NCAA Tournament 2012: Final Grades for the Highest-Paid Coaches

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2012

NCAA Tournament 2012: Final Grades for the Highest-Paid Coaches

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    USA TODAY recently released an article listing the salaries of each men's basketball head coach in the 2012 NCAA tournament, and the yearly numbers range from $87,500 to $5.4 million.

    Sure, coaches are valued beyond the on-court results. They're seen as ambassadors of the schools, but ultimately, their compensation is based on the hope of hardwood excellence.

    The Big Ten has six coaches in the top 15 salaries, but a pair of Southeastern skippers have the thickest wallets.

    Which coaches earned their hefty allowances? Here are the final grades of the 2011-2012 season for the 15 richest coaches in college basketball.

Bob Huggins, West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Salary: $2 million

    Bob Huggins' West Virginia squad looked like it was hitting its stride around midseason, carried by outstanding rebounding and unselfish offense.

    Then things spiraled out of control, as the Mountaineers dropped nine of their last 13 games.

    Huggins couldn't right the ship in March, as the team's season ended unceremoniously when Gonzaga lambasted them in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

    2012 Grade: C+

John Beilein, Michigan Wolverines

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    Salary: $2.2 million

    Michigan head coach John Beilein didn't have a well-balanced team to work with this year, but he managed to earn some quality wins, including regular-season triumphs over Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State.

    The Wolverines were ranked in the Top 25 all season—and in the Top 15 for most of it—but in the end, they were unable to escape the Round of 64 in the Big Dance.

    Beilein couldn't work around the team's weakness in the paint, where Michigan failed to consistently rebound and score.

    2012 Grade: B-

Bo Ryan, Wisconsin Badgers

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    Salary: $2.2 million

    Wisconsin has always been a well-coached team, as Bo Ryan always gets his squads to play solid defense. This year was no different, as the Badgers were by far the best defensive club in the Big Ten.

    They fought their way past Montana and Vanderbilt to reach the Sweet 16, but couldn't get past Syracuse even on a hot shooting night.

    2012 wasn't a disappointment for Ryan, but he would like to see his offense get more points in the paint down the stretch.

    2012 Grade: B+

Tom Crean, Indiana Hoosiers

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    Salary: $2.2 million

    Tom Crean was brought in to resurrect the Indiana basketball program, and he's done a phenomenal job of bringing it back to national prominence.

    His signature moment this season was the win over Kentucky, but the Hoosiers' comeback win over VCU in the Round of 32 was also compelling. It's exciting to think about Crean's potential for the future in Bloomington.

    2012 Tournament Grade: A-

Matt Painter, Purdue Boilermakers

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    Salary $2.3 million

    After finishing in the middle of the Big Ten this season, Matt Painter and the Purdue Boilermakers came within a couple baskets of reaching the Sweet 16 as a No. 10 seed.

    Purdue's main shortcomings involved subpar rebounding and an inability to defend top-tier teams. If Painter wants to give Purdue the best value for its money, he needs to challenge for the conference tournament and the Sweet 16 every year.

    2012 Grade: B

Rick Barnes, Texas Longhorns

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    Salary: $2.4 million

    In recent years, Rick Barnes hasn't achieved the kind of success he enjoyed from 2002-2008, when the team reached three Elite Eights and one Final Four.

    It partially has to do with the rise of other programs (Kansas State, Baylor, Missouri), but also because he's been unable to land 5-star recruits.

    The result? Zero wins against ranked teams in 2011-2012.

    2012 Grade: C

Jim Calhoun, Connecticut Huskies

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    Salary: $2.7 million

    Despite the glut of talent at his disposal, Jim Calhoun couldn't help Connecticut overcome the graduation of Kemba Walker.

    It didn't help that he was sidelined with back trouble for weeks. Who knows if the Huskies would have gotten into a groove if he hadn't left?

    He'll look to improve UConn's ball movement and team cohesiveness next year.

    2012 Grade: N/A (Incomplete)

Buzz Williams, Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Salary: $2.8 million

    He's richly rewarded, but Marquette's Buzz Williams uses every ounce of energy to coach his boys and earn every penny.

    The Golden Eagles were the Big East's highest-scoring squad, as Williams loved to run the floor and attack the basket on the secondary break. He brings a solid game plan, passion and enthusiasm to every game.

    Marquette's season came to a disappointing end in a Sweet 16 loss to Florida.

    2012 Grade: B+

Thad Matta, Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Salary: $2.9 million

    Thad Matta's efforts on both ends of the floor made Ohio State an efficient team on both offense and defense. The Buckeyes had the best point differential in the Big Ten.

    The Columbus faithful can't ask for much more than a Final Four run and a chance to win the national title. Matta guided his club through a rigorous tournament that included wins over Loyola, Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Syracuse.

    2012 Grade: A

Bill Self, Kansas Jayhawks

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    Salary: $3.6 million

    When the season tipped off this fall, not too many folks saw Kansas as a potential national finalist. Even midway through the year, many were willing to crown Missouri and Baylor as Big 12 favorites.

    But Bill Self wouldn't let his kids settle for mediocrity, and the result was a gutsy run through the Big Dance all the way to the title game in New Orleans.

    The Jayhawks fell short against a formidable Kentucky bunch, but that doesn't taint Self's work one bit.

    2012 Grade: A+

Billy Donovan, Florida Gators

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    Salary: $3.6 million

    His pedigree and multiple national titles already justify Billy Donovan's salary, but he needs to keep Florida near the top of the SEC every year in order to keep Gainesville happy.

    The Gators didn't have many quality wins during the regular season, but they peaked at the right time with a sensational run to the Elite Eight in March.

    How will he fare next year after losing a great crop of talent?

    2012 Grade: A

Tom Izzo, Michigan State Spartans

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    Salary: $3.6 million

    Tom Izzo is known for helping his teams overachieve in the NCAA tourney. This time around, his squad underachieved.

    It wasn't a disastrous choke, but the No. 1 seed Michigan State Spartans bowed out in disappointing fashion in the Sweet 16, scoring just 44 points against Louisville.

    That's a tough pill to swallow after winning the Big Ten title just two weeks prior.

    2012 Grade: B+

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Blue Devils

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    Salary: $4.7 million

    When you think of Coach K and Duke, you think of discipline and defense.

    Both areas weren't quite up to par for Krzyzewski's club this year. In fact, the Blue Devils were statistically the worst defensive team in the ACC.

    Three home losses (Florida State, Miami, North Carolina) were an indication that Duke wasn't its usual self this year. The first-round NCAA loss to Lehigh was the final haymaker that finished it.

    2012 Grade: C+

Rick Pitino, Louisville Cardinals

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    Salary: $4.8 million

    Rick Pitino is by far the richest coach in the Big East, but if anyone deserves a big payday in the conference, it's Louisville's leader. He's one of the best motivators and in-game coaches in the nation.

    If we were to grade Pitino at the end of the regular season, he would get somewhere in the B range. 

    In the postseason, he stirred up his offense a bit, kept the defense snug and the Cardinals got a killer instinct. With a Big East title and a Final Four run, his 2012 grade is much rosier.

    2012 Grade: A

John Calipari, Kentucky Wildcats

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    Salary: $5.4 million

    Now that he brought the hardware back to Big Blue Nation, John Calipari is worth his weight in gold to the Kentucky Wildcats program.

    His 2011-2012 season was impressive on many levels.

    Firstly, he got a group of youngsters to play together effectively and unselfishly. He kept them motivated throughout the year, even after locking up a No. 1 seed by mid-February.

    Most importantly, he helped them excel on the big stage of the NCAA tournament.

    2012 Grade: A+