They had all the necessities Thursday morning at the Big Ten media day. Coaches. Players. Free orange juice. Only one thing was missing.
A suggestion box. Too bad, because in the Big Ten’s relentless quest to be regarded as equal to the other elite basketball leagues — especially the snooty Tobacco Roaders from the conference that shall not be named — there is always room for improvement.
Matter of fact, 12 ideas came to mind to help the cause for national renown. In lieu of a suggestion box, here they are.
1. Someone please win the national championship. Yeah, that’s asking a lot, but here’s the thing. Michigan State — circa 2000 — is the only Big Ten team to manage to do that in 24 years. In that same span, Duke has won four and Connecticut three. Florida has won two, and they’re supposed to be worried more in Gainesville about getting back to a BCS bowl.
Not that the sons of the Midwest haven’t come close. Last April, Michigan become the fifth different Big Ten school to play in the national championship game in 12 years. Very notable, befitting a quality league. But can someone one day finish the job?
2. Keep the heat on the ACC in the annual December challenge. The first 10 years of the event, the ACC treated the Big Ten like a lion treats a zebra, taking all 10 series. The Big Ten then won three years in a row before splitting in 2012. It’s pretty meaningless, but it sounds good.
3. Indiana should quickly reload. A league always looks best when its flagship programs are thriving.
4. New coach Chris Collins should get Northwestern to finally do what 309 other schools have done: Be invited to the NCAA Tournament.
5. Michigan State should return to the Final Four. You’ve been able to set your watch by Tom Izzo. Not since 1999 have the Spartans gone more than four years without a Final Four trip. This is Year 4 since their last one.