Coaches Who Will Vault into Spotlight with Deep NCAA Tournament Run
It seems like in every NCAA tournament, there are coaches who explode on the scene, leading their teams on a deep run through March.
Of course, Brad Stevens at Butler and Shaka Smart at VCU are two of the most recent examples of coaches who led teams that didn’t get a lot of national attention on deep tournament runs.
Every college basketball fan now knows their names thanks to that tournament success.
This year, there are a few coaches who are certain to gain national attention as we move through March Madness.
Here is one coach from each region who will vault into the spotlight with a deep NCAA tournament run.
Midwest Region: Jim Crews, Saint Louis
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Jim Crews took over Saint Louis under very difficult circumstances. He is the interim head coach after Rick Majerus retired before passing away on Dec. 1.
Crews played for Bob Knight at Indiana and was an assistant there from 1977-85. He took over at Evansville where he spent 17 seasons on the sidelines. From 1986-2002, he took Evansville to four NCAA tournaments.
After that, he spent seven seasons at Army where he never had a winning season.
Now, Crews has Saint Louis playing almost as well as anyone in the country. The Billikens swept both the regular season and conference tournament titles in the Atlantic 10, and now there are expectations that Saint Louis will make a deep run into March Madness, maybe even making a Final Four.
West Region: Rick Byrd, Belmont
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Rick Byrd has been on the sidelines at Belmont since 1986. Over that time, Belmont transitioned from NAIA to the NCAA. Byrd won a NAIA national title for Belmont in 1989.
Byrd has led the Bruins to the NCAA tournament six times since 2006, but he has yet to pick up a victory in the Big Dance.
Now, Belmont travels out to Salt Lake City to take on No. 6-seed Arizona on Thursday. The Wildcats got off to a hot start but faltered a bit down the stretch in conference play.
Belmont could very well upset Arizona and No. 3 New Mexico en route to the Sweet 16.
South Region: Steve Fisher, San Diego State
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Steve Fisher has reached the pinnacle of the college coaching profession, but he is kind of a forgotten coach. He won a national title at Michigan back in 1989 in one of the more improbable runs through the NCAA tournament.
Fisher took over right before the tournament began after then-athletic director Bo Schembechler forced Bill Frieder to leave immediately after he took the Arizona State job. He then led the Wolverines to back-to-back title game appearances with the Fab Five in 1992-93.
Now, Fisher has taken the Aztecs to three straight NCAA tournament appearances, with a trip to the Sweet 16 back in 2011.
San Diego State is a No. 7 seed in the South Region and has to travel across the country to face Oklahoma on Friday.
With Jamaal Franklin leading the way, the Aztecs have what it takes to make a deep run.
East Region: Dave Paulsen, Bucknell
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Dave Paulsen is in his fifth year at Bucknell after spending eight years at Division III Williams College, where he won the 2003 national title.
In his time as the leader of the Bison, Paulsen has taken Bucknell to an NCAA tournament two years ago and an NIT last season.
Bucknell got a favorable draw with No. 6 Butler in the round of 64 and a potential matchup with No. 3 Marquette. The Bison have an excellent post player in Mike Muscala. He averages 19.0 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, and Muscala is capable of carrying the Bison to the second weekend of the tournament.