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Thursday, May 19, 2022

NCAA Men’s Tournament Sweet 16 Coaches Ranking

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This year’s Sweet 16 features one of the strongest and most interesting coaching groups in history on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Among them, seven have been to the Final Four at least once. At the other end of the spectrum, three are in their first season as head coach.

For historical accomplishments, Mike Krzyzewski obviously stands out on the field with five national titles, 12 Final Fours and 26 trips to the Sweet 16. But which coach would you want on the sidelines this year in a win-or-go-home scenario? On the line?

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This is how I would classify them.

1. Jay Wright, Villanueva

Weird, but true: There was a time when Wright was considered a bit of a March Madness underachiever. After reaching her first Final Four in 2009, Villanova went six straight years without making the Sweet 16, including three second-round losses as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. But two national titles later, you can Say that Villanova has been the top program in the nation, playing with the same cool confidence that Wright exudes on the sidelines. Tournament games often come down to which team can run an easy offense at the end, with Villanova often making good shots due to his patience and clarity on what he wants.

Villanova coach Jay Wright has led the Wildcats to two national championships.

2. Kelvin Samson, Houston

Leading the Cougars to the second weekend of this year may be the most impressive coaching job of Sampson’s career, given that they lost Tramon Mark and Marcus Sasser to injuries before the conference began. Between them, they averaged 27 points per game, and Houston really hasn’t replaced that scoring hit. However, the Cougars kept winning because they’re excellent defensively, ruthless on the glass and totally comfortable playing the kind of nasty games you often see in the tournament. This is very much a team that reflects the toughness Sampson demands on his program.

3. Mark Few, Gonzaga

While there are still some stubborn people who won’t let go of the “you can’t win the big one” narrative, the reality is that Few has won plenty of big ones. You don’t get to two national title games or seven consecutive Sweet 16s without big tournament wins. And even when Gonzaga loses, you can’t really call them choke jobs. His last six tournament losses were to Duke (eventual national champion), Syracuse, North Carolina (national champion), Florida State, Texas Tech (runner-up) and Baylor (national champion). A handful of teams might be able to outperform Gonzaga, but you never walk away thinking Few was outclassed in training.

4. Eric Musselman, Arkansas

Some people take issue with Musselman’s shirtless celebrations and other colorful antics, but there aren’t many coaches who can match him X for O. He does great things with timeouts, emphasizes getting to the free throw line (Arkansas leads the nation with 808 free throw attempts), have good balance on the court and run at a high pace without overthinking it. Musselman’s extensive experience in the NBA, where he was a head coach for 246 games, has translated nicely at the college level, where he made second weekend three times in just seven years as a head coach, including once in Nevada.

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5. Bill Self, Kansas

You have to give deference to Self’s overall track record as one of the best trainers of this era. But in the tournament there have been a disproportionate number of questionable losses to supposedly superior teams (Bradley in 2006, Northern Iowa in 2010, VCU in 2011, Stanford in 2014, Wichita State in 2015, USC in 2021). Obviously, Self’s national title in 2008 is a huge asset, but one could easily argue that he should have more than three Final Four appearances, given his dominance of the regular season and the level of talent he’s had on campus. .

6. Mick Cronin, UCLA

Last year’s run from the Top Four to the Final Four was a proof of concept of what a Cronin-coached team with elite talent might look like compared to the tougher rosters he put together in Cincinnati, where he reached the Sweet 16. just once in nine NCAA appearances. If you can combine the defensive toughness and precision that Cronin demands with guys skilled enough to create their own shot, you’ve got a winning formula for the tournament.

7. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

Some fans may be offended by this ranking, given Krzyzewski’s unquestioned achievements in the tournament over a very long period of time. But this particular ranking isn’t about creating shows or what he’s done in the past. And in the latter part of Krzyzewski’s career, there hasn’t been much of an identity other than “go find the best recruits and let them play.” Despite one top-tier recruiting class after another, Duke has only been to the Final Four once in the last 10 tournaments.

8. Jim Larranaga, Miami

LarraƱaga is now responsible for three of Miami’s four Sweet 16 appearances, which is simply remarkable for a show that has been an afterthought for most of its history. Combine that with his Final Four run at George Mason, and there’s a strong case for LarraƱaga to one day make it to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. If he does, his display should be just the tape of last Sunday’s game, when they schematically, mentally and physically defeated the No. 2-seeded Auburn Tigers 79-61. From the initial prediction to the end, you will not find a team in the tournament that is better prepared to face its opponent.

9. Matt Painter, Purdue

Perhaps the most underrated coach in the country, Painter’s consistency is rare these days for a non-blue blood program: 13 tournament appearances in 17 seasons with six trips to the Sweet 16 or more. In 2019, Painter came within a second of reaching the Final Four, until Mamadi Diakite’s unlikely strike saved Virginia, which went on to win the national title. Purdue also has a big opportunity this year, playing No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s with North Carolina or UCLA just around the corner. If there’s a problem with Painter, it’s defense: Purdue currently ranks 89th in KenPom efficiency and has only had a top-20 defense twice in the last 10 years.

10. Juwan Howard, Michigan

Those calling for Howard to be fired after the ill-fated Wisconsin fight missed the biggest point here. In a very short period of time, he has proven himself to be an excellent college coach who now has a 5-1 tournament record. Michigan was down 15 late in the first half in the first round against Colorado State before coming back to win, then responded with a monster defensive game against Tennessee in the second round, holding the Vols to 42% shooting and only putting them on the foul line 12 times. You can’t do that in the tournament with bad training.

11. Tommy Lloyd, Arizona

The sample size is very small here, but Gonzaga’s first-year head coach and former assistant had some impressive moments as the Wildcats topped TCU on Sunday. In particular, when Arizona was very much on the ropes, Lloyd scored a beautiful action in a timeout to give Bennedict Mathurin an open dunk on a backdoor cut. Mathurin also tied it 3-3 at the end of regulation time after blocking the ball, which is exactly what you want as a manager: to give your best player a chance to win the game. Simple in concept, difficult to achieve.

12. Shaheen Holloway, St. Peter

Is this a prisoner of the moment pick? Maybe, but the way his team beat Kentucky was a good reflection of his skill as a coach and the confidence he brings to his players. How many times have you seen a team of that ilk completely wither away against a big-name program or make mistakes and barely hang on? Instead, Saint Peter’s went blow for blow with Kentucky all the time and made all the big plays and free throws late to pull off the upset. Holloway was then able to turn around and set his team up to beat Murray State, which had lost just twice in the regular season. That’s a really impressive coaching feat.

13. Mark Adams, Texas Tech

The defining moment of the Red Raiders’ 59-53 round of 32 victory over Notre Dame came after a timeout with 1:51 remaining and the Irish leading by one point. Adams, who built a long career as a defensive guru, came out in a zone that surprised and baffled Notre Dame, who flipped it after the trap came. It was the first of four straight game-ending stops, which sums up why facing Texas Tech is a little scary right now. It’s not always pretty to watch, but Adams will put up a disruptive defensive scheme that will provide a severe test for anyone in a one-game setting.

14. T. J. Otzelberger, Iowa State

It’s hard to read Otzelberger as a head coach because he hasn’t stayed anywhere long. Three years (and two NCAA appearances) at South Dakota State, two lackluster seasons at UNLV and then a notable turnaround at Iowa State, where he won just two games overall last season. Given how limited the Cyclones are offensively (158 in KenPom, with only one guy who can reliably score the ball in Izaiah Brockington), it’s a pretty remarkable coaching job this year to bring them here.

15. Ed Cooley, Providence

Computers don’t like this Friars team. Despite a 27-5 record, Providence ranks only 33rd in KenPom, but 1st in the “luck” factor, meaning they have won a disproportionate share of coin toss games. Is that really luck, great training, or players who have the clutch gene? Maybe all three. Either way, it all worked out this year for Cooley, who was previously 1-5 in the NCAA Tournament. The Friars got a fairly favorable tie with South Dakota State and Richmond, but I tip the hat to them for taking advantage of it.

16. Hubert Davis, North Carolina

Overall, Davis should get a lot of credit for turning the Tar Heels around after a pretty disappointing season that generated a significant amount of angst among the fan base. After losing to pitiful Pittsburgh at home on February 16, North Carolina won its next six (including at Duke) to secure an NCAA bid and then played a big game in the first round to beat Marquette by 32 points. . Although beating No. 1 seed Baylor in overtime to advance makes this season a resounding success, it wasn’t a coaching masterpiece as the Tar Heels blew a 25-point lead in regulation and seemed clueless about how to handle full court pressure.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NCAA Tournament Men’s Sweet 16 Coach Rankings for March Madness 2022

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