September 11, 2011

Which is best football-basketball coaching duo

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

TODAY'S QUESTION: With the college football season under way and college basketball about a month away from starting practice, we thought it a good time to ask this question: Which school has the best basketball-football coaching combination?

David Fox's answer:
There are a ton of candidates, but the answer isn't as clear as it was a couple of years ago, when Florida had the national championship tandem of Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan. It's a tough call, but I'm selecting Michigan State with Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo, and in a way they complement each other. Izzo's resume is among the best in the country, with six Final Fours and the 2000 national title. He has a knack for pushing the right buttons, especially in March. And you can't underestimate the value of having an elite coach who (at least to this point) has no interest in leaving. Dantonio is as underrated a football coach as any. I can't overlook his value to Michigan State. He gave the program an edge and blue-collar attitude that was sorely needed after the John L. Smith era. And before Michigan State, Dantonio laid the groundwork for Cincinnati to become a solid Big East program. A tough choice, but these two coaches appear to be the perfect fit for Michigan State.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I'll go with Wisconsin's Bret Bielema and Bo Ryan. Both emphasize a blue-collar style, but Bielema's offense is a little more free-wheeling than Ryan's. Neither signs all that many blue-chip recruits, but both do a great job of identifying guys who will fit their roles and of identifying guys that other top programs pass on because they might be a half-step slow or two or three inches too short. Both coaches are fiery on the sideline, as well, though Ryan never will approach Bielema-level histrionics. I thought about picking Oklahoma, with Bob Stoops and Lon Kruger; Kruger has done excellent work rebuilding some struggling programs, but it might take a few seasons at OU.

Jason King's answer:
I like the tandem they have right now in Wisconsin. Bret Bielema is quickly becoming a household name among college football fans. The Badgers have won 23 of their past 28 games under Bielema's watch and are gunning for their third consecutive 10-win season. He's 51-16 in five-plus seasons since taking over for Barry Alvarez. In basketball, not many coaches have been as consistent as Bo Ryan, who has averaged 24.2 wins in 10 seasons in Madison and never finished lower than fourth in the always-tough Big Ten. That shouldn't change this season for a Wisconsin squad that should open the season in the top 25.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I don't think there are any coaching combinations out there that boast the star power Florida had with Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan or that Ohio State possessed with Jim Tressel and Thad Matta. I guess Michigan State's tandem of Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo seems the best of the bunch to me. I think Izzo ranks alongside Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina's Roy Williams as the best basketball coaches working today. Dantonio lacks Izzo's credentials, but I'd argue he's one of the nation's 20-25 best football coaches. Dantonio certainly did great work last season, winning a share of the Big Ten title and finishing 11-2 with a team that opened the season outside the national rankings. His gutsy play calls sparked come-from-behind victories over Notre Dame and Northwestern last season. I'll be interested to see if Michigan State's football program can build on the momentum it established last season, but I'm already convinced Dantonio is a quality coach. As for Izzo, his record speaks for itself.

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