John Beilein and the Michigan Wolverines recently wrapped up a second consecutive Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship, defeating Purdue 75-66. It was a great tournament that, by the end, was playing in front of capacity or near-capacity crowds.
Albeit, when the event kicked off in Madison Square Garden, much of the public discussion was on the midwestern league’s relocation to New York, and just as importantly, the fact the tournament would be ending a week early.
In order to get in the Mecca, Jim Delany had his conference schedule contracted and their season ending tournament a week prior to most. The result was a challenging schedule, but now a long, long layoff until those who make the postseason see game action again.
Beilein seems marginally worried, if not entirely indifferent to the prospect of waiting 10 or 11 days to play again.
In an interview with the Detroit News, he referenced a potential training camp structure and the possibility of a competitive scrimmage or two.
How the Big Ten teams, of which there are three title contenders in my mind with the Wolverines, Michigan State and Purdue, utilize their time, will be key.
As CBS Sports columnist Gary Parrish posited in a recent Eye on College Basketball podcast, some team will go deep in the tournaments and the time off will be lauded as ‘rejuvenating.’ Another team will, surprisingly, not escape the first weekend and the break will be criticized for ‘creating rust.’
The truth is: both may be valid. They’re not mutually exclusive. This time off, however, is giving the coaches of these programs a large opportunity. The time off should help restore tired bodies and allow time for minor injuries to heal. However, there are probably some diminishing returns present. The more you rest, the larger the risk of that rust developing. Operating within the constructs of a season creates a certain rhythm and groove; falling out of it is a serious possibility. Michigan is playing phenomenally right now. What if they lose that touch?
What Belien, Izzo, Painter and others do with their time will be key. Personally, I would view this a time to contribute to skill development. In the season practice, time is short to conserve energy and a good deal of the focus is on preparations for the next opponent. These programs don’t know their next opponent, and even when they find out, will have plenty of time to go over their scout with nuance. The extra days of putting shots up, getting conditioned and working on other skills could be tremendously valuable. However, maybe five days isn’t a lot of time, and this late in the season it won’t mean much. Maybe some or all of these coaches will mismanage their time. It’s hard to say until we see it on the court.
It will be intriguing to see what happens to these programs come tourney time. Making any blanket statements would be foolish. But it’s definitely worth watching. If the Spartans coming out sniping, or if the Boilermakers can seem to get in a flow, this week off will be an excellent variable to point to as a potential cause.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.