Twitter was a buzz today as the Big Ten released their conference awards… randomly though Twitter at 12:15 in the afternoon. And while Chris Collins was awarded the sole Big Ten Coach Of The Year chosen by the coaches and media panel; the Associated Press let out their own selection and awarded Matt Painter Co-Big Ten Coach Of The Year alongside Collins.
I may have let my bias show initially on why I thought Matt Painter deserved the honors. Hey, can you blame me? I’m a Purdue fan through and through. But I can also be objective (even if it takes me a few hours) to step back and look at why I think the AP got it right in awarding this to both coaches.
Collins has done a tremendous job at Northwestern this year. A team that lost a ton of talent and was projected to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten ended up in second place. It’s not a spot you find Northwestern in a lot and when I say a lot… like ever. They clinched a double-bye in the BTT and knocked off top teams like Purdue and Indiana.
Not only that, the Wildcats will be going dancing for the first since 2017 and only the second time in history for the program. I hate to think this is a most-improved award, but I respect what he was able to do there this season when no one expected it. Northwestern ended the regular season 21-10 and 12-8 in the conference.
With that being said, I can’t turn my head on what Matt Painter has also accomplished this season. He lost a lottery pick, All Big Ten Player, two seniors and another transfer and still won the Big Ten. Not only did he win it, he won it by three games. Also, unexpectedly.
Purdue was picked to finish 5th in preseason polls and were unranked nationally. We knew we had Edey coming back but so much was up in the air on who the point guard would be. How would the freshman step up? And what kind of development Painter would do on this young laden team?
Turns out, a lot. The Boilers ended up holding the number 1 spot in the AP poll for multiple weeks and were ranked top 5 for 15 straight weeks along with having a #1 seed in reach in the NCAA tournament for the first time under Matt Painter era. Purdue ended the regular season 26-5 overall and 15-5 in the conference.