Big Ten notes: Tim Miles keeps it light during media day; League unveils 20-game slate and more

NEW YORK — Nebraska coach Tim Miles wasn’t even 30 seconds into his opening remarks at Thursday’s Big Ten media day and he had a room full of reporters laughing at one of his patented wisecracks.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany had just spent 25 minutes going over the sport’s biggest issues. Then a smiling Miles stepped to the microphone.

“I love following the commissioner,” Miles said. “You know a guy is highly intelligent when he can say that much and say that little. So, good luck writing all that stuff, folks.”

That playful tone was evident throughout Miles’ interactions with regional and national media during Thursday’s event, where he’s known for displaying his outgoing and fun-loving personality.

He got asked at one point about the college basketball bribery scandal. Reporters wanted to know if he’d ever ratted out other coaches for improprieties or rules violations. Miles’ tongue-in-cheek response: “Every time I get beat on a kid, the (other) guy cheated — what are you talking about? There’s no way somebody’s going to out-recruit me.”

He jokingly told one reporter to try out Match.com. He talked about walking to Madison Square Garden Thursday morning next to Purdue’s 7-foot-2 center, Isaac Hass — they chatted for about three blocks, Miles said.

Haas’ reaction: “Yeah, he’s a funny guy.”

League unveils 20-game slate

Nebraska basketball fans should expect to see more games against Iowa and Minnesota in the future.

The Big Ten announced Thursday that it plans to add two games to its league slate (going from 18 to 20) starting next year — a change that’ll include a permanent regional component to the scheduling process.

The new schedule will be designed to arrange more frequent meetings between teams that are closely located. The three league in-state rivals (Illinois-Northwestern, Michigan State-Michigan and Purdue-Indiana) are now locked in to take place twice each year. There will be six single-play opponents and seven home-and-away duals each season.

“I think it’s probably overall very good for the league,” Miles said.

Several coaches, including Miles, noted that playing more games against quality opponents should enhance the overall profile of the league. That could lead to additional NCAA tournament at-large bids for the Big Ten over time.

“There’s so many positives there,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Great TV matchups — the fans want it. But ultimately, I think it helps your strength of schedule, your RPI, and I think it plays well with the committee.”

Bridges a ‘different’ type of star

Michigan State senior Tum Tum Nairn was sitting next to the Big Ten’s biggest star, just watching as Miles Bridges calmly answered questions about his future, his talent and the hype.

A dozen reporters surrounded Bridges, and he didn’t flinch.

But that’s typical Bridges, according to Nairn. He said the 6-foot-7 sophomore — the league’s preseason player of the year, a likely All-American and an early favorite to win the Naismith Award — is ever so gracious and polite, whether he’s chatting with friends, reporters or fans.

“Unbelievable heart. One of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen in my life,” Nairn said. “He’s really, really humble. … I’ve never seen him turn down a picture, never seen him turn down an autograph. It’s more than him as a basketball player — him as a person, that’s what makes him special.”

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Bridges is a one-of-a-kind guy.

“I’m telling you, he’s the most different kid I’ve ever coached,” Izzo said.

Tourney at Garden worth effort

The Big Ten had to rearrange things so it could start this year’s league schedule in early December and finish a week earlier than normal. Just to host its tournament in Madison Square Garden.

It’ll be worth it, according to Michigan coach John Beilein.

He made the trip to New York for the Big East tournament every year while coaching West Virginia. Recreating that atmosphere may be difficult for the Big Ten in its first year here, Beilein admitted. He’s just glad the league is giving it a try.

“You would walk down the streets, particularly in this locale, and there’s just energy,” he said. “It was like an early March Madness type of energy. … And so I think it’s going to be tremendous.”

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann had the same sort of perspective. He never even won a game in the Big East tournament while coaching Butler. But he said the experience was memorable.

“It’s special. It is really special,” he said. “You have a different feel and a different vibe when you play in Madison Square Garden, you really do.”

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