Big Ten: Home of the Country's Most Underrated Coaches

Chris ScheiCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2009

When you hear experts talk about the National Coach of the Year award, the name most thrown around is Trent Johnson, coach of the LSU Tigers.

He certainly deserves to be mentioned, although LSU had a porous non-conference schedule and have played 19 of their 29 games at home.

But some names that I have not heard mentioned bother me. All of those names come from the Big Ten.

Let me throw some at you—John Beliein, Tubby Smith, Ed Dechellis, Thad Matta, and Bo Ryan.

Beliein and his Michigan Wolverines were a pain to watch last year, on their way to a 10-22 record. Having little time to recruit, the best he could do was sign three players who either had no other offers, or very few.

Zack Novak had an offer to Northwestern, before they withdrew it from him. Ben Cronin had few other offers, and Stu Douglass had offers from a small handful of low-major colleges.

Many said if the stars all aligned the right way, Michigan could somehow get to a .500 overall record. Michigan is now on the tournament bubble, taking out the likes of Duke and UCLA along the way, and giving UConn all they could handle—in Storrs.

Tubby Smith's Gophers made sure they would get 12 or 13 wins before the Big Ten season with their laughable non-conference schedule, but Tubby has found ways to win in the Big Ten despite a very mediocre half-court offense, and inconsistent play from his star player.

Ed DeChellis and his Nittany Lions have proved the experts wrong, and they very well could be dancing in March. They, too, had a horrible non-conference schedule, but have beaten Michigan State and Illinois in their house.

Thad Matta was supposed to have a rebuilding year, with maybe reaching the NIT. But he has guided his young, inexperienced Buckeyes to the brink of a NCAA berth.

And, Bo Ryan could win the award every year. Wisconsin was supposed to have a season much like Ohio State's, but the Badgers are on the cusp of their own NCAA berth.

While there are better candidates for National Coach of the Year, these guys deserve some major props for the jobs that they have done this year.

And just to ensure I don't ruffle any feathers, I better mention Bruce Weber's name, who's Fighting Illini were a question mark coming into this year. After a very disappointing year last year, Illini faithful were just hoping to see some improvement.

How does a five- or six-seed in the NCAA Tournament sound for improvement?

They can give the award to whoever they want. But they better not forget about these guys.