Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
We have been through over four weeks of hoops and most of the Big Ten teams have played at least eight games on their non-conference schedule. At the beginning of the season, there were a handful of coaches who were not necessarily on the hot seat but definitely had something to prove over the first few games. Tubby Smith had to deal with all of the offcourt issues with Trevor Mbakwe and his assistant coach Saul Smith. There were a few questions about how John Beilein could run his offense without a designated three-point gunner in the halfcourt. Illinois’ John Groce convinced people of his recruiting skills by nabbing a top 25 recruiting class for next season, but his coaching abilities at the top level had yet to be seen. After the first few weeks, let’s examine which coaches from the B1G helped themselves and in some cases just flat-out have surprised everybody with their performance.
- Tubby Smith: The most important task for Smith coming into this season was to divert attention to the game on the court and he has been able to successfully do that during the Gophers’ first 10 games. Even removing all of the all of the issues off the court, Smith had to prepare for some adversity this season because of Mbakwe’s recovery. It wasn’t clear if his star big man would be in 100% game shape after losing the entire B1G season to a foot injury last year, and his other issues made it even tougher for Smith to keep his team focused. But rather than rely on Mbakwe to save his team, he has turned to his experienced guards and wings to produce an impressive 10-1 record thus far. Mbakwe has only averaged 17.9 MPG and has not been the primary offensive option for the Gophers yet, as he averages only 8.5 PPG. Guards Joe Coleman, Austin Hollins and Andrew Hollins have taken a leadership role and have been Smith’s voice on the court. The trio of guards are averaging 35.9 PPG which is 46% of the total offensive production by the Gophers. Putting aside their offensive statistics, it is very clear that Smith is communicating effectively with his guards, and together, they have had a calming presence on the overall Gopher basketball program. As long as the Gophers don’t suffer the injury bug and Mbakwe can slowly recover to dominate the boards again, Smith’s stock will only continue to rise during the rest of the season. Read the rest of this entry »