ROSEMONT, Illinois — When he found out Rutgers was joining the Big Ten, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was a happy man. He loves the Jersey shore.
"I love the ocean, love the salt water. Just love the beach," said Ryan, who grew up near Philadelphia and says he goes to the Jersey shore every summer.
If he can mix in some recruiting with his sand and surf, well, that's OK by him. Because to Ryan, the Big Ten is better now that it's bigger, and thinks it will reopen recruiting doors that closed when the Big East formed years ago.
"You're opening up the East more to the Midwest, and you're also opening up the Midwest for people who maybe want to go to the shore in the offseason," Ryan said of the conference adding Maryland and Rutgers.
Lucky for Ryan, he also has a strong recruiting pitch at the moment: Wisconsin is the unanimous pick to win the Big Ten after reaching the Final Four last season, and the Badgers' forward Frank Kaminsky is the preseason Player of the Year.
Wisconsin returns four starters after going 30-8. The Badgers beat out Michigan State, last year's Big Ten tournament champion, and Ohio State in the vote by conference media. The results were announced Thursday.
Kaminsky averaged 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds as a junior last season. He is joined on the all-conference team by teammate and fellow forward Sam Dekker, Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell, Michigan guard Caris LeVert and Nebraska forward Terran Petteway.
With the season approaching, the Big Ten has a different look but faces a familiar question: When will it produce an NCAA champion? The last one was Michigan State in 2000.
"The Big Ten has had some great, great basketball teams," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "I don't think that you can judge the conference, per se, by that we haven't won it. You look at the overall success that we've had just in the time that I've been in there since 2004, I'm very pleased with where Big Ten basketball is."
The league is heading into new territory, trying to establish footholds in the lucrative East Coast markets. Commissioner Jim Delany said the Big Ten is "talking to people" about holding the conference tournament in New York or New Jersey, adding there might be an announcement "in weeks or months."
Chicago is slated to host the tournament in 2015, Indianapolis in 2016 and Washington, D.C., in 2017. There is an opening for 2018, and other cities are in play along with New York.
The coaches, meanwhile, see recruiting avenues opening up thanks to the expansion.
Penn State's Patrick Chambers is more than happy to relinquish the title of the Big Ten's easternmost school.
"A lot of people thought — especially kids in Philly — that we were in the Midwest," he said. "It's really terrific that there's somebody a little farther east so everybody understands who the Big Ten is now."
Maryland brings a long history of winning, but Rutgers is still trying to establish itself.
The Scarlet Knights did make a Final Four in 1976 behind point guard Eddie Jordan. He's now in his second season as coach, trying to pick up a program that was in disarray. Former coach Mike Rice was fired after ESPN aired videos of him using homophobic slurs and throwing balls at players.
"There's a lot of conversation about Rutgers in the Big Ten — the best conference, the only school that can say 'New York' and 'Big Ten,' " Jordan said. "The exposure's gonna be better than anywhere in the country.
"It won't really resonate to our community and our recruiting base until you actually see Michigan-Rutgers, Iowa-Rutgers, Michigan State-Rutgers on a nightly basis."
All content copyright ©2014 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.