Dating back as long as we can remember, passion for college basketball has been a right of passage in the midwest.
The release of “Hoosiers” in 1986 led to national recognition of this passion and shined a light on the fact that quality basketball did not only take place in metropolitan areas.
In recent seasons however, the midwest has underperformed on a national level.
Chris Holtmann has been highly successful at Ohio State, as has Fran McCaffery at Iowa while Michigan has been a staple since the late 1980’s. So many of the other prominent programs have seemingly taken a step back in recent seasons for various reasons.
As we have seen in college football, many players are leaving traditional schools for a better quality of climate.
Notre Dame, Michigan and Wisconsin can no longer just make a phone call to the top recruits in the nation with the expectation of commitment.
You can expect a dogfight with the schools from California, Texas, Georgia and Florida.
The Midwest region and the Big Ten specifically has always employed a plethora of quality coaches, however the Big Ten has failed to win a national title since the year 2000.
Kansas was the last midwestern school to win a title back in 2008. But the coaching is why the Midwest is about to be back.
Quality Coaching Hires
Traditional powers in college basketball are sometimes just the byproduct of one person. When you think Duke you think Coach K. When you think UCLA, you think John Wooden.
We saw a lull at UCLA after Wooden retired and we are about to find out if Duke can sustain Coach K’s success.
Michigan found itself in a lull after (and at the end of) Steve Fischer’s regime but made a fantastic hire in John Beilein and another in Juwan Howard.
The former star bigman will likely carry the torch at his alma-mater for as long as he wants to.
Indiana thought they made a quality hire in Archie Miller but that experiment failed for reasons unknown to me.
Many consider the Hoosiers to be a borderline blue blood program but they have made fewer than half the NCAA Tournaments since Bobby Knight retired and none since 2016.
Mike Woodson looks like a good hire for the Hoosiers and he is one of many.
He, along with Howard, Brad Underwood at Illinois, T.J. Otzelberger at Iowa State and Jeff Boals at Ohio create a nice stable of coaches to join the region that already includes Matt Painter, Holtmann, Greg Gard and Mike Brey.
Speaking of Brey, Notre looks to be on the road to recovery after shaking up their coaches on the bench. Rod Balanis and Craig Ayers both left the program for very different reasons.
New staff members Antoni Wyche and Anthony Solomon have made their presence known in South Bend.
Quality Players are Still Coming
While it has become more of a dogfight for players to head north. It’s more of an issue in football than basketball.
The player pipeline to the upper midwest in basketball is still more about relationships than weather. However, when you have a fantastic combination of both, it’s hard to beat.
Charlton Young at Florida State and, until recently, Kenny Payne at Kentucky have had the southeast on lockdown for years.
Norm Roberts pulls players from all over the country to Kansas (which is technically the midwest I guess). John Scheyer at Duke, Kevin Nickelberry at LSU are both top flight recruiters along with west coach head coaches Mark Few, Andy Enfield and Dana Altman.
The worm is turning for the Midwest region however as assistant coaches like Jonas Hayes at Xavier, Ryan Pedon at Ohio State, and Howard Eisley at Michigan have joined regional stalwarts Saddi Washington at Michigan Brandon Bentley at Purdue in recent years.
Fred Hoiberg is also known as a tremendous recruiter but tends to stock his pond from the JUCO level more than the prep ranks.
To make a long story short, it looks as if the midwest, as a region, is taking a page out of the SEC playbook.
Make it a point of emphasis to employ quality, high level coaches and not assume that good young players will come to your school based on tradition, proximity or what your program was twenty years ago.
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