Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo take center stage Friday night when Duke and Michigan State meet in the Sweet 16. That matchup may be the most anticipated event of the round, but a battle of wits between Jim Boeheim and Tom Crean provides an excellent opening act.
Indiana and Syracuse square off Thursday night in the nation's capital. Crean and Boeheim are both among the game's elite head coaches, but enter this clash at drastically different moments in their respective careers.
Boeheim, a 2005 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, has served on the Orange's bench since 1969. The five-time Big East tournament champion and 2003 national title winner is 68 years old.
Reports of his potential retirement were refuted, but many wonder how much longer Boeheim will roam the Syracuse sideline. Crean, on the other hand, is close to hitting his career high note.
The 47-year-old is the face of a proud program's return to glory. Crean has the Hoosiers back on track as a No. 1 seed and Big Ten regular-season champion.
He started his head coaching career at Marquette in 1999 and led the Golden Eagles to a Final Four appearance. Indiana came calling after three more tourney runs at Marquette.
As these two leaders prepare to cross paths in Washington D.C., it's fair to wonder which man would be the best candidate to coach your college basketball team right now. Let's delve into the details and discover a little bit more about each leader.
Boeheim cut down the nets after winning the 2003 National Championship.
Boeheim trails only Mike Krzyzewski on the active wins leader board (915 victories). The 37-year veteran is appearing in his 16th Sweet 16, seeking a fourth Final Four appearance.
He owns a 48-27 record in the NCAA tournament. A gaudy tourney winning percentage (.640) hasn't translated into as much championship success as some of his contemporaries.
Syracuse claimed Boeheim's lone national title in 2003, when freshman Carmelo Anthony and company took the tournament by storm. The Orange lost the 1987 championship game by one point to Bob Knight's Hoosiers.
Like practically every coach in college basketball, Crean can't compete with Boeheim's career credentials. He has, however, built an impressive resume in less than a decade and a half as a Division I head coach.
Crean led Marquette to the 2003 Final Four. Golden Eagles guard Dwyane Wade starred throughout a postseason run that ended one win shy of a date with Syracuse in the national title game (Kansas knocked off Marquette in the semifinals).
The Golden Eagles reached three more NCAA tournaments before Crean bolted for Bloomington in 2008.
This is Crean's third Sweet 16 appearance in 14 seasons as a head coach and his second straight visit with Indiana.
Advantage: Jim Boeheim
Although his list of detractors seems to be growing lately, Boeheim continues to win at a consistent level. The Orange are in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years.
Syracuse has won at least 26 games every season since 2008 and reached the 2013 Big East tournament title game, ultimately falling to Louisville. Boeheim's biggest issue has been getting back to the Final Four, a destination his team has failed to reach since 2003.
Consecutive trips to the Sweet 16 have done wonders to restore the faith of Indiana fans far and wide. Crean's first three seasons in Bloomington were shaky at best, as he compiled a 28-66 record and won just eight conference games.
Indiana has already eclipsed 28 wins this season alone and continues to regain its status as an iconic basketball power. Crean still has plenty of work to do with the Hoosiers, but it's clear he's on the right path.
Advantage: Jim Boeheim
Known for his suffocating 2-3 zone scheme, Boeheim has long been considered a defensive guru. His teams are known for a tremendous ability to lock down the perimeter.
Boeheim implements a rotation of rangy athletes at the guard positions to seal off passing lanes and erase easy looks on the outside. Syracuse surrenders less than 60 points per game this season and finished first in the Big East in field-goal percentage defense.
Opponents shoot just 37 percent against the Orange.
Crean is a master of intricate and expansive offensive sets. The Hoosiers' well-rounded and unpredictable attack incorporates a patient approach founded on intelligent shot selection.
Indiana ranks seventh in the country in field goal percentage (.486) and is one of just three teams to average 80 points this season. Cody Zeller anchors Indiana inside, while sharpshooters Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford capitalize on interior success by stinging teams from beyond the arc.
Six Hoosiers score at least eight points per game.
Advantage: Tom Crean
Syracuse had the sixth-best 2013 recruiting class, according to ESPN.com. The team pulled in four four-star recruits as it prepares to transition from the Big East to the ACC.
It's the fourth time since 2007 the Orange have assembled a top 10 recruiting haul, according to the site.
Boeheim has been able to draw some of the northeast's premier players to Syracuse.
Carmelo Anthony captured a national championship in his only season dressed in orange, which goes a long way with selling Syracuse hoops to this generation of recruits.
The Orange produce NBA draft picks on a consistent basis, but the program always seems prepared to fill its holes in time for another postseason run.
Crean gained notoriety as a relentless recruiter at Marquette and his profile as a premier coach elevated when Dwyane Wade enjoyed early success in the NBA. His 2011 recruiting class at Indiana can be credited with kicking off a rapid program turnaround.
McDonald's All-American Cody Zeller signed with the Hoosiers, spurring an avalanche of outstanding 2012 commitments who eventually completed one of the nation's top-ranked recruiting classes.
The group calls itself "The Movement" and looks to lead Indiana to even greater heights in seasons to come.
The Hoosiers landed the nation's fourth-best 2013 recruiting class, according to ESPN.com.
Advantage: Tom Crean
We'll take Jim Boeheim.
If the question becomes, "Who would you rather have for the next five years?", then the answer is unequivocally Crean. For now, Boeheim still belongs a notch above Indiana's rising star.
Crean is capable of building something special at Indiana, but those efforts remain in an infantile stage. The Hoosiers haven't reached the Elite Eight under his guidance yet and it's hard to shake off the team's 8-46 conference record between 2009 to 2011.
Impressive recruiting classes have paid immediate dividends at Indiana and should continue to provide Crean with a stronger program foundation.
That foundation was laid long ago in Syracuse, where Boeheim has been a model of consistency. He's delivered the Orange to seven Sweet 16 appearances since 2000. Crean has missed the NCAA tournament altogether on five occasions since 2004.
If Indiana is able to secure its first trip to the Elite Eight since 2002, Crean takes a significant leap up the national coaching hierarchy. Until then, the Hall of Famer holds an edge.