Patrolling The Sidelines: Who's Hot And Who's Not

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIJanuary 17, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 12:  Head coach Tom Crean of  the Indiana Hoosiers reacts against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first round of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 12, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Dick Vitale often waxes poetic about the virtues of coaches and while it does take a good coach to manage talent in the upper echelon of college hoops, it takes an excellent coach to get teams to overachieve. Here is a short list of some (yes, there are many out there) of the lead men who have excelled this season and some who don't seem to be getting the most out of their talent.

Best Jobs to Date

Jamie Dixon - Pitt Panthers - Who knew? Ashton Gibbs is a much-improved player thanks in part to his inclusion on the U.S. under 19 team this summer, coached by Dixon himself. But to lose three starters, who supplied the Panthers with virtually everything they needed to contend, and still contend .... Dixon, if he was a player, would be called a beast.

John Calipari - Kentucky - Yes, life is easier with the type of players he has but they are mostly freshmen. And they are undefeated. And they have played some teams. If they continue to get better (yes, even John Wall), this could be and incredible team.

Ben Jacobson - Northern Iowa Panthers - Right. Ben who? Only an inexplicable loss to Depaul early this season keeps the Panthers from being undefeated. No, they are not exciting, and no, their schedule has not been the stiffest but they win and in March, they are going to be a nightmare for somebody.

Bo Ryan - Wisconsin Badgers - This is like a broken record. This guy always has a team and they are always almost impossible to beat at home and they always make the NCAA tourney. Losing Jon Leuer is really going to test Ryan and his ability to adjust and adapt.

Rick Barnes- Texas Longhorns - Hard to leave a guy who coaches an unbeaten team off of the top shelf. Texas is as talented as any team that isn't Kentucky. Their bench is as good as a lot of teams' starters. The debate about #1 is always interesting but right now it's a two-sided debate because Kansas isn't close. 

Kevin O'Neill - USC Trojans - What a mess he inherited. The PAC-10 is going to be hard-pressed for 3 tourney bids this season but the Trojans have a legitimate chance to be in the running for the regular season crown. Even though it won't count for much, he still has them playing. Good for him.

Tony Shaver - William and Mary Tribe - Picked to finish somewhere between ninth and last in the Colonial, the tribe is 14-3 and tied for first. Oh yeah, road wins versus Wake Forest and Maryland to boot. Who are these guys?

Tony Bennett - Virginia Cavaliers - First place in the ACC. Forget about what point of the season we're at. This was supposed to be a very lean year. He has given some hope after several disappointing seasons for the Cavs. They are at a point where a couple of big roads wins could get them into the at-large conversation - a place no one expected them to be.

Honourable Mention

Anthony Grant - Alabama - Just a flat out good coach whose teams won't underachieve. His team is tough now and will be more so by season's end.

Chris Mack - Xavier - This program doesn't seem to have lost a beat - this season. The key for Mack is to continue to get the most out of Love and Crawford.

Mike Krzyzewski - Duke - This team is better than everyone first thought. There is an inside presence emerging and so far Scheyer is an All-American.

Rick Stansbury - Mississippi State - The Rodney Dangerfield of the SEC. Even without one of top prospects in his line-up, Stansbury has State at the top of the West. He wins consistently, with a lot less fanfare than most.

Tom Crean - Indiana - The Hoosiers are a lot better than last year and continue to improve. This guy is for real - and Indiana ain't a bad place to play.

Mike Anderson - Missouri - Another team that was not highly considered in their own conference, the Tigers had reeled off 9 straight wins before Saturday. Fresh from an Elite Eight appearance, Missouri has not taken the expected plunge after losing some key players.


Roy Williams - North Carolina - There was sure to be a drop from last year's team because first and foremost you can't replace a Ty Lawson at the point. Injuries aren't helping but the turnovers are killing them. That's not to say they won't turn it around but they should be doing more with the talent they have.

Mick Cronin - Cincinnati - The Big East might be the toughest conference top to bottom but the Bearcats are losing games they should be winning. They have very good talent but are struggling to close out games. Maybe the last-second win against Notre Dame will get them going.

Ernie Kent - Oregon - Almost assuredly his last season with the Ducks, the conference season started with some promise but just as quickly faded with three straight home losses.

John Beilein Michigan - Where's Kevin Pittsnogle when you need him? You can't win consistently with only two scorers. They are way too inconsistent and need to pick it up to get back to the dance in March.

Pat Knight - The honeymoon is over. How they were ranked was a mystery. This team has no idea how to defend and will get steamrolled in this conference - again.