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 care