Michigan State's Tom Izzo tops our list of the best on the bench
Believe us, we don’t like repeating ourselves. Naming the same coach as No. 1 in the country for a third consecutive season is a little boring.
We tried to justify a new coach at the No. 1 spot if only to freshen things up a bit.
But each of the candidates for the top spot had a flaw. The last time we saw Mike Krzyzewski, he was walking off the court after a loss to Mercer.
The coach of our preseason No. 1 team ended last year in the title game but only after limping to a No. 8 seed during the regular season. And a coach with three Elite Eights and a Final Four in the last four seasons (Billy Donovan) has a 5-8 record against the coach we just mentioned (John Calipari).
Given all that, we saw no reason to move our No. 1 coach from a year ago. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is our pick again. His team won 29 games for the second time in three seasons and won the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans reached the Elite Eight, upsetting No. 1 seed and ACC champion Virginia along the way. Only the eventual national champion kept Michigan State from reaching Izzo’s seventh Final Four.
And all of this occurred despite a team that was snakebit by injuries all season.
Now, just because our No. 1 coach is the same as it was a year ago doesn’t mean we resisted change elsewhere.
Tony Bennett, an overachiever at Washington State and Virginia, moved onto the fringe of the top 10. National champion Kevin Ollie makes his debut in our rankings at No. 30 in only his second season as a head coach. And we also welcome back Bruce Pearl, who slides back into our top 20 coaches.
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.
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1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Record at Michigan State: 468-187 (.715)
NCAA Tournament: 42-16, six Final Fours, one national title
Number to note: Consistency is the name of the game here. Izzo’s teams have ranked in the top 32 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ratings in 10 of the last 12 seasons. Michigan State has been in the top 30 of the offensive efficiency ratings in eight of the last 10 seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: An injury-plagued season cut into Michigan State’s ability to reach the Final Four, leaving Izzo with the longest Final Four drought of his career (four consecutive years). The Spartans still won 29 games and the Big Ten Tournament and reached the Elite Eight, losing to eventual national champion UConn.
2. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Record at Duke: 910-247 (.787)
NCAA Tournament: 82-26, 11 Final Fours, four championships
Number to note: The Blue Devils ended a streak of 121 consecutive weeks in the AP top 10 last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Forget about a loss to Mercer in the NCAA Tournament, Krzyzewski will reach 1,000 career wins this season.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Rick Pitino, Louisville
Record at Louisville: 341-117 (.745)
NCAA Tournament: 50-17, seven Final Fours, two championships
Number to note: The Cardinals are 22-2 in conference and NCAA Tournament games the last three years.
Why he’s ranked here: Pitino’s teams are consistently among the toughest defensive squads in the country.
6. Bill Self, Kansas
Record at Kansas: 325-69 (.825)
NCAA Tournament: 36-15, two Final Fours, one national championship
Number to note: Last season was the first time since 2005 that Kansas ranked outside of the top 11 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.
Why he’s ranked here: Kansas lost 10 games last season, most for Self since 1998-99 at Tulsa. The Jayhawks still won (or shared) its 10th consecutive Big 12 title by two games.
7. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Record at Syracuse: 948-320 (.748)
NCAA Tournament: 53-30, four Final Fours, one championship
Number to note: Syracuse has declined in adjusted tempo in each of the last seven seasons. The Orange were the ninth-slowest team in the country in KenPom last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Syracuse has six 30-win seasons all time. Half have come in the last five seasons.
8. John Beilein, Michigan
Record at Michigan: 104-60 (.615)
NCAA Tournament: 16-9, one Final Four
Number to note: Michigan is 40-14 in the Big Ten the last three seasons. The Wolverines posted one winning conference record during the previous 13 seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Since arriving at Michigan, Beilein is 15-35 against Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan and Thad Matta, but he’s caught up to the pack. He’s 6-3 in the last nine vs. Izzo, 2-3 vs. Ryan after losing his first 10 and 4-2 in his last six vs. Matta.
9. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Record at Wisconsin: 321-121 (.726)
NCAA Tournament: 20-13, one Final Four
Number to note: The Big Ten has been the best basketball conference the last few years, and Wisconsin has thrived. The Badgers have never finished lower than fourth in the league in 13 seasons under Ryan.
Why he’s ranked here: After 2014, no one can say Ryan is the best coach never to reach the Final Four. He’s now in the discussion for best coach to never win a national title. Could that change in 2015?
10. Sean Miller, Arizona
Record at Arizona: 129-48 (.729)
NCAA Tournament: 14-7
Number to note: Miller has reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in each of his last five trips at Arizona and Xavier. The only two times he’s failed to reach the Sweet 16 were his first two NCAA appearances with Musketeers.
Why he’s ranked here: Miller has restored Arizona to national prominence and has the No. 4 signing class this year and the No. 1 class for 2015. The best coach without a Final Four appearance won’t carry that title for much longer.
11. Tony Bennett, Virginia
Record at Virginia: 106-60 (.639)
NCAA Tournament: 5-4
Number to note: Bennett led Virginia to its first sweep of the ACC regular season and tournament titles in 2013-14.
Why he’s ranked here: In eight seasons as a head coach, Bennett ended a 19-year Sweet 16 drought at Virginia and gave Washington State its deepest Tourney run in 67 years.
12. Roy Williams, North Carolina
Record at North Carolina: 306-89 (.775)
NCAA Tournament: 63-22, seven Final Fours, two championships
Number to note: The Tar Heels are 25-11 in the ACC, 12-11 on the road and 1-3 against Duke in the last two seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: The career achievements may demand a higher ranking, but schools like Virginia and Miami have been closer to Carolina territory than Carolina during the last two seasons.
13. Thad Matta, Ohio State
Record at Ohio State: 275-83 (.786)
NCAA Tournament: 23-12, two Final Fours
Number to note: At Butler, Xavier and Ohio State, Matta has never had a losing season in conference play. The lone .500 season conference season of his career came in his debut at Ohio State.
Why he’s ranked here: Matta could make the case for being the nation’s most underrated coach. Before a round of 64 loss to Dayton last year, Ohio State’s last four Tournament appearances yielded a Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s.
14. Shaka Smart, VCU
Record at VCU: 137-46 (.749)
NCAA Tournament: 7-4, one Final Four
Number to note: Smart has won 72 percent of conference games in his career but, oddly, has never won a regular season conference title in the Colonial or Atlantic 10.
Why he’s ranked here: The 37-year-old Smart has carved out an identity at VCU. Hard to believe even better days may be ahead of him.
15. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Record at Wichita State: 174-71 (.710)
NCAA Tournament: 6-10, one Final Four
Number to note: Marshall’s last four teams at Wichita have ranked in the top 40 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom.com.
Why he’s ranked here: Since March 1, 2013, three teams have defeated Marshall’s Wichita State teams — one won a national title (Louisville), one reached the title game (Kentucky) and one had Doug McDemott (Creighton, twice).
16. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
Record at Iowa State: 90-47 (.657)
NCAA Tournament: 4-3
Number to note: Iowa State’s 34 Big 12 wins during the last three seasons are one more than the Cyclones won during the previous seven seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: The Mayor has a formula that has returned Iowa State to national prominence: Owning the transfer market, high-powered offense and analytical savvy.
17. 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.
18. Steve Fisher, San Diego State
Record at San Diego State: 312-176 (.639)
NCAA Tournament: 25-13, three Final Fours, one national championship
Number to note: A program that never won an NCAA Tournament game until 2011 has won five with two Sweet 16 appearances in the last four years.
Why he’s ranked here: Fisher has turned San Diego State into one of the best programs out West. His ability to build a foundation and restock a once-dormant program has been astounding.
19. Jay Wright, Villanova
Record at Villanova: 286-149 (.657)
NCAA Tournament: 13-11, one Final Four
Number to note: Villanova’s Big East title in 2014 was the Wildcats’ first outright conference title since 1982. Nova hasn’t won a conference tournament since 1995.
Why he’s ranked here: After a brief dip in 2011-12, Villanova has returned to where Wright has had the program for most of his tenure. Villanova went 16-0 vs. Big East opponents not named Creighton during the 2013-14 regular season.
20. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
Record at Pittsburgh: 288-96 (.750)
NCAA Tournament: 12-10
Number to note: Pitt has never ranked lower than 45th in adjusted offensive efficeincy on KenPom in 11 seasons under Dixon. The Panthers have been ranked in the top 20 in that category six times in the last eight years.
Why he’s ranked here: The 2011-12 season marked the only time in Dixon’s career he failed to reach the NCAA Tournament or win 10 conference games.
21. Tim Miles, Nebraska
Record at Nebraska: 34-31 (.525)
NCAA Tournament: 0-2
Number to note: Miles ended combined NCAA Tournament droughts of 25 seasons at Nebraska (16) and Colorado State (nine) in addition to laying the groundwork for Division I newcomer North Dakota State.
Why he’s ranked here: The Big Ten is as good as ever, and Nebraska is a relevant program here. The next step is to pick up the Cornhuskers first NCAA Tournament win.
22. Tad Boyle, Colorado
Record at Colorado: 92-50 (.648)
NCAA Tournament: 1-3
Number to note: The Buffaloes have ranked in the top 50 of adjusted defensive efficiency in each of the last three seasons, according to KenPom.
Why he’s ranked here: This is the golden age of Colorado basketball. Colorado has as many NCAA appearances under Boyle in the last three seasons as it did from 1969-2011.
23. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Record at Oklahoma: 58-38 (.604)
NCAA Tournament: 14-15, one Final Four
Number to note: Oklahoma ranked 17th in tempo last season. Kruger didn’t have a top-100 team in that category since 2005.
Why he’s ranked here: Got a problem? Lon Kruger will solve it. He’s led clean-up jobs at Florida, UNLV, Kansas State and now Oklahoma and taken all of them (plus Illinois) to multiple NCAA Tournaments.
24. Mark Few, Gonzaga
Record at Gonzaga: 403-100 (.801)
NCAA Tournament: 16-15
Number to note: Few is the active leader in career win percentage (.801), pulling ahead of Roy Williams last season.
Why he’s ranked here: He’s reached the NCAA Tournament all 15 seasons as a head coach but he’s reached the Sweet 16 just once since 2006.
25. Rick Barnes, Texas
Record at Texas: 382-166 (.697)
NCAA Tournament: 21-21, one Final Four
Number to note: Since 1993-94, Barnes has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice.
Why he’s ranked here: Barnes reversed the slide of his tenure with a surprising 24-11 season and 11-7 finish in the Big 12. The Myles Turner arrival signaled he still has some Lone Star State recruiting clout.
26. Bob Huggins, West Virginia
Record at West Virginia: 150-91 (.622)
NCAA Tournament: 27-20, one Final Four
Number to note: Huggins averaged 8.3 losses per season in 21 years at Akron and Cincinnati. He’s averaged 12.9 since his return at Kansas State and West Virginia.
Why he’s ranked here: Though West Virginia missed the NCAA Tournament, the Mountaineers improved offensively by 11 points per game thanks to Huggins’ most up-tempo team in nearly a decade.
27. Jim Larranaga, Miami
Record at Miami: 66-36 (.647)
NCAA Tournament: 7-6, one Final Four
Number to note: Masterful coaching job in 2013-14 preserved a streak of 16 consecutive winning seasons. At Bowling Green, George Mason and Miami, he’s had one losing season since 1993.
Why he’s ranked here: Larranaga had a nice career by the time he was 55. Then he took George Mason to the Final Four and swept the ACC regular season and tournament titles at Miami.
28. Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Record at Virginia Tech: First season
NCAA Tournament: 8-5
Number to note: From 2011-13, Marquette reached the Sweet 16 twice and the Elite Eight once.
Why he’s ranked here: Williams proved he could go toe to toe with Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh. Can he compete against those three, plus Duke and North Carolina, at Virginia Tech?
29. Larry Brown, SMU
Record at SMU: 42-27 (.609)
NCAA Tournament: 19-6, three Final Fours, one championship
Number to note: The Mustangs missed the NCAA Tournament but went 2-0 against eventual national champion Connecticut.
Why he’s ranked here: After only two seasons, the 73-year-old Brown has done what no SMU coach has done since Doc Hayes — make the Mustangs relevant.
30. Kevin Ollie, UConn
Record at UConn: 52-18 (.743)
NCAA Tournament: 6-0, one Final Four, one championship
Number to note: Ollie won a national title only four years into coaching career — two seasons as an assistant and two seasons as a head coach.
Why he’s ranked here: The future is limitless for a 42-year-old who took over for a legendary coach (Jim Calhoun) and recovered from NCAA sanctions a year earlier to win a title.
31. Scott Drew, Baylor
Record at Baylor: 206-150 (.579)
NCAA Tournament: 8-4
Number to note: Drew is 17-5 combined in the NCAA Tournament and NIT, claiming two Elite Eights, a Sweet 16 and an NIT title.
Why he’s ranked here: The even-year, odd-year trend for Baylor predicts a down year in 2014-15.
32. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Record at Cincinnati: 162-107 (.602)
NCAA Tournament: 3-6
Number to note: Cincinnati has ranked in the top 25 in adjusted defense on KenPom in each of the last four seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: With 101 wins and four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four seasons, Cronin brought Cincinnati back from hitting the reset button 10 years ago.
33. John Thompson III, Georgetown
Record at Georgetown: 227-104 (.686)
NCAA Tournament: 8-9, one Final Four
Number to note: Before last season, Georgetown ranked in the top 100 in defensive efficiency in KenPom's rankings every year of Thompson’s tenure, including three times in the top 10.
Why he’s ranked here: Thompson may get dinged for early NCAA losses, but the Hoyas are a year removed from a Big East title. Besides, Georgetown’s NCAA draws have included Florida Gulf Coast, Final Four-bound VCU and Stephen Curry-led Davidson.
34. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 74-63 (.540)
NCAA Tournament: 2-6
Number to note: McCaffery ended a seven-year drought of 20-win seasons at Iowa and an eight-year NCAA Tournament drought for the Hawkeyes.
Why he’s ranked here: McCaffery’s turnaround at Iowa has been remarkable but Iowa hasn’t posted a winning Big Ten record since 2006-07.
35. Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Record at Notre Dame: 300-159 (.654)
NCAA Tournament: 6-11
Number to note: Notre Dame has one NCAA win since 2008.
Why he's ranked here: Notre Dame averaged 11.6 conference wins from 2006 through 2013 before falling to 6-12 in its first season in the ACC.
36. Steve Alford, UCLA
Record at UCLA: 28-9 (.757)
NCAA Tournament: 7-8
Number to note: In Alford’s first season, UCLA reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 ... with the help of a No. 13 seed (Tulsa) and No. 12 seed (Stephen F. Austin). That shouldn’t be ignored — two of Alford’s New Mexico teams were eliminated by double-digit seeds.
Why he’s ranked here: Alford’s hire wasn’t met with much excitement, but the jolt of energy seems to be working. UCLA had arguably its best team since the 2008 Final Four squad.
37. Dana Altman, Oregon
Record at Oregon: 97-47 (.674)
NCAA Tournament: 5-10
Number to note: A streaky program has stability. Oregon has winning conference seasons in three consecutive years for the first time in school history.
Why he’s ranked here: An offseason scandal casts a shadow over his tenure at Oregon. His career, though, has been marked by building consistent winners at Creighton and now Oregon.
38. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
Record at Florida State: 241-157 (.606)
NCAA Tournament: 6-7
Number to note: Florida State hasn’t had a losing ACC record since 2006-07, though the Seminoles went 9-9 the last two years.
Why he’s ranked here: The Seminoles have reached the NCAA Tournament four times and the NIT five times in the last nine seasons. Not a bad stretch for FSU.
39. Tom Crean, Indiana
Record at Indiana: 101-97 (.510)
NCAA Tournament: 8-7, one Final Four
Number to note: Indiana won one road game in Crean’s first three seasons. The Hoosiers have won 14 in three seasons since.
Why he’s ranked here: Indiana’s collapse from spending most of 2012-13 at No. 1 to missing/declining the postseason altogether is a major concern. The same can be said of the alarming rate of off-court issues. Still, Crean brought Indiana back from 6-25 in his first season.
41. Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Record at Houston: First season
NCAA Tournament: 12-14, one Final Four
Number to note: Sampson’s teams have reached the NCAA Tournament in 14 of his last 15 seasons in college coaching at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana.
Why he’s ranked here: He may be a risk to ignore NCAA rules, but he’s proven he can thrive in adverse situations at OU and Wazzu.
41. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Record at Utah: 42-55 (.433)
NCAA Tournament: 1-2
Number to note: Utah won more Pac-12 games in his third season (nine) than the Utes won total games in his first year (six).
Why he’s ranked here: Krystkowiak brought Utah back from irrelevance, and now the Utes will contend for their first NCAA spot since 2009.
42. Dave Rose, BYU
Record at BYU: 232-78 (.748)
NCAA Tournament: 4-7
Number to note: Rose had never lost more than nine games in a season in his career until he lost 12 in each of the last two seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: The departure of Jimmer Fredette and the move to the West Coast Conference has slowed BYU’s momentum, but Rose still has seven NCAA appearances in nine years as a coach.
43. Archie Miller, Dayton
Record at Dayton: 63-38 (.624)
NCAA Tournament: 3-1
Number to note: Dayton improved its road record from 5-16 in Miller’s first two seasons to 7-4 last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Sean’s younger brother has made himself a hot coaching candidate in his own right wins over Ohio State and Syracuse on the way to the Elite Eight last season.
44. Fran Dunphy, Temple
Record at Temple: 167-97 (.633)
NCAA Tournament: 3-15
Number to note: Before the bottom fell out in Temple’s first season (9-22) in the AAC, the Owls averaged 24.3 overall wins and 12.3 wins in the Atlantic 10 the previous six seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Only Temple predecessor John Chaney (516) has more wins in Philadelphia Big 5 history than Dunphy at Temple and Penn (477).
45. Tubby Smith, Texas Tech
Record at Texas Tech: 14-18 (.438)
NCAA Tournament: 30-16, one Final Four, one national championship
Number to note: Smith hasn’t led a team to a winning conference record since his final season at Kentucky.
Why he’s ranked here: In what seemed like questionable hire at first, Smith led Texas Tech to its best Big 12 record since 2007-08 with wins over Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.
46. Josh Pastner, Memphis
Record at Memphis: 130-44 (.747)
NCAA Tournament: 2-4
Number to note: Pastner ended a 12-game losing streak against ranked teams last season by going 5-5 against top 25 teams after an Oklahoma State loss in November.
Why he’s ranked here: Pastner’s not John Calipari, but he’s come into his own as a head coach the last two seasons.
47. Tommy Amaker, Harvard
Record at Harvard: 139-71 (.662)
NCAA Tournament: 4-4
Number to note: With wins over New Mexico and Cincinnati the last two seasons, Harvard is the first Ivy team since the field expanded to 64 to win games in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.
Why he’s ranked here: After a mediocre tenure at Michigan, Amaker has found a home at Harvard, where he’s won four consecutive league titles.
48. Rick Byrd, Belmont
Record at Belmont: 299-175 (.631)
NCAA Tournament: 0-6
Number to note: Byrd has 689 career wins in the NCAA record book, counting Belmont’s time in the NAIA.
Why he’s ranked here: Belmont has won regular season conference titles in each of the last five seasons in the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley.
49. 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.
50. 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.