With a brief foray into Big Ten games now in the past, the conference has turned its attention back to non-league games for the remainder of the calendar year. With most schools currently going through final exams and facing a light stretch of games, today the Big Ten held its first of two teleconferences this season featuring each coach.

Here’s a look at the most interesting thing each coach had to say, arranged in order of current Big Ten standings.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo

Aside from a nationally televised loss to Duke during the first week of the season, the Spartans have been the class of the Big Ten in going 9-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play. Izzo said Michigan State is still working on its offense and three-point defense, in particular, but that its getting healthier with players like Miles Bridges putting injuries behind them.

The Spartans, like Ohio State, played in Portland, Oregon, in the PK80 Invitational before returning home, playing an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game and then two conference games. Asked for his takeaways from his team’s first run in the Big Ten, Izzo said he’ll take it.

“Survival, for us,” he said. “We’ve been on a brutal stretch of six games in 13 days. Travel from Portland, I didn’t think we were great, I didn’t think we were bad. I think everybody on our league is adjusting to the two league games. It was back to back (North) Carolina and Notre Dame games and then league games. I thought we played pretty well against Nebraska, not as well against Rutgers but I think Steve (Pikiell) has done an incredible job there and it’s going to be a hard out for a lot of teams that go in there.

“I’m not tickled to death with it, but under the circumstances survived and advanced, as they say.”

Purdue coach Matt Painter

The Boilermakers dropped their first two games of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas before rebounding with a win against Arizona that has started what is now a six-game winning streak. Five of those wins have come against top-100 KenPom opponents, and Painter said the consecutive losses were related.

“I think our guys were real excited about hopefully earning an opportunity to win that tournament, and then when we didn’t and lost in the first round, we simply got outplayed in that next game,” Painter said. “Western Kentucky was simply better than us and deserved to win. All the wins are good. I think we learned some hard lessons in the Bahamas and were able to bounce back and win some games in a row.

The Boilermakers are 10-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten.

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann

The Spartans and Boilermakers are both nationally ranked and have been pegged as conference title contenders since the end of last season. At 8-3 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes have been a surprise for their undefeated start in Holtmann’s first season.

“Obviously like most teams we’re kind of a work in progress,” he said. “We knew that was going to be the case. We’ve experienced our share of rough patches and a few good moments. This time of year more than anything and certainly for us, we’ve been in a bit of a discovery mode. We’ve continued to learn about each other. They’ve been a lot of fun to coach and hopefully we can keep improving, because we certainly need to.”

Holtmann has often said that the Buckeyes will go as far as senior Jae’Sean Tate and fourth-year junior Keita Bates-Diop will take them. Asked about leadership coming from other players, Holtmann listed fifth-year senior Kam Williams, graduate transfer Andrew Dakich, junior C.J. Jackson and former walk-on Joey Lane.

“Those other four have had moments where they’ve stepped into a bit of an influential role in certain ways, but it’s primarily been led by Keita and Jae’Sean,” he said.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon

Tuesday night, the Terrapins will host Catholic University, a non-Division I team. Turgeon said that’s by design in an effort to actually help the team’s RPI ranking and strength of schedule.

I asked him to explain, and it made sense.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get good games, and I don’t like playing 200 or below RPI teams,” he said. “Sometimes you get a couple of them on your schedule when you play in these tournaments. To stay away from another 250-300 RPI team, we play a non-D1 team and it doesn’t impact your RPI.”

Maryland has played Maryland Eastern Shore, ranked No. 345 nationally by KenPom.com, Jackson State (327) and Gardner Webb (265). None of them were part of preseason tournaments, but New Mexico (172) was.

“It’s been a crazy start to the season,” he said. “You hear people say drinking water from a fire hydrant. We’ve played 12 games already, one tomorrow. We’ve played a really tough schedule.”

Michigan coach John Beilein

The Wolverines have already been reunited with Andrew Dakich, who spent four seasons there before transferring to Ohio State as a graduate this season. Beilein said he fully supported the move, even though Dakich was going to an intra-conference rival.

“Intra-conference transferring is a very dangerous area that we have to be very watchful of,” Beilein said. “Everything you build in your program now can be given to the next program and it’s not there for the year, it’s there forever and they can share it with everyone. In this situation, however, we did not offer him a scholarship. He only had one semester of scholarship at Michigan. At that time we had three point guards and it was a great option for him. He’s from the state of Ohio. His dad was a fixture in the state of Ohio when he was the Bowling Green coach, so I saw this as a great situation for him.”

The Wolverines are 8-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten after losing at Ohio State, a game in which Dakich had three assists and one rebound in 16 minutes.

“His role may not have been significant on the court, like it is right now, but it was extremely significant to our program, the effort he put in every day in practice,” Beilein said. “As a result, I was very pleased that he could get the opportunity at Quinnipiac, and then when it changed and he had the opportunity to go to Ohio State I supported him 100 percent. He’s just a really remarkable young man and I’m glad he’s having that opportunity.”

Minnesota coach Richard Pitino

The Golden Gophers entered the year expected to do big things, but Pitino’s personal life was changed shortly before the start of the season when his father, Rick Pitino, was fired from his job at Louisville after news of an FBI investigation broke.

The situation was tough, the younger Pitino said, but it didn’t affect his preparation for the season.

“I’m certainly capable of doing both,” he said. “I think that the only time it really comes up is when you’re talking to the media. I get it. You have to do your job. I have no problem with separating the personal life and the professional so it hasn’t been too difficult. My family’s been through things before. We’re a strong family and my father’s strong as well.”

Minnesota is 8-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten.

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers

The Nittany Lions are a rising team in the Big Ten, anchored by a trio of talented sophomores who are growing into standout players. It’s also why, as Chambers pointed out, Penn State lost by one point at Wisconsin and let an 11-0 start to the N.C. State game slip away in a loss.

“Matt Painter, he has seniors,” Chambers said. “He can go on the road to Maryland and things go a little crazy and they can withstand that. Right now we’re asking three sophomores to lead us. Over the 8-3 (start), it’s been sophomores. There’s a process here. Izzo has said it in the past, you can’t speed up the process. Would I like to beat Wisconsin? Yeah, but we have to learn from that. To me, these are growing pains. We have to understand what it takes on every single game in the Big Ten to be successful.”

The Nittany Lions are 1-1 in the Big Ten and 8-3 overall.

“We have to learn consistency, we have to learn mental conditioning,” he said. “We’re progressing and learning a lot.”

Nebraska coach Tim Miles

The final coach on the nearly two-hour-long call, Miles opened by cracking, “I hope everybody’s still hanging on every word on this long call here.” He then listed the four remaining non-conference teams on the schedule – Kansas, UT-San Antonio, Delaware State and Stetson – before adding, “I don’t know if that’s the right order. I do know Kansas is first.”

Viewed as a national championship contender, the Jayhawks have surprisingly lost two straight. Asked if the Cornhuskers have them right where they want them, Miles said, “We’ve got them mad. I don’t know if that’s good, bad, otherwise.”

Nebraska is 7-4 overall and won its Big Ten home opener against Minnesota after losing at Michigan State by 29 points.

“Against Michigan State, our poise wasn’t bad,” he said. “They punched us in the face, the punched us in the ribs, they punched us in the kidneys and sometimes that happens. We were able to get Michigan State out of the way early. I hope I don’t see them until 2019.”

Northwestern coach Chris Collins

It was the only question hanging over the Wildcats after the first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in program history: Now what?

The challenge of building on last year’s unparalleled success has been difficult for the Wildcats, who are 5-4 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Collins said the Wildcats, who have had a nine-day layoff for finals, have felt the change of going from the hunter to the hunted.

“I think it’s new territory for us and our program,” he said. “It’s something we worked hard to try to earn and it’s something you aspire as a program and player, to get peoples’ best shot and have people respect who you are as a team. Once you feel it it’s different. There’s no question early in the season our guys were knocked back by how excited people were to play against them and how hungry they were to play against us and see what they could do against us. I think we’ve adjusted and gotten better. It was new territory and something we’re getting accustomed to.”

Collins said Northwestern’s best game at both ends of the floor was actually a loss, 74-69 at Purdue.

“You can’t lose sight of the things that you did when you were the hunter, when you were trying to gain that respect, that chip on your shoulder, that edge, that competitive spirit,” he said. “Those are such big qualities with winning teams. That’s something that maybe we lost a little bit of that edge we had and all of a sudden you learn some lessons early in the season. These first few games have really been a learning experience for us. We’ve been able to get to the practice floor and work and get better. In those two Big Ten games we played, I saw us make strides.”

Indiana coach Archie Miller

The former Ohio State assistant and Dayton head coach has the Hoosiers at 5-5 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten, with a road loss to Michigan and a home win against Iowa.

“We’ve been playing really good teams,” Miller said. “I think we’re getting better. I think the Big Ten for us is just finding ways to get sharper. As of right now I don’t think our team is shooting the ball as well as we can.”

I asked him now the Big Ten compares to what he remembers from his prior days in the conference.

“We went to Michigan and didn’t play too well,” he said. “Being able to win at home was a shot in the arm. Toughest conference in the country to win on the road, no question. It’s everything we knew it would be. We’re trying to climb the ladder. We’re trying to get atop the conference. It’s an unbelievable conference.”

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard

The Badgers are struggling and getting thinner as injuries are robbing them of some of their depth. Wisconsin is 4-7 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten and relying heavily on returning All-American Ethan Happ to carry the load each night.

Ohio State, like most teams, was effective in double-teaming him and making him pass the ball away.

“He’s been working on it for a couple years here,” Gard said of Happ learning to read the double team. “It’s in the decision-making of the person getting trapped, where the ball needs to go. Also the people around him: are we presenting ourselves? Do we have an available receiver? Do we have someone driving to the rim? The decision needs to be made at a quicker tempo before the double team can get there. He’s gotten better at it. When you get the ball out of the double team you have to make shots at the other end of it. That’s maybe the best way to fight some of that. Capitalizing on teams committing an extra guy on that is something we have to get better at.”

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell

The Scarlet Knights are winless in their first two Big Ten games but 8-3 overall, and Pikiell said last year’s win against Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament provided a shot in the arm for the program in his first year.

“I think it really was a positive going into the offseason,” he said. “We had never won a game in the tournament. Just to get our guys a taste of that against a program I have a lot of respect for. We weren’t always rewarded for the hard work we were doing. To end our year on that note was a great way to end it and gave us some momentum recruiting-wise. Any time you can beat a program like that in a tournament is a tremendous boost for your program.”

Illinois coach Brad Underwood

In his first Big Ten go-round, Underwood has seen the Illini drop a pair of overtime games. Illinois lost by four at Northwestern and then by one point at home to Maryland to set its record at 7-4 overall.

Underwood said the early start of Big Ten play has forced him to speed up some of his usual processes.

“I have very little in as terms of my offensive schemes,” he said. “I usually use Christmas break to put in five or six offensive things and we had to speed that up. If I had my preference I wouldn’t play (Big Ten games), then but overall I love the opportunity. It’s a great window for college basketball.”

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery

The Hawkeyes are 5-6 overall and lost their first two Big Ten games, one at home to Penn State and the other at Indiana. McCaffery said he didn’t approach the beginning of conference play any differently despite the early start.

“Obviously everyone’s aware when you have your first Big Ten game it’s a little bit different,” he said. “We played a really good Penn State team; Indiana’s playing really well. We looked at the schedule at the start of the season and you have (other games), a lot of intensity packed into a very short period of time. It’s a little bit of an adjustment, but the way I look at it, while it’s different and maybe some would prefer not to have it this way, there’s no competitive advantage.”