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Big Ten basketball: With new coaches come new styles

Minnesothead basketball coach Richard Pitino listens questiduring Big Ten Conference NCAA college basketball mediday Thursday Oct. 31 2013 Rosemont Ill.

Minnesota head basketball coach Richard Pitino listens to a question during the Big Ten Conference NCAA college basketball media day Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, in Rosemont, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: December 2, 2013 12:55PM

Many promoters of the Big Ten have abandoned the idea that the conference is based solely on physicality — a game won and lost in the paint.

And while it might seem obligatory for Big Ten lifers such as Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo to celebrate the skill that the Big Ten has produced, take the word of a conference newcomer as to where the league is trending.

“All these teams want to get out and run,” first-year Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said at Big Ten Media Day Thursday. “I think people think it’s a physical league, but when I was in the Big East the first time around it’s probably as physical as it gets.”

The Big Ten is still a hard-nosed league. But as a result of the consistently solid, rugged defense teams have played over the years, some coaches are looking to push the ball up the floor more.

Indiana’s Tom Crean and Illinois’ John Groce have brought more frenetic styles to the league that are, simply, more fun to watch.

New hires Pitino and Northwestern’s Chris Collins are looking to employ similar philosophies.

“You’re seeing less of an emphasis on brute force,” Collins said. “I think you have to have [guard play]. You can’t win without capable big guys. But if you don’t have great guard play, you’re not going anywhere.”

It’s as much a reaction to the defense played in the conference as it is a reflection on the coaches’ ability to recruit.

You don’t just need quality guards for an up-tempo style of basketball. Groce says numbers count too.

“Last year we did push it up the floor,” Groce said. “But not even close to the level we want to eventually because you got to play nine guys, in my opinion, to do that.”


Twitter: @SethGruen

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