If Kentucky and Duke meet in the Final Four or the national championship game this season, the matchup will be between a pair of coaches who have met only twice in their illustrious careers and never in the postseason.
It will also be between the top two coaches in the game today, according to an Athlon Sports expert poll.
In the last three weeks, Athlon Sports surveyed 26 college basketball experts in the media for a range of topics in the sport. In our first question, we asked simply “who are the top three coaches in the game today.” We did not ask our respondents to rank their coaches (though some did). Each coach named counts as one point in our results. The answers are...
Athlon Sports College Basketball Expert Poll
Question 1: Who are the top three coaches in the game today?
Mark Few (Gonzaga), Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State), Jim Larranaga (Miami), Bob McKillop (Davidson), Sean Miller (Arizona), Shaka Smart (VCU), Roy Williams (North Carolina)
• The top two in our poll were overwhelming. Krzyzewski appeared on 23 of 26 ballots, and Calipari appeared on 20 of 26. Not that those two would be bad choices in any year, but we wonder if there might be a bit of recency bias in the response. (And since we said “in the game today,” that makes perfect sense). These top two coaches have been at the top of people’s minds this season in particular with Krzyzewski crossing the 1,000-win mark and Calipari leading an undefeated team.
• Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan is a logical coach on anyone’s ballot this season, but consider where he would have been before last year’s Final Four. Ryan has gone from the most underrated coach in the country to royalty in the sport.
• It’s worth nothing both Calipari and Ryan are finalists for the Naismith Hall of Fame this season.
• Florida’s Billy Donovan received only two votes. Hard to believe we’d get the same response this time last year. He was ESPN’s No. 1 coach before the season and Athlon’s No. 4. It’s been a rough year in Gainesville.
• Give our panel credit for mentions of Davidson’s Bob McKillop and Miami’s Jim Larranaga.
• A few notable names that didn’t appear on anyone’s ballot: Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Michigan’s John Beilein and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. Boeheim and Beilein make sense as neither of their teams are going to play in the NCAA Tournament. Marshall is a curious absence considering McKillop, Larranaga and VCU’s Shaka Smart all received at least one vote.
More than two dozen college basketball experts from throughout college basketball media participated in the Athlon Sports survey conducted in late February and early March this year.
All were notified their individual responses to our six questions would not be revealed on AthlonSports.com, but they were free to post their responses to their own sites, on their broadcasts or to their social media outlets.
The panel was comprised of:
Rick Bozich, WDRB Louisville
Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News
Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon
Wes Durham, ACC Network/Fox Sports Network
Ryan Fagan, Sporting News
John Feinstein, Washington Post/NBC Sports
Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports
John Gasaway, ESPN
Scott Gleeson, USA Today
Jeff Goodman, ESPN
Seth Greenberg, ESPN
Steve Greenberg, Chicago Sun-Times
Raphielle Johnson, College Basketball Talk
Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star
Will Leitch, Sports on Earth
Mike Lopresti, NCAA.com
Troy Machir, Sporting News
Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com
Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com
Brendan Prunty, SI.com
Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press
Lindsay Schnell, SI.com
David Teel, Virginia Daily Press
Jerry Tipton, Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader
Dick “Hoops” Weiss, Blue Star Media
Luke Winn, SI.com