The Pi-Rate Ratings

January 20, 2019

20 Basketball Coaches Ready For Prime Time

Every year, as fans and administrators grieve over the fact that their school’s basketball team is in the middle of a crash and burn, attention turns to possible replacement candidates. When a team was expected to be better than the year before or even turn things around, but said team does not show the improvement or even takes a step back, media, fans, and administrators begin wondering if a coaching change is on the horizon.
We are sure there are readers here that fall into this category.

 

If you are a UCLA fan, you already have a coaching search underway. Fans at Wake Forest and Washington State may experience a coaching search in March. There can be somewhat unexpected coaching changes when a new athletics director comes in and want’s “his man” in the position. All it takes is a bad February and March for an unexpected change to be made. Then, there are always the unexpected dismissals, retirements, and lateral moves leaving power conference jobs open.

 

To become the head coach at a major power conference school, most of the time, the new coach must have head coaching experience at the college level. On the rare occasion, a top assistant can be the hire, but this usually happens when said assistant replaces a retiring sucessful coach, like when Chris Holtmann replaced Brandon Miller, who had replaced Brad Stevens at Butler.

 

At the present time, there are a couple dozen excellent potential candidates to move up to power conference schools if there is a job opening. By power conference, I refer to AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. That comes to 87 schools.
Today, the PiRate Ratings list 20 excellent coaches that we believe could take over a power conference basketball team and make it a successful choice. We set some criteria to make this list, so if a coach you think is deserving is not on this list, it could be that we did not include him because he failed to meet our criteria.

1. Age–We limited this list to coaches that will be under 50 years old on March 15, 2019. Yes, older coaches can still make a move upward past the age of 50. The PiRate Captain (me) is pushing 60, and I am not ready to be put out to pasture just yet. Still, most coaches that are going to move from low or mid-major schools to the Big Ten, Big 12, or ACC are going to be under the age of 50.

2. Past Division 1 head coaching experience or considered one of the three best power conference assistants–even if the coach is an assistant coach this year, he must have been a head coach in Division 1, unless he is considered to be the top in his class. We have included just one assistant with no previous college head coaching experience.

3. I must have seen him coach in person or on TV to see that this guy knows what he is doing. That means his team was prepared to win the game from the start, and the coach made adjustments that increased his team’s chances of winning more than the guy on the other bench.

4. He needs to have some sort of pedigree from a successful program other than his own.

5. Or, he needs to be a former power conference head coach that has been in the NBA and now needs a job.

With this criteria, here are the 20 best candidates to be given big pay raises to become power conference head coaches in 2019-20. We graded each coach on a scale of 1-100, and they had to earn a score of 90 or better to make this list. The #1 pick is not that far ahead of the #20 pick; all these men get A’s for coaching. They are presented in order of #20 to #1.

 

20. Jon Scheyer, Duke Associate Head Coach

Scheyer is one of two assistant coaches to make this list, because he is one of the top three assistants in college basketball. Scheyer combines top-flight recruiting ability along with the Duke system. He has more years in the Duke system than just about anybody other than Coach K himself, and he is ready to take over a program. He’s just 31, and more than likely, he will have to begin a few rungs down from the big-time. A short sojourn in the Colonial Athletic Association, Southern Conference, or Big South might be all he needs to end up at a big-time program, maybe even Duke when Coach K decides to do something else or nothing else. He still rates an A Grade on this list.

19. Mike Rhoades, Virginia Commonwealth

Rhoades has done something rarely done in modern basketball. He won at Rice. Prior to Rhoades, the Owls had won three CUSA games in two seasons with just nine overall wins. Rhoades won 12 games both of his first two years at Rice, and then his final Owls’ team won 23 games. The previous 23- win season was 1954. Since he left Houston, Rice has gone 14-36 through this weekend.

 
Rhoades comes from the Shaka Smart coaching tree, and his teams play a harassing defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots from the field. The Rams are 13-5 this year, giving up just 62.6 points per game, the lowest mark since Smart’s 2012 team gave up 60 with a 35-second shot clock instead of 30-second shot clock now. Rhoades will eventually become the next VCU coach to move up to a bigger program. It probably won’t be after this season, but give him time to put together a couple of 23-win seasons at VCU, and somebody will come calling.

18. Jeff Boals, Stony Brook

Steve Pikiell built up the Stony Brook program into a competitive winner, and it took Boals a couple of years to bring in an entirely new plan and four new starters from the best team in Seawolves history. Stony Brook was expected to finish in the lower half of the standings in Boals’ first year in Long Island, but the Seawolves surprised with a second place finish. After a down year last year, the Seawolves are back. They are 4-0 in the America East Conference and 16-3 overall, locked in a tight race with Vermont.
Boals comes from the Thad Matta coaching tree plus the Keith Dambrot (Akron) coaching tree. As an Akron assistant, he contributed to three 20-win seasons. Then, when he moved to Ohio State, the Buckeyes enjoyed their best years of the Matta era, including the Final Four, an Elite 8, and two Sweet 16 appearances in four seasons. Boals will probably need a year or two more to prove himself, but he is 46 and will fall off our criteria list in four years.

17. Casey Alexander, Lipscomb

Alexander is not well known outside of Nashville. He was a 16-year assistant at his alma mater to Coach Rick Byrd at Belmont, and he has followed in Byrd’s footsteps coaching down the street at Belmont’s arch-rival Lipscomb.

 
After guiding Lipscomb to their first ever NCAA Tournament last year, Alexander’s 2019 team is better. The Bisons have won at SMU and at TCU and have a narrow miss at Louisville. At 4-0 in the Atlantic Sun and 13-4 overall, the Bisons are the co-favorites along with Liberty to win the ASUN regular season and conference tournament championship.

Alexander is 46 years old, so his time is probably now if he is going to move up to a power conference school. The one big feather in his cap is that his Lipscomb team ranks among the nation’s leaders in tempo. Lipscomb averages 77 possessions per game.

16. Russ Turner, UC-Irvine

Turner has a very impressive coaching tree resume. He has assisted Dave Odom, Mike Montgomery, and the legendary Don Nelson (who comes from the Red Auerbach tree). Turner has excellent NBA contacts from his time with the Golden State Warriors, and he has shown in a short time in Irvine that he can organize and run a successful college program.

 
UCI had never been to the NCAA Tournament until Turner became head coach. The program had wallowed in mediocrity for eight years. After two seasons of putting the wheels in motion, the Anteaters began winning consistently and have won for seven consecutive years. Included in that streak is the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament bid where UCI did everything but upset Louisville in a two-point loss that saw many 50-50 calls go Louisville’s way.

This year, the Anteaters are 3-1 in the Big West and 15-5 overall. Like all of Turners’ teams, UCI plays tough defense and patient but smart offense. Turner gets more out of his talent than an average coach and his in-game adjustments frequently lead to the Anteaters winning toss-up games. Including in this year’s victims are Texas A&M and Saint Mary’s, both of whom fell to UCI on their home floors. Turner is ready to make that next move, and this could be the year. It doesn’t have to be a West Coast school.

15. Travis DeCuire, Montana

In baseball, the great Willie Mays was called a “5-tool player,” which meant he could hit, hit with power, run, field, and throw expertly. In basketball, I like to call a team that can do everything well a 5-tool team. That means, they can shoot, defend the shot, rebound on both ends of the floor, and force more turnovers than they commit. When a team enjoys an advantage in all five categories over its opposition, it becomes hard to beat them on a consistent basis.

 
Travis DeCuire’s teams are 5-tool teams. His current Montana Grizzlies squad shoots the ball well from inside and outside the arc and prevent the opposition from doing so. Montana wins the battle of the boards, and they force more turnovers than they commit. Because this current Grizzlies squad is quite experienced, look for Montana to be a force to be reckoned with in March. UM is 12-6 this year, one game behind leader Weber State in the Big Sky Conference. If Montana wins the automatic bid to the Big Dance, DeCuire might do the two-step to a bigger program like his predecessor Wayne Tinkle, who is doing a great job at Oregon State.

 
DeCuire has an excellent pedigree. Like Turner, he assisted Mike Montgomery. His tenure with Motgomery came at UC-Berkeley, when Cal enjoyed its best run of years since Pete Newell led the Bears to the Title. Additionally, DeCuire helped guide Old Dominion to success during the Blaine Taylor years.

14. Matt McMahon, Murray St.

We almost had to reconsider his resume, only because in the past McMahon had spent most of his years as an assistant to Buzz Peterson, who did not have a stellar coaching career. Throw in one year with Michael White at Louisiana Tech, and it only increased his resume by a little, as White has not yet proven he is capable of succeeding at Florida. However, it’s his four years as an assistant here at Murray State that elevates McMahon onto the A grade coaches list. He was an assistant to Steve Prohm, who has proven himself to be one of the top 20 head coaches in college basketball, and that makes McMahon’s pedigree excellent.

 
As a head coach at Murray State, McMahon is proving that he is ready to take over a big time program. The Racers are the class of the league again this year after winning the Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament last year. Murray sports a 6-0/15-2 record this year after going 26-6 last year. McMahon is ready to coach in the big time next year, and he could be in the mix at a Big Ten, Big 12, or SEC job. He rates an A grade, but he is not the top commodity in the Commonwealth. Read on to find out who rates ahead of him.

13. Chris Jans, New Mexico St.

This selection might be considered a tad controversial, but a man deserves a second chance when he has proven that he can defeat the demons of alcohol. If not for the past issue, Jans might be in the top three in this list. Before looking at the rest of his resume, I will mention that he was caught on video inebriated in a bar patting a woman on her rear end and using a bad word to describe another woman that tried to scold him for his actions. It cost him his job as a head coach at Bowling Green.

Let’s look at the rest of Jans’ resume. As an assistant coach, he worked with Gregg Marshall at Wichita State both before and after his incident at Bowling Green. He received Marshall’s endorsement when NMSU was considering him for its opening. He also worked under current Loyola Coach Porter Moser, when Moser was the head man at Illinois State.

Now for his results. Jans has been a head coach for eight prior seasons at multiple levels. At four different schools below D1, he went 159-45 in six seasons winning 22 or more games every year and winning more than 30 games twice. In his one year at Bowling Green, he led the Falcons to 21 wins and a third place finish in the MAC East Division.
Last year, in his first season in Las Cruces, Jans guided the Aggies to the WAC regular season and tournament championships and a 28-6 record. They are 15-4 so far this season, and a half-game back of the leaders at 4-1 in the WAC. Under Jans, NMSU plays a style similar to Wichita State. The Aggies almost always win the hustle points over their opponents, and to date they are +7.4 in rebounding margin and +2.2 in turnover margin (2.2 less than opponents). If you are familiar with the PiRate R+T rating, the Aggies current R+T is 13.9, which is good enough to get a WAC team to the Sweet 16.

If a school is willing to overlook the past, Jans could coach a big time program to a Final Four.

12. Joe Pasternack, UC-Santa Barbara

Pasternack proved his worth as an excellent tactician and game-preparation success, when he was the head coach at the University of New Orleans, when the Privateers were de-emphasizing their program following Hurricane Katrina. With players jumping off the ship continually to go to schools that were guaranteed to field a team the following year, Pasternack still produced competitive teams.

Following his tenure in the Crescent City, Pasternack was an assistant to Sean Miller at Arizona, the years in which the Wildcats won three Pac-12 Championships in four years. Before going to UNO, Pasternack was on Ben Braun’s staff at Cal, when the Bears went to multiple NCAA Tournaments.

As head coach at UCSB, Pasternack inherited a team that had finished 6-22 the year before. The change in the squad was incredible. In the previous year, UCSB finished at the bottom of the nation in field goal percentage at less than 38% and in three-point percentage at 29%. Pasternack’s team increased their field goal percentage and three-point percentage by almost 10%, and the Gauchos improved from 6-22 to 23-9.

UCSB is 14-3 so far this season, including a perfect 3-0 in the Big West. Their shooting percentages have taken a slight upward turn, but this year, their defense is fantastic, and the Gauchos will fight UC-Irvine for the title.

Pasternack is certainly ready to take over a major program. Tulane might become available, and I am sure there are people in New Orleans that would like to have Pasternack back in town.

11. Nathan Davis, Bucknell

Davis has an interesting coaching pedigree. His first division 1 assistant job found him serving under Don Devoe at Navy at the end of Devoe’s long tenure in college basketball. He was an assistant here at Bucknell for five years under Pat Flannery, and the Bison went to the NCAA Tournament a couple of times, including the team that upset Kansas.
Davis has won big as a head coach, first at Division 2 Randolph-Macon, and now at Bucknell.

 

At RMU, he won 141 games in six years and put teams in the D2 NCAA Tournament every season, one of which included a Final Four trip. At Bucknell, he is three for three in winning the conference championship, and his team is in first place this year as well. In road games against the big schools, his Bison teams have not backed down from NCAA Tournament teams. In 2017, Bucknell won at Vanderbilt. Last year, they came close at North Carolina and Maryland. In NCAA play, Bucknell came close to pulling off upsets of West Virginia and Michigan St. They led Ohio State in Columbus into the second half this year before losing by two.

 
Davis has shown he can take lesser talent and go toe-to-toe with big time programs. He’s ready to show his stuff at a big time program.

10. Earl Grant, Charleston

Seven years as an assistant to Gregg Marshall at both Winthrop and Wichita State are enough to make Grant a hot commodity. Add a few years under Brad Brownell at Clemson, and it makes Grant’s pedigree excellent. Throw in his recruiting results, and you have a potential superstar in the making before he ever serves as a head coach.

Now, let’s look at Grant’s results as a head coach. Grant took over a program that had been 14-18 the year before, and his first season was a rough one, as the Cougars had a tough adjustment to an all-out assault man-to-man defense. Charleston finished just 9-24. In year two, the players began to gel in the system, and Charleston improved to 17-14. Their two-point loss in the CAA Tournament Semifinals to eventual champion UNC-Wilmington was a heart-breaker, as they blew a double-digit lead in the second half to the tournament favorite.

In 2017, Charleston gave UNCW a run for their money in both the conference and tournament races. A 25-10 record included a trip to the NIT. Last year, Charleston broke through with both a conference and tournament championship. In the NCAA Tournament, they took Auburn to the final seconds before Auburn could secure the four-point victory, holding the Tigers to less than 36% shooting.

This year, Charleston is 14-6 with wins over Virginia Commonwealth and Memphis. The CAA is stacked at the top with good teams, so if the Cougars can win the tournament again and play well in the Big Dance, Grant could be in line for a bigger job, especially with his ability to recruit.

9. Luke Yaklich, Michigan assistant

This is the other top assistant that should get a head coaching offer soon. Yaklich is the reason Michigan’s defense improved by leaps and bounds. Previous John Beilein teams were all about beating opponents with three-point shooting and fast break scoring, but the Wolverines made it to the National Championship Game last year with their defense leading the way, and they have remained a defensive force this year with their fantastic start. When they finally lost this weekend at Wisconsin, it was their offense that let them down. The defense was still outstanding.

 
Yaklich will bring an intensity to any program, and his reputation should help him land enough talent to win as a major college head coach. Yaklich also had two years of assistant coaching experience under Mike Davis at Indiana.

8. Kyle Smith, San Francisco

Smith may be an unknown name to basketball fans outside of the Bay Area of San Francisco, but he has an impressive resume to date and should get the opportunity to either turn USF into the power it twice was or move to a big time program.
Smith got his coaching start under former UCLA star Brad Holland, when Holland coached at the University of San Diego. After a season as an assistant at Air Force under former Princeton starter Joe Scott, he served for a decade as an assistant to Randy Bennett at Saint Mary’s.

 
Smith’s first head coaching job was at one of the ten toughest places to win in Division 1. He took over the Columbia University program in 2010, the Lions had not enjoyed a winning season in Ivy League play for 18 years. He won immediately in upper Manhattan, guiding the program to a winning season in his first year. When he won 21 games in 2014, it was the first time since 1970 (when the program had its best ever player in future Laker all-star Jim McMillan) that a Columbia team had won 20 games. In his final year with the Lions, he set a record at the school with 25 wins plus the College Insiders Tournament Championship. Since Smith left Columbia, the Lions have returned to the bottom half of the Ivy League.

Smith has done a remarkable job at USF. He won 20 games his first year and 22 last year, both teams making appearances in the CBI tournament. This year, the Dons are 16-3 with losses to Buffalo, UCSB, and Gonzaga and wins over Stanford, Cal, Saint Mary’s, and BYU. The Dons could earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they can win at Saint Mary’s or at Gonzaga or make it to the WCC Championship Game with only two more losses.

 
Smith is more than ready to guide a major program, and it could be any location. He’s won in the East, and he’s won in the West. Or, he could choose to stay by the Bay and bring USF back to the land of powerhouse basketball teams.

7. Steve Forbes, East Tennessee St.

Like Chris Jans at New Mexico State, Forbes has a little baggage in that he was on Bruce Pearl’s staff at Tennessee that was punished with infractions, leading to Pearl receiving a show-cause order to coach for a few years.
Like Jans, Forbes spent a few years getting back into the NCAA’s good graces as an assistant to Gregg Marshall at Wichita State. Before that, he simply won 91% of his games as head coach at a junior college in Florida.

 
Forbes brought the offensive genius and the full-court press of Pearl to Johnson City, combined with the pressure man-to-man defense of Marshall at Wichita State. The Buccaneers immediately improved when Forbes took over the program after Murray Bartow was forced out. ETSU improved from 16-14 to 24-12 and a second place Socon finish and near miss in the conference championship game. In year two, the Bucs went 27-8 and won the conference regular season and tournament, making a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Last year, ETSU finished 25-9 and runner-up to UNC-Greensboro. The Bucs are 16-5 so far this season, but UNCG just knocked them off in Johnson City.

 

6. John Brannen, Northern Kentucky

Some of you may be asking who in the you know what is John Brannen? Brannen is the best coach in the Commonwealth not coaching at Rupp Arena. Brannen served as a top assistant to Anthony Grant at Virginia Commonwealth and Alabama, and he actually coached the two NIT games for the Crimson Tide in 2015 once Grant was dismissed. The Tide played its best game of the season under Brannen’s direction against Illinois in the NIT.

 
Brannen took the Northern Kentucky job after the Tide were knocked out in the following NIT round, and he quickly built the program in its infancy as a Division 1 program. In his second year with the Norse, NKU enjoyed its first ever winning season in D1. Brannen guided NKU to a 12-6 Horizon League record and third place finish, and then the Norse won the conference tournament, advancing to the NCAA Tournament . As a #15 seed, the Selection Committee placed them against #2 Kentucky, the big brother of the Commonwealth. Brannen’s team faced the heavily favored Wildcats without fear and stayed within contention for most of the night before losing by just nine points.
Last year, NKU had a better team, and the Norse won the Horizon League Championship with a 15-3 record, but they were upset in the conference tournament by a Cleveland State team they had blown out twice during the season.

 
This year, NKU looks even better yet. The Norse are currently leading the Horizon with a 6-1 record and are 16-4 overall. If Brannen sweeps the regular season and conference tournament titles, and then NKU has a decent showing against a heavily favored opponent, he could get a chance to become a power conference coach. He’s ready.

 

5. Ron Sanchez, Charlotte

How can I have somebody in his first year as a head coach so high? There are extenuating circumstances. Sanchez would have made this list last year as one of the top three assistants. Sanchez was the top assistant to Tony Bennett at Virginia and Washington State and Tony’s dad Dick also at Washington State. He knows the Pack-line defense as well as any other coach in America not named Bennett.

 
In his first head coaching job at Charlotte, the 49ers have only a 5-12 won-loss record and a 2-4 Conference USA mark. Again, this looks bad on the surface, but it is anything but. To implement a change in systems from what Charlotte used last year to what they are using this year, it is like Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense leaving Washington State’s football program and replaced by Army’s Jeff Monken and his triple option offense.
Sanchez has the 49ers running the new defense with rather good results, and Charlotte is getting better every game. They have won two of their last three games, and the two wins came against conference foes in the upper half of the league standings. Included in recent losses is a one-pointer to league leader Marshall.  Having watched the 49ers play, it is easy enough to see that with just a little more talent, Charlotte is going to become a force in CUSA.

Sanchez almost assuredly will not get any offers to coach a Power Conference team next year, but if there is a school out there that has some talent but seems to be needing better defensive structure, Sanchez would be an excellent dark horse candidate. He gets a coveted A+ grade here.

 

4. Fred Hoiberg, recently fired coach of the Chicago Bulls

There are always rumors that Brad Stevens will leave the Boston Celtics to come back to college ball or that Billy Donovan is just waiting for the right college job to open up, but we believe the next NBA guy to return to college will be the one that was just fired by the Bulls.

 
Hoiberg won big at Iowa State, going 99-40 in his final four seasons with four NCAA Tournament appearances at his alma mater. The Iowa State job will not be available in March, unless Steve Prohm takes an even more prestigious job. Hoiberg has already been rumored to be a front-runner for the UCLA job, and in my opinion, he deserves an A+ grade for the work he did at Iowa State.

 

3. Nate Oats, Buffalo

Oats isn’t just maintaining the success that former coach Bobby Hurley enjoyed in Buffalo. He’s taken the Bulls program and made it better with his own style. Oats comes from an interesting background. As an assistant at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, he worked for two intelligent long-time Wisconsin greats in Dave Vander Muelen and Pat Miller. Miller won the National Championship there. In Oats’ basketball DNA are traits of Dick Bennett’s defense which we now know as the Pack-line, and Bo Ryan’s offense and defense, as many coaches in Wisconsin use the same type of offense and defense. When you see a quality coach from Wisconsin, you know his teams will play excellent man-to-man defense, run a patient offense that uses a lot of screens, rebounds on the defensive end better than most, and takes care of the ball.

 
Oats’ Buffalo teams play at a quicker pace than the teams coached by Wisconsin coaches. The Bulls average 74 possessions per game, and they are exciting to watch at both ends of the floor. Oats has proven he can coach and has enjoyed success when Buffalo has played big name opponents. This year, Buffalo has wins at Syracuse and West Virginia.
Oats becomes the first of what I call the A++ grade coaches. He is a hot commodity, and he might be able to be a bit selective about where he wants to go, especially if Buffalo makes a run at 30 wins this year.

 

2. Wes Miller, UNC-Greensboro

The reason Steve Forbes is not higher on this list is because Miller is. The reason Miller isn’t even higher is that his pedigree only qualifies due to his college coach. Miller played for Roy Williams at North Carolina, and one of his three years as an assistant was under former Tar Heel Scott Cherry.

 
Miller did not really earn his position as head coach at UNCG. He became the acting head coach when Mike Dement was forced to resign in mid-season. Miller was only going to have the job until the end of the season. When he took over, UNCG was 0-3 in the conference and 2-8 overall. Under Miller, the team was totally different, and as they began to win in conference play, it became apparent that Miller might get the job. Win, Miller did, and when UNCG won seven games in a row, the Spartans went from last place to first place in the Southern Conference’s North Division.

 
Miller did not turn the program around overnight once he was named full time coach. Three rebuilding years finally led to the first real success in 2016, as UNCG went 10-8 in the league for a fifth place tie. The last three seasons have produced excellent results. The Spartans finished in a first place tie in 2017 with a 14-4 conference mark and then won the league outright last year at 15-3. Additionally, the Spartans won the Socon Tournament last year to advance to their first NCAA Tournament bid in 17 years. A furious second half comeback brought the Spartans within a whisker of upsetting Gonzaga in the Big Dance.

 
This year, Miller has solidified UNCG’s dominance in the Southern Conference. The Spartans are 6-1 in the league and 17-3 overall, which includes an impressive win at East Tennessee. Two of the losses were at Kentucky and at LSU, two NCAA Tournament worthy teams. UNCG led Kentucky in the second half of that game.
Miller is just 35 years old, and he has been rumored to be a leading contender to take over at his Alma Mater if Coach Williams retires. He rates as an A++ candidate.

 

1. Eric Musselman, Nevada

And now to the best coach in college basketball today, a coach in a league by himself. Yes, I say the best coach. He’s better than Coach K, better than John Calipari, better than Roy Williams, and better than Jay Wright.

 
Eric Musselman will win a national championship at a big time school like Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, or maybe UCLA if he ever gets one of these jobs. He could take a power conference team like Illinois or Wake Forest to the Final Four.
When you combine his ability to evaluate talent and recruit rare gems, his ability to prepare his team in advance to play, and his incredible ability to make in-game adjustments, you have the best overall head basketball coach in college since Dean Smith retired.

 
Let’s look at his pedigree. First, he was born to a father that was a successful, albeit controversial head coach in college and the NBA.  Eric was the head coach at Golden State and Sacramento in the NBA, doing better than he got credit for under difficult circumstances.

He spent two years at Arizona State under Herb Sendek, and the Sun Devils won 43 games in those two years. A year as an assistant at LSU was the lone year that former coach Johnny Jones guided the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament, even though Jones had Ben Simmons the following year.

 
At Nevada, Musselman has brought in a lot of castoffs from other teams along with some fine recruits, and the Wolf Pack have been dominant from the start.
Taking over following a 10th place MWC finish and 9-22 record, Mussleman did a 180-degree turn in his first year and took Nevada to 24-14 record and fourth place finish in the league. The Wolf Pack earned an invitation to the CBI Tournament and won the event beating Morehead State.

 
In year two, Nevada won both the regular season and conference tournament championships, earning a trip to the Big Dance. Several times during the season, Nevada came from behind to beat teams with better overall talent.

 
Last year, the Wolf Pack won the regular season title again, but they were upset by San Diego State in the conference tournament. At 27-7, they earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Musselman guided the Wolf Pack to a comeback win over Texas in overtime in the opening game. Then, after trailing big favorite Cincinnati by 22 points midway through the second half, Nevada took total control of the game at both ends of the floor and posted one of the greatest comeback wins in tournament history. As good as Musselman was, he could not beat Sister Jean’s power, and the Wolf Pack lost to Loyola of Chicago in the Sweet 16 round.

 
This year, Nevada is one of the top two teams in the West. The Wolf Pack are 18-1 and ranked in the top 10. Nevada has joined Gonzaga and Buffalo as the three top teams not in a power conference.

 
Musselman has been rumored to be in the mix for the vacant UCLA job, but the big money names in Los Angeles will probably force AD Dan Guerrero to go after a bigger name, which will be a big mistake. If the Bruins want to return to the top of the West, they need to hire Musselman. If they don’t, then some other school will exploit yet another bad move in Westwood and gobble up a potential national champion coach.

 

Coming Monday, January 21: An updated PiRate Ratings and an updated Bracketology report.  There was quite a bit of change over the weekend.

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