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Coaches You Can and Cannot Trust in the Tournament

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College basketball players come and go, but coaches (at least some of them) last forever. That's why I look at coaches' performances in the tournament before making my picks. We actually can get a healthy sample size on them, and some of them have definite trends that appear.

In particular, I like to look at their performance against seeding. I have three categories: better than seeding, worse than seeding, and matched their seeding. A 9-16 seed implies a first round loss; such a loss counts as nothing, but gaining at least one win counts as "better". A 5-8 seed implies one win; a first round loss is worse, one win is a match, and two or more wins is better. You get the idea. A 3 or 4 seed matches at the Sweet 16, a 2 seed matches at the Elite Eight, and a 1 seed matches at the Final Four. I give 1-seeds a "better" designation if they make the championship game.

Is this system perfect? Of course not, but I think it's at least a handy little measure to see how guys do in the tournament. Here is how a few of this year's tournament coaches fare by this metric, with a minimum of six measured tourney bids. For instance, that leaves out Leonard Hamilton, who has been to six tournaments in the past but who has losses as a 9 and 11 seed that don't register on the metric.

The Gold Standard

Tom Izzo: 7 better, 3 match, 2 worse

Izzo is the only coach I've measured who does better than his seed more than 50% of the time. He also has the lowest "worse" rate of the 18 guys I'll discuss today. Only four other coaches do better than their seed at least 40% of the time, but as we'll see later, they are very inconsistent. No one does March better than Izzo does. No one.

Low Downside

Bo Ryan: 3 better, 4 match, 2 worse

Ryan has a reputation for not breaking through in the tournament, and it is true in that he hasn't made it to the Final Four. However, he's only done worse than his seed twice, and one of those times was in 2007 when Big Ten player of the year Alando Tucker wasn't 100%. He's probably not going to go on a big run, but he seldom disappoints.

Basically An Even Mix

Roy Williams: 6 better, 8 match, 7 worse

Jim Calhoun: 6 better, 5 match, 6 worse

Mark Few: 4 better, 3 match, 4 worse

Rick Pitino: 5 better, 3 match, 5 worse

None of these guys has a very strong trend one way or another. Their historical records here aren't of too much use. And before you go telling me that Williams has gotten a lot better since he was the king of falling short at Kansas, he's got three better ratings, three matches, and two worse ratings at North Carolina. His category at both places is the same.

The Boom-or-Bust Guys

Kevin Stallings: 3 better, 0 match, 3 worse

Steve Fisher: 3 better, 0 match, 3 worse

Mike Krzyzewski: 10 better, 2 match, 10 worse

Billy Donovan: 4 better, 1 match, 5 worse

There's not a whole lot of middle ground among these coaches, but they are the four guys other than Izzo that do better than their seed more than 40% of the time. Interestingly, three of them have national championships.

The Boom-but-More-Likely-Bust Guys

Thad Matta: 3 better, 1 match, 5 worse

Mike Montgomery: 4 better, 2 match, 7 worse

Bill Self: 4 better, 2 match, 7 worse

Bob Huggins: 4 better, 5 match, 9 worse

All of these guys have a "worse" percentage of at least 50%, but unlike three of the guys in the previous section, they don't have a "better" percentage of at least 40% to make up for it.

Limited Upside, More Downside

Jim Boeheim: 5 better, 8 match, 9 worse

John Calipari: 2 better, 5 match, 6 worse

Mike Brey: 1 better, 3 match, 3 worse

These guys got their "worse" percentages under 50% and match quite often, but they just don't outperform their seeds too often. This bodes poorly for Boeheim, who on top of losing Fab Melo for the tournament doesn't outperform his seed that often anyway .

No Upside

Rick Barnes: 1 better, 7 match, 8 worse



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