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Who are the Best Coaches in the 2015 NCAA Tournament?


Just as a sprint is different from a marathon, winning in the NCAA Tournament is different from winning during the regular season.

Seeding, luck, clock management and style of play all seem to be magnified during March Madness. And all of it could be undone because of another team's 3-point shooter.

Granted, many of the best coaches in the game tend to win big in March just like they do in January and February. Some, though, have a knack for upsets or being upset.

As your filling out your brackets, perhaps this will be a useful tool in breaking down the coaches you might trust the most in this year’s field.

We’ve ranked all 68 coaches in the 2015 field based solely on their performance through the years in the NCAA Tournament. We looked at at wins, Final Fours and championships but also how often they performed against higher or lower seeds.

Mid-major coaches who tend to give higher seeds trouble in the Tournament were given credit. Power conference coaches who lost repeatedly in upsets were docked.

1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke (82-26, 11 Final Fours, four national championships)

These are strange times for Duke. Two of the last three NCAA Tournament trips have ended in first-round losses to Mercer and Lehigh. Duke haters understand this: We can hold that against him and still think Coach K is the best Tournament coach out there. Krzyzewski has four more Final Four appearances than any other active coach (Rick Pitino and Roy Williams) and 19 more Tournament wins than any other active coach (Roy Williams). 

2. John Calipari, Kentucky (43-14, five Final Fours, one championship)

When was the last time time Calipari suffered a major upset in the NCAA Tournament? He had a seventh-seeded Memphis team that lost to a No. 10 seed Arizona State in 2003 and a No. 2-seeded UMass team that lost in the second round to No. 10 seed Maryland in 1994. That’s about it.

3. Tom Izzo, Michigan State (42-16, six Final Fours, one championship)

Izzo has taken Michigan State to the NCAA Tournament in 17 consecutive seasons entering this year, and he’s reached at least the Sweet 16 a dozen times in that span. The times that his teams have lost early, they’ve lost as a No. 10 seed twice, as a No. 9 and as a No. 7. The only time he’s been a part of a bona fide first-round upset was to the No. 11 seed George Mason team that reached the Final Four in 2006.

4. Rick Pitino, Louisville (50-17, seven Final Fours, two championships)

Last year’s loss to Kentucky was the first time Pitino had lost in the Sweet 16 in his career. He’s won national titles at two different schools and taken Providence to the Final Four. His second national title in 2013 is bookended by losses to Kentucky and Calipari in 2012 and 2014. 

5. Roy Williams, North Carolina (63-22, seven Final Fours, two championships)

Roy’s last two trips stalled in the round of 32, but those teams were seeded sixth and eighth. At Carolina, Williams is 3-0 in the Sweet 16 and 2-0 in the national title game. The last major upset for Williams was to 11th-seeded George Mason in 2006. 

6. Bill Self, Kansas (36-15, two Final Fours, one championship)

Since losing to Bucknell in 2005 and Bradley in 2006, Self is 23-7 in the Tournament, including the 2008 national title.

7. Steve Fisher, San Diego State (25-13, three Final Fours, one national championship)

Fisher started his career with a 6-0 run to the 1989 national title when he replaced Bill Frieder at Michigan. Fisher the coached the Fab Five in two Final Fours in 1993-94. More recently, Fisher has taken San Diego State to the Sweet 16 — as would be expected for teams seeded fourth (2014) and second (2011). Fisher was also on the losing end of the first No. 15 seed reaching the Sweet 16 when Florida Gulf Coast upset his seventh-seeded Aztecs in the second round in 2013.

8. Larry Brown, SMU (19-6, three Final Fours, one national title)

Brown is riding a six-game winning streak into this year’s NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, that streak started in 1988. 

9. Thad Matta, Ohio State (23-12, two Final Fours)

Outside of those two Final Fours, Matta has had a No. 1 seed stall in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky and a No. 2 seed stall in the Sweet 16 to Tennessee.

10. Sean Miller, Arizona (14-7)

Miller is 8-3 in the Tournament since arriving at Arizona. He’s reached the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight in each of his last five trips to the to the NCAA Tournament at Zona and Xavier. One oddity: He’s 0-2 against Thad Matta, coach of his potential second round opponent this season.

11. Shaka Smart, VCU (7-4, one Final Four)

Smart took VCU from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011, but the Rams are 2-3 in the Tourney since. VCU lost to 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin last season.

12. Bob Huggins, West Virginia (27-20, two Final Fours)

Huggins took West Virginia to the 2010 Final Four, upsetting No. 1 seed Kentucky along the way. From 1997-2002, Cincinnati was a top-three seed six teams and failed to reach the Sweet 16 five times during that span. Only one of those teams had an injured Kenyon Martin.

13. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin (20-13, one Final Four)

Wisconsin went to the Final Four last season, but before that Ryan-coached teams were eliminated by lower-seeded teams in three of their previous four Tournament appearances including by Ole Miss in 2013, Butler in 2011 and Cornell in 2010.

14. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State (6-10, one Final Four)

Losing to a No. 8 seed and a No. 12 seed in two of the last three trips, but those losses were to Kentucky and VCU. In between, Marshall took a ninth-seeded Wichita team to the Final Four before losing by 4 to eventual national champ Louisville.

15. Jay Wright, Villanova (13-11, one Final Four)

Wright’s first five trips to the Tourney with Villanova ended in the Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s. Nova hasn’t made it out of the first weekend since. The Wildcats twice lost as No. 2 seeds to No. 10s in the second round to 2014 UConn and 2010 Saint Mary’s.

16. Tony Bennett, Virginia (5-4)

Just watch: If Virginia doesn’t make it out of the first weekend, this will be the year detractors start to say he can’t win in the Tournament. It happened to Bo Ryan, and it will happen to Bennett. Taking Washington State and Virginia to the Sweet 16 is still awfully impressive.

17. Scott Drew, Baylor (8-4)

The last three NCAA trips, Baylor has gone to the Elite Eight twice and the Sweet 16 once. Of Baylor’s all-time NCAA Tournament wins only three of them don’t belong to Drew.

18. Mike Anderson, Arkansas (7-6)

Getting to the Tournament has been an issue for Anderson. Once there, his style works well. He led UAB to a Sweet 16 and Missouri to an Elite Eight.

19. Archie Miller, Dayton (3-1)

His first two NCAA Tournament games were upsets of No. 6 Ohio State, No. 3 Syracuse and No. 10 Stanford. His team was seeded 11th.

20. Bob McKillop, Davidson (3-7)

His three NCAA wins were during a Stephen Curry-led run to the Elite Eight in 2008, but ask Marquette, Louisville or Ohio State if they want to see a No. 13 or 14 seed Davidson in the first round.

21. Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa (2-2)

His four NCAA Tournament games have been decided by an average of 4.25 points per game. Both of Jacobson’s wins were in a trip to the 2010 Sweet 16, including an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas.

22. Rick Barnes, Texas (21-21, one Final Four)

Barnes hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2008, but it’s not because his team is losing in egregious upsets. The problem has been Texas teams being seeded 11th (2015), seventh (2014), 11th (2012), eighth (2010) and seventh (2009).

23. Tom Crean, Indiana (9-7, one Final Four)

Crean’s non-Dwyane Wade teams are 5-6 in the Tourney, including a No. 1 seeded Indiana that lost in the Sweet 16.

24. Steve Lavin, St. John’s (11-7)

Lavin reached the Elite Eight once and Sweet 16 four times at UCLA. In the middle of all that the Bruins also lost to Detroit in a 12-5 upset. In Lavin’s only NCAA appearance since 2002, St. John’s lost to No. 11 seed Gonzaga in the first round.

25. Dana Altman, Oregon (5-10)

The ledger has five first-round exits, but one trip to the Sweet 16 with Oregon and a 12-5 upset of Florida while at Creighton.

26. Matt Painter, Purdue (8-7)

Painter has never really had a full deck in the NCAA Tournament at Purdue, leading to two Sweet 16 appearances in six trips. Purdue has been eliminated by a No. 1 seed three times under Painter.

27. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma (14-15, one Final Four)

Kruger is a standout coach during the regular season, but the Tournament is a different story. He’s riding a four-game NCAA losing streak, including last year’s exit against No. 10 seed North Dakota State. He’s been to the Sweet 16 just once since taking Florida to the Final Four in 1994.

28. Mark Gottfried, NC State (8-10)

Gottfried’s best Tournament runs haven’t been cheap. His 2012 NC State team upset No. 6 seed San Diego State and No. 3 seed Georgetown on the way to the Sweet 16. His 2005 Alabama team upset No. 1 Stanford and No. 5 Syracuse on the way to the Elite Eight. He also had a second-seeded Alabama team lose to No. 10 seed Kent State in 2002.

29. Chris Mack, Xavier (4-4)

He’s not Sean Miller or Thad Matta, his predecessors at Xavier, but Mack took a No. 10 seed to the Sweet 16 in 2012 (with an assist from No. 15 Lehigh upsetting Duke) and upset a No. 3 seed Pittsburgh in 2010.

30. Tommy Amaker, Harvard (4-4)

Amaker took 10th-seeded Seton Hall to the Sweet 16 and scored an out-of-nowhere upset of third-seeded New Mexico in 2013.

31. Mark Turgeon, Maryland (5-5)

Turgeon took Wichita State to the 2011 Sweet 16 where the Shockers were bounced by George Mason. He went 3-4 in the Tourney at Texas A&M.

32. Fran McCaffery, Iowa (2-6)

McCaffery’s two Tournament wins are first-round upsets over No. 8 Ohio State in 2009 and No. 4 Vanderbilt in 2008 while he was the coach at Siena.

33. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State (4-3)

Hoiberg’s biggest NCAA win was as a No. 7 seed over a No. 10 Notre Dame in 2013. Otherwise, Iowa State has lost to two eventual national champions (2014 UConn and 2012 Kentucky).

34. Mike Brey, Notre Dame (6-11)

Brey hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2003. His teams have been bounced by double-digit seeds in five of his last six trips, including 2010 Old Dominion and 2007 Winthrop, the latter coached by Gregg Marshall.

35. Cliff Ellis, Coastal Carolina (8-9)

Ellis has taken South Alabama, Clemson, Auburn and Coastal Carolina to the Tourney and reached the Sweet 16 three times. One of those teams was a No. 1 seed upset by Ohio State in the regional semifinal.

36. John Thompson III, Georgetown (8-9, one final Four)

Thompson went to the Sweet 16 and the Final Four in his first two NCAA appearances at Georgetown. Since then, he’s gone 2-5 with all five losses coming to double-digit teams. That record is egregious, but in context, there’s a bit of bad luck at play. Those losses have included Florida Gulf Coast, which also beat San Diego State that year, a Final Four-bound VCU, and a Stephen Curry-led Davidson. 

37. Mark Few, Gonzaga (15-16)

Detractors will get on Few for never reaching the Final Four, but six of his last eight teams have been seeded seventh or lower. It’s not his fault you’re picking a bad bracket. That said, he had a No. 1 seed that failed to get out of the first weekend against Wichita State in 2013, a No. 3 seed that lost to a sixth-seeded Texas Tech team in 2005 and a No. 2 seed that lost to a 10th-seeded Nevada in 2004.

38. Mike Davis, Texas Southern (7-6, one Final Four)

Davis has a career in reverse. He took Indiana to the national title game in 2002 and then lost a play-in game at UAB for a No. 12 seed and a second play-in game with Texas Southern for a No. 16 seed.

39. Steve Alford, UCLA (7-8)

Last year’s trip to the Sweet 16 was Alford’s first since 1999 at Missouri State. The Bruins defeated two double-digit seeds to get there, which is only important because three of Alford’s previous four NCAA losses were to double-digit seeds.

40. Dave Rose, BYU (4-7)

Rose took BYU to the Sweet 16 in 2011, but he’s also 0-3 as a No. 8 seed and 0-1 in Dayton for the First Four.

41. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah (1-2)

In two appearances at Montana, he led a 12-5 upset of Nevada in 2006 and lost by 11 to No. 1 seed Wisconsin by 11 in 2005.

42. Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin (2-1)

In one NCAA appearance, Underwood led 12th-seeded SFA to a 77-75 upset of VCU before a loss to UCLA in the second round.

43. Mark Fox, Georgia (2-4)

Both of Fox’s NCAA wins were in his first three seasons at Nevada in 2005 and 2007. The best team of his career — No. 5 seed Nevada in 2006 — lost to 12th-seeded Montana, a team led by current Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.

44. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss (1-1)

In his lone NCAA appearance, the Rebels and Marshall Henderson upset No. 5 Wisconsin and lost to No. 13 La Salle.

45. Rick Byrd, Belmont (0-6)

The closest Byrd came to his first NCAA Tournament win was as a No. 15 seed in a 71-70 loss to Duke in 2008.

46. Mike Young, Wofford (0-3)

All three appearances have been at Wofford, including a mere four-point loss to a fourth-seeded Wisconsin team in 2010. With Wofford’s slow pace, he’ll get an upset one of these days.

47. Ed Cooley, Providence (0-1)

His lone Tourney appearance was a two-point loss to No. 6 seed North Carolina last season.

48. Steve Masiello, Manhattan (0-1)

The Jaspers gave Louisville all it could handle last season. Was that a case of knowing the Rick Pitino system inside and out?

49. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State (1-5)

Ford’s lone Tourney win was in an 8-9 game against Tennessee. Ford has lost twice to double-digit seeds.

50. Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State (0-4)

Menzies has been to the NCAA Tournament five times and has won the WAC regular season only twice. That math has to count for something.

51. Will Brown, Albany (1-4)

The lone win was in last season's play-in game for a No. 16 seed over Mount St. Mary’s

52. Leon Rice, Boise State (0-1)

Rice is making his second appearance in a play-in game after losing to Sweet 16-bound La Salle in 2013.

53. Johnny Jones, LSU (0-2)

54. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso (0-1)

55. Ron Hunter, Georgia State (0-1)

56. Edward Joyner, Hampton (0-1)

57. Fran O’Hanlon, Lafayette (0-2)

58. Larry Shyatt, Wyoming (first appearance)

59. Bobby Hurley, Buffalo (first appearance)

60. Chris Holtmann, Butler (first appearance)

61. Andy Toole, Robert Morris (first appearance)

62. Jim Hayford, Eastern Washington (first appearance)

63. Ross Turner, UC Irvine (first appearance)

64. Larry Davis, Cincinnati (first appearance)

65. David Richman, North Dakota State (first appearance)

66. Bill Coen, Northeastern (first appearance)

67. Matthew Driscoll, North Florida (first appearance)

68. Jerod Haase, UAB (first appearance)