College Basketball Coaches Most Likely to Win First Title in Next 3 Years
It's not easy to become part of the select coaching fraternity with a national title because odds are that the next champ will be coached by a guy already in the club.
In the last 10 years, four coaches (Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Bill Self and John Calipari) have won a title for the first time. Williams is already in the Hall of Fame and the three others will make it eventually. Two of those coaches (Donovan and Williams) have won their second titles in that time span. And with those guys in the club, it has made it even more difficult to become a first-timer.
What is typically true of first-time champs is that they don't really sneak up. Usually, as in the case of Calipari two years ago, you can see it coming.
So we decided to take a look at not necessarily the "best coaches without a title" in college basketball, but the coaches with the best chance to win in the near future. Remember, particularly with the first few coaches on this list, their inclusion does not mean they're the most proven or the best of the title-less club, simply they have a roster (or will have a roster) that could get it done.
10. Josh Pastner, Memphis
The first two coaches on this list are in consideration because of what they've already done and what
they're capable of pulling off in recruiting.
Josh Pastner's current freshmen class ranked the third-best in country behind Kentucky and Kansas, according to Rivals.com. But unlike Bill Self and John Calipari, Pastner could get more than one year to coach all of his guys up.
Memphis also enters this year as a dark-horse national title pick. With four senior guards, Pastner has experience like he's never had and the ability to play multiple styles.
The Tigers are also finally in a league, the new American Athletic Association, that should better prepare them for March and only help Pastner in recruiting.
9. Scott Drew, Baylor
To win a title in the next three years, Scott Drew might have to pull off a miracle. And that miracle would be beating out Duke, along with Kentucky and Kansas for the services of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones.
With Kentucky getting a commitment from point guard Tyler Ulis, it could be down to just Duke, Kansas and Baylor. Are the Bears a long shot? Probably. But they at least have a chance, and whoever lands this duo will be in the 2013-14 title conversation.
Drew has pulled off some miracles before. Heck, turning Baylor into a winner—with two
Elite Eight appearances—after what Dave Bliss put that program through is one of the more
unbelievable feats of this decade.
8. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Bo Ryan's consistency is pretty incredible. In 12 years at Wisconsin, he's never missed an NCAA tournament and never finished any lower than fourth in the Big Ten.
It's also worth pointing out that Ryan has only been past the Sweet 16 one time—an Elite Eight appearance in 2005.
The Badgers are always going to be good, but it takes a certain level of talent to win a title and Ryan's teams have been just slightly a notch below.
Of course, Wisconsin's talent has not been—and is not—any worst than what Brad Stevens was working with in his back-to-back championship game appearances at Butler.
What Stevens had that first year he got there was at least one first-round talent in Gordon Hayward. Ryan could have the same thing in sophomore Sam Dekker, who might just be the most talented player Ryan has ever coached.
If Dekker turns into a superstar and sticks around for a few years, maybe the Badgers' talent level will be good enough to get to a Final Four and compete for the title.
7. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State
With Marcus Smart around for one more year, Travis Ford has a one-year window to win the title. Hey, that's better than no window at all.
Ford has surrounded Smart with good talent, and if the Cowboys traded uniforms with Kansas and Bill Self was their coach, they'd probably be preseason top five.
Markel Brown is one of the best 2-guards in the country, and Le'Bryan Nash has his moments when he looks like a pro. The Cowboys also have good role guys in shooter Phil Forte and defensive-minded big men Michael Cobbins and Kamari Murphy.
The Cowboys did lose in the opening round of the tourney last year, but the same could be said for the team that entered the year last season with the best point guard in the country going into his sophomore year: Michigan.
6. Mark Few, Gonzaga
Mark Few might have missed out on his best chance at a title last year. Even with that loss to Wichita State in the Round of 32, you'll have a hard time convincing me that Gonzaga was not one of the best five teams in the country.
But don't think that Gonzaga is just going away. No coach in the country can match Few's ability to find talent outside of the country. Last year, the Zags had three starters born outside the U.S.—Kevin Pangos (Canada), Kelly Olynyk (Canada) and Elias Harris (Germany). This year, Few will replace Olynyk in the starting lineup with sophomore Przemek Karnowski from Poland.
Few is also as good as anyone at developing talent. Look at what he did with Olynyk, who redshirted as a junior and turned into a lottery pick. Because of the constant turnover of all the blue bloods, a program-builder like Few is going to sneak in one of these years and steal a title.
The next two years do look promising. Last year's starting backcourt of Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. return and they're both juniors, and next year the Zags will have Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer, who has the potential to be a star in their system.
5. Buzz Williams, Marquette
Marquette has played in three straight Sweet 16s and made an Elite Eight appearance this past year. So why should you believe Buzz Williams could take the next step? His incoming freshman class is probably the best he's recruited.
It wouldn't be shocking, however, if this were Williams' final year at Marquette. With a new athletic director taking over at Texas combined with Rick Barnes' recent struggles on the court and on the recruiting trail, change could be coming and Williams makes sense as a replacement.
He's a native Texan and a tireless recruiter who could take advantage of all the talent in the state.
If he does leave for Texas, it might be tough for Williams to win a title in the next three years, but look out down the road. The Longhorns would once again be a feared program.
4. Tom Crean, Indiana
If this list were just the coaches without a title who had the best chance this year to win, Tom Crean wouldn't make the top 10.
Crean is starting over this year after losing Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. But similar to when he was rebuilding the program, he has the pieces to mold the Hoosiers into a title contender in a year or two.
Point guard Yogi Ferrell should be around for three more years, and freshmen Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams have the potential to turn into a Zeller-Oladipo type combo. Crean has also built good depth with his last two recruiting classes.
3. Thad Matta, Ohio State
Thad Matta probably deserves the title of best current coach without a title. Matta has been to two Final Fours, has a runner-up finish and Ohio State has reached at least the Sweet 16 for four straight years.
The Buckeyes have a team this year that could be in the title conversation by the end of the year. Aaron Craft is one of the best point guards in the country and LaQuinton Ross has the potential to turn into a star. Another strong recruiting class is also on the way next year.
But for Matta to get back to the Final Four and win his first title, he might need to find Ohio State's next great post player. His best two teams have had a star in the post—Greg Oden and then Jared Sullinger.
Without a Sullinger-like talent—and it doesn't appear one is in the program or committed—the Buckeyes will be good. In fact, they'll be similar to last year when they went to the Elite Eight, but not great enough to win a national championship.
2. John Beilein, Michigan
John Beilein proved last year that he could get to a Final Four with a team of mostly all underclassmen. Tim Hardaway Jr. was the only upperclassman in Michigan's NCAA tourney starting five.
So before you rule out the Wolverines as title contenders this season because they lost Trey Burke and Hardaway, consider that their roster isn't much different. They have Mitch McGary and Glen Robinson III in the Burke and Hardaway roles—future pros who have already produced—and they have Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton in the McGary and Robinson roles—two highly-coveted prospects who will be thrown into the fire.
This team has Nik Stauskas as a sophomore, compared to Stauskas as a freshman, and then also has Mark Donnal, a potential low-post scorer who could allow Michigan to play a traditional lineup and not sacrifice scoring this year.
Of course, how good Michigan can be for the next few years comes down to Walton. He doesn't have to be as good as Burke, but he has to be pretty darn good if Michigan is going to be competing for titles.
The other thing working in Beilein's favor is he's now selling a program that has been to the title game recently. That's working apparently, as he already has four commitments from the 2014 class.
1. Sean Miller, Arizona
Sean Miller has the best team in the country this season that is coached by someone without a national title. The preseason top six, in some order, should be Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Louisville, Kentucky and Michigan State.
This particular team is Miller's most talented yet, and remember that in 2011, Miller had Derrick Williams. Those Wildcats lost by two in the Elite Eight to the eventual national champion, Connecticut.
The major difference between that team and this one is that even if Arizona cannot get it done this year, the window is not closed like it was in 2011-12 after Williams left.
Let's assume that Aaron Gordon leaves after one season in Tucson and that's the team's only early entrant, the Wildcats could return four starters and move fellow McDonald's All-American Rondae Hollis-Jefferson into the starting lineup.
Up front, Arizona has promising prospects in Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski, who will both be sophomores. They were not stars last year, but they were good enough to convince the guys behind them, Grant Jerrett and Angelo Chol, to go elsewhere. Jerrett left for the NBA, and Chol transferred to San Diego State.
Miller also had a true point guard for the first time at Arizona in Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell, and he has another on the way with 2014 point guard Parker Jackson-Cartright already committed.
Similar to Lute Olson, Miller is at a point where he has become consistent enough in recruiting that down years should be few and far between.
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