It’s time to empty the notebook of observations made from a sheltered sports room:
Creating an all-time list of anything is a fool’s task unless one feasts on criticism. The Big Ten Network this past week lived down to expectations with its list of the top conference basketball players from the decade of the 2010s.
Imagine 16 players (there was six players on the BTN third team due to a tie) in the past decade better than Cody Zeller of Indiana and E’Twaun Moore of Purdue? I can’t, but a so-called select panel of 24 voters (which included just one Purdue/IU representative in former Boilermaker star Robbie Hummel) saw it differently.
The biggest mistake in this observer’s view was the inclusion of Ohio State’s Evan Turner, who played a grand total of three months in the 2010s. Include Turner in the all-2000s Big Ten team? Absolutely.
No objection to the rest of the first team: Trey Burke of Michigan, the Michigan State duo of Denzel Valentine and Draymond Green, and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.
Personally, I would replace Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ on the BTN second team with Zeller, a better all-around player. Difficult to imagine a major award winner (Jerry West) being merely a second-teamer but that’s where the committee slotted Purdue’s Carsen Edwards. Even I could win a lot of games with IU’s Victor Oladipo, Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger and Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston, who comprised the rest of BTN’s second team.
BTN’s third team had a definite gold and black tint with All-Americans JaJuan Johnson and Caleb Swanigan joined by Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell and Aaron Craft, and Jordan Murphy of Minnesota.
BTN will release its all-decade football team next week. If I was a Purdue or IU fan, I wouldn’t hold my breath awaiting the vote. It was not exactly a memorable decade for either football program. Also, the 24-member voting committee does not have anyone with Purdue or Indiana ties.
A man of influence
Purdue coach Matt Painter is among the 100 most influential people in men’s college basketball, according to Silver Waves Media.
The list was compiled with the assist of athletic directors, university presidents and agents. Criteria for selection required winning at a high level, producing top flight talent, effecting movement in the college coaching carousel and having their fingerprints all over the sport.
Here’s what Silver Waves Media had to say about Painter:
“Painter has the total package when you look at a basketball coach. Whether it’s NCAA Tournament runs, league titles or NBA players. If you name it, Painter’s got it. He is ever so surely climbing the ranks as Purdue’s winningest coach and his four Sweet Sixteens, one Elite Eight and 362-179 (.669) overall record highlight the incredible job he has done. … His four Big Ten Coach of the Year awards are tied for third-most behind Gene Keady and Bob Knight. … His 12 total NCAA Tournament appearances are the most for a coach nationally under the age of 55 (Painter turns 50 on Aug. 27). Cuonzo Martin (Missouri), Greg Gary (Mercer), Brad Korn (SEMO), Jack Owens (Miami, Ohio), Rick Ray and Paul Lusk are all Painter proteges that have earned head coaching jobs at some point during their careers.”
Martin also made the Top 100, partially based on leading three different programs to the NCAA Tournament. One of Painter’s coaching influences, Bruce Weber of Kansas State, earned his top 100 credentials by nearing 500 wins in his 22 seasons as a head coach.
Unfortunately, Silver Waves Media’s Top 100 also indicates today’s state of college basketball. The likes of Rick Pitino, Sean Miller, John Calipari, Jim Boeheim and Kelvin Sampson also made this list.
Championship destiny?
Painter and Purdue are one of six programs that Andy Wittry of believes has a strong case to become college basketball’s next first-time national champion.
Wittry’s first paragraph about the Boilermakers, though, is enough to give fans heartburn:
“The Boilermakers were a Mamadi Diakite buzzer beater away from making the Final Four in 2019, where they would have played No. 5 seed Auburn for a chance to play Texas Tech for a national title. So perhaps if Virginia’s Kihei Clark doesn’t make a heads-up pass at the end of regulation in their Elite Eight thriller, maybe Purdue is coming off a 2019 national championship. Who knows, right?”
Wittry also cites Painter’s ability to adapt his scheme to his roster, whether it’s guard-oriented with Carsen Edwards or big man centered with A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan. Painter has had top-10 ranked defenses (2009-11) and top-five offenses in 2018 and 2019.
“So when Purdue is ‘right,’ you’re looking at a program that can contend for a 30-win season and a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.”
Gonzaga, Texas Tech, Baylor, Auburn and Butler also made Wittry’s list. If I was forced to rank them in order of first title contenders, Gonzaga and Texas Tech would be 1-2 due to outstanding coaching by Mark Few and Chris Beard.

Kenny Thompson is an award winning journalist who writes a weekly column for Sagamore News Media