The Sweet 16 will feature its share of powerhouse coaches. Nine of the coaches in the regional semifinals have a grand total of 41 Final Four appearances. Five of those have five or more appearances in the final weekend.
On the other side, seven coaches this weekend are trying to reach the first Final Four of their careers, and for many of them, it’s been a long climb.
Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and UCLA’s Steve Alford have coached 20 years each in college basketball without a Final Four. NC State’s Mark Gottfried has coached 18 years. Gonzaga’s Mark Few has coached 16.
As the NCAA Tournament moves into the regionals, we wouldn’t be surprised if one coach does not reach his first Final Four, though it’s certainly possible all of them get left out yet again.
Suffice to say, no one wants to be on this list next season.
1. Sean Miller, Arizona
Closest call: Miller has lost three times in the Elite Eight, with Arizona in 2011 and 2014 and with Xavier in 2008.
What’s his story? In 11 seasons as a head coach, Miller has reached the Sweet 16 six times and the Elite Eight three times with two schools. The last two trips to the regional final have been heartbreakers — a 64-63 loss to Wisconsin last season and a 65-63 loss to UConn in 2011. At 46, Miller's first Final Four probably won’t be his last.
Can he reach the Final Four this year? Yes, but this region is a grinder. Miller will face his old school and former assistant in the Sweet 16 and then either North Carolina or a rematch with Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.
2. Mark Few, Gonzaga
Closest call: An Adam Morrison-led Gonzaga team lost in a 73-71 heartbreaker to UCLA in the 2006 Sweet 16.
What’s his story? Gonzaga was a Tournament darling when the Bulldogs reached the Elite Eight under Dan Monson in 1999. Now, Gonzaga may be more well known for busting your brackets. The Bulldogs’ first No. 1 ranking and No. 1 seed was marred in 2013 when Gonzaga lost to Final Four-bound No. 9 seed Wichita State. This is Few’s second Sweet 16 since 2006.