John Calipari, Billy Donovan get company at the top with Bruce Pearl
Sorry to break it to fans outside of Lexington and Gainesville, but SEC basketball is a little stale.
Kentucky and Florida have established a two-team power structure at the top of the league so close that the two teams have the same league record (64-20) since 2010.
If one coach can spice this league up, it’s the new guy at Auburn.
Bruce Pearl has one of the toughest jobs in the league at Auburn, but he’s back where he was when he was fired from Tennessee — with Calipari and Donovan as one of the top coaches in the league.
The rest of the coaches in the SEC need to deliver. Some are under pressure to replicate greater success they’ve had earlier in their careers (Mike Anderson, Kevin Stallings, Frank Martin) and some need to translate mid-major success to SEC wins (Mark Fox, Johnny Jones, Billy Kennedy).
As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.
1. John Calipari, Kentucky
Record at Kentucky: 152-37 (.804)
NCAA Tournament: 43-14, five Final Fours, one national championship
Number to note: Despite missing the 2013 Tournament, Calipari has 15 NCAA wins since 2010, most in the country during that span.
Why he’s ranked here: The disappointing 2013-14 regular season may not have been one of Cal’s shining moments, especially on the heels of an NIT exit a year earlier. The disappointment subsided with a run to the Final Four for the third time in four seasons.
2. Billy Donovan, Florida
Record at Florida: 451-169 (.727)
NCAA Tournament: 35-12, four Final Fours, two national championships
Number to note: Donovan has the second-most NCAA wins (13) since 2010 behind Calipari. The figure that doesn’t include two championships in 2006 and 2007.
Why he’s ranked here: Donovan will reach the 500-win mark next season and will be one of the top 25 fastest coaches to do so. His name will land somewhere around Lute Olson and Nolan Richardson in the record books in that category.
3. Bruce Pearl, Auburn
Record at Auburn: First season
NCAA Tournament: 10-8
Number to note: Pearl has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice as a Division I head coach, both in his first three seasons at Milwaukee.
Why he’s ranked here: Pearl already pulled three four-star recruits (one junior college) for the 2015 class. Auburn will be competitive soon enough.
4. Mike Anderson, Arkansas
Record at Arkansas: 59-39 (.602)
NCAA Tournament: 7-6
Number to note: Mike Anderson is 4-1 against Calipari-coached Kentucky teams. While at UAB, Anderson went 1-1 against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
Why he’s ranked here: Once considered a home run hire when the Razorbacks hired Nolan Richardson’s right-hand man, Anderson will need to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time at Arkansas to truly shift the momentum of his program.
5. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
Record at Vanderbilt: 292-192 (.603)
NCAA Tournament: 6-8
Number to note: During the last two years, Vanderbilt endured back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 13 seasons under Stallings.
Why he’s ranked here: Vanderbilt is still searching for answers since the John Jenkins/Festus Ezeli/Jeff Taylor class left school two years ago.
6. Frank Martin, South Carolina
Record at South Carolina: 28-38 (.424)
NCAA Tournament: 6-4
Number to note: The standings show a one-game improvement from 4-14 in the SEC to 5-12, but the Gamecocks improved from No. 210 to No. 114 in KenPom’s rankings in Martin’s second season.
Why he’s ranked here: Martin may never get South Carolina to the 29-win/Elite Eight mark as Kansas State did in 2010, but progress is being made incrementally.
7. Mark Fox, Georgia
Record at Georgia: 85-77 (.525)
NCAA Tournament: 2-4
Number to note: Georgia had a non-losing season in the SEC in three of Fox’s five seasons, including 12-6 last season.
Why he’s ranked here: The Bulldogs have been tough to play during the conference season, but the non-conference resume hasn’t been up to NCAA standards.
8. Johnny Jones, LSU
Record at LSU: 39-26 (.600)
NCAA Tournament: 0-2
Number to note: LSU went 9-9 in the SEC in each of Jones’ two seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: The former Dale Brown assistant and player is a good fit, but last season’s NIT bid was a disappointment.
Record at Ole Miss: 171-101 (.629)
NCAA Tournament: 1-1
Number to note: Kennedy is Ole Miss’ all-time wins leader and carries the best win percentage of any Rebels coach since 1938.
Why he’s ranked here: The 2013-14 season lends more credence to the supporting cast, not Marshall Henderson, being the key to 27 wins and an NCAA appearance in 2013.
10. Anthony Grant, Alabama
Record at Alabama: 99-71 (.582)
NCAA Tournament: 1-3
Number to note: Alabama last season was winless on the road for the first time since 1999-2000.
Why he’s ranked here: Alabama has recruited too well in five seasons under Grant to have as many losing seasons as NCAA appearances (one each).
11. Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee
Record at Tennessee: First season
NCAA Tournament: 2-2
Number to note: Not many coaches leave the Ohio Valley Conference with two NCAA wins in such a short period of time. One of Tyndall’s wins came in a play-in game, the other was an upset of No. 4 seed Louisville.
Why he’s ranked here: Southern Miss kept the momentum going under Tyndall with 56 wins in two seasons.
12. Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M
Record at Texas A&M: 50-49 (.505)
NCAA Tournament: 1-2
Number to note: Texas A&M’s conference win total has increased in each of the last three seasons under Kennedy from 4-14 in the Big 12 to 7-11 in the SEC to 8-10 last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Kennedy’s resume at Southeastern Louisiana and Murray State suggests he needs time to build a program, but Texas A&M had made six consecutive NCAA appearances before his arrival.
13. Rick Ray, Mississippi State
Record at Mississippi State: 24-41 (.369)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: A total of 11 players have left Mississippi State, not all of them by choice, in Ray’s two seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Ray has been building from the ground up in Starkville. This needs to be a season for him to show some progress.
14. Kim Anderson, Missouri
Record at Missouri: First season
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Anderson led Central Missouri to a Division II national title last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Though he’s a former assistant at Missouri and Baylor, Anderson hasn’t spent any time at the Division I level since 1999. Now he he has one of the better jobs in the SEC.