

Of the top 11 teams in last week's Associated Press Top 25, three of them were from the Big Ten, including No. 11 Ohio State. But Michigan State (No. 13), Minnesota (No. 23) and Wisconsin, unranked but receiving 45 votes in the poll, good for 28th, are all likely to be playing in this year's NCAA tournament.

It's no surprise. In five seasons, Tom Crean has rebuilt the Indiana program. The Hoosiers were ranked as high as No. 1 earlier in the season, and in all likelihood, will rise to that spot again. Last season, they reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002. And keep in mind, Crean led Marquette to the Final Four in 2003.

Over the past 17 seasons, Tom Izzo has guided Michigan State to six Final Fours, including the 2000 national title.

There are also other Big Ten teams with Final Four resumes. In nine seasons at Ohio State, Thad Matta has led the Buckeyes to the NCAA championship game (2007) and last season reached the Final Four again. He also has two Sweet 16 appearances in 2010 and 2011. And let's not overlook Tubby Smith. He has Minnesota (15-5) ranked even though they've stumbled lately. Now in his sixth year, Smith is attempting to get the Golden Gophers into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010. But he, also, has a national championship to his credit with Kentucky in 1998. While he was there, he led the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 six times and the Elite Eight four times.

In 11 years at Wisconsin, Bo Ryan has never missed the tournament and has made five Sweet 16s, including the last two, and went to the Elite Eight in 2005. John Beilein is currently in his sixth season at Michigan and positioned to make a third straight tournament appearance. He has a young team that was No. 1 earlier in the season. However, they won't be there this week after the 81-73 loss to Indiana, but they could get back to No. 1 before the season ends.