The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 7, 2012

10 College Basketball Coaches To Keep An Eye On

Here is a list of 10 coaches at low-major and mid-major schools that could move to a top tier conference and do wonders for a school.


We have limited this list to coaches 50 years old and younger, have limited or no previous experience at a “Big Six” conference, and have a philosophy of aggressive and exciting basketball.


10. Steve Prohm—Murray State (37 years old)

Prohm is only in his first season as head coach at Murray State, but his Racers are ranked number nine in the current poll with a 23-0 record.  No Ohio Valley Conference team has been ranked in the Top 10 since Western Kentucky in 1971.


Prohm worked his way up from a low assistant to a top assistant.  He is noted for being able to recruit in the cracks—to find hidden gems.  Murray State has been the basketball equivalent of Miami of Ohio.  This school is the Cradle of Coaches on the hardwood.  Ron Greene, Steve Newton, Mark Gottfried, Mick Cronin, and Billy Kennedy all advanced to major conference schools after serving a stint in Murray.  Prohm may need a few more years to prove himself, but he will coach in the big time one day.


9. Bruiser Flint—Drexel (46 years old)

Flint is the James Brown of basketball coaches.  He is the hardest working coach in America.  He demands the same from his players, and he has turned Drexel’s fortunes around.  The Dragons have a great shot at making the Big Dance this season, and their fans have become rabid supporters of the team.  


Flint was a John Calipari assistant at U Mass, and he followed Calipari there as head coach.  He guided the Minutemen to multiple NCAA Tournament berths even though he was saddled with sanctions left there by Calipari.


He seems to be a perfect fit for a Big East or Big Ten school.


8. Dan Hurley—Wagner (38 years old)

The Hurley family is an Eastern version of the Sutton family.  Dan is the younger brother of former Duke star Bobby.  He played at Seton Hall in the 1990’s.  In just his second season at Wagner, he has the program at the top of the Northeastern Conference in a neck and neck race with Long Island.  Hurley knows the game inside and out, and he has a lot of recruiting contacts in the Metro New York-New Jersey area.


7. Greg McDermott—Creighton (47 years old)

Remember Press Maravich?  His son was a fairly good ballplayer, but it did not lead to LSU becoming a national power.  How about Al McGuire?  His son Allie was a star at Marquette, but poppa McGuire was an even better head coach.


Greg McDermott has the next Larry Bird playing on his team, and said player comes from his own seed.  Doug McDermott is a combination of Jimmer Fredette and Adam Morrison. 


Coach McDermott led Northern Iowa to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths.  He advanced to Iowa State and led them to respectability, but the Cyclones were never able to get to the next level in the touch Big 12.  Given a chance to coach a major conference team with some basketball tradition, he would shine.  He seems like a great fit for the SEC or ACC.


6. Steve Alford—New Mexico (47 years old)

Alford has made New Mexico a mid-major power.  He won big at Southwest Missouri, and despite some ups and downs, he won at Iowa.  Since his departure, the Hawkeyes have fallen to the basement of the Big Ten.  Alford has a temper like his mentor, and he tends to use a lot of vulgarity, but he would be a great fit back in the Big Ten or Big East, where fans seem to go for that kind of thing.


5. Dave Rice—UNLV (43 years old)

Rice is only in his first year in Las Vegas, but he has been noted as perhaps the top assistant coach in the West for years.  Everywhere he has been as an assistant, his teams have won a high percentage of games and scored a lot of points.


Rice played for Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV, and his first coaching stop was Tark’s last season as a coach in Vegas.  He was an assistant at Utah State and BYU, and he served as the “offensive coordinator of those teams.”


He has brought back the “running” in Runnin’ Rebels at the Thomas and Mack Center, and a UNLV basketball game is the most exciting entertainment in Vegas once again.  He would be the perfect fit in the Pac-12, but his style of coaching would be a good fit at any school.  His teams play like the teams of the mid-1960’s to mid-1970’s when if you did not average 80 points per game, you were not any good.


4. Randy Bennett—Saint Mary’s (49 years old)

Bennett is a world class recruiter—he recruits from all over the world.  His teams have a great inside-outside, high-low presence, and they know how to play consistent basketball.


His only drawback is the long-term contract he has signed.  Any team that wants him will have to pay a hefty buy out.  Bennett turned down the chance to coach in the Pac-12, so he may not have many options left.  However, he could be the perfect coach for a Big Ten, Big 12, or SEC school.


3. Scott Sutton—Oral Roberts (41 years old)

Sutton is the son of former Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton.  His ORU teams play the same type of aggressive, Hank Iba-style of ball that poppa Sutton’s teams played.  He teaches fundamentals, and his teams may not be flashy, but they are solid.  Expect ORU to play in the Big Dance this year, and they will be no pushover for a higher seeded team.


2. Gregg Marshall—Wichita State (48 years old)

Marshall established the program at Winthrop and made them the perennial champion of the Big South Conference.  He even won an NCAA Tournament game with a Number 15 seed.


He has already returned the Shockers to dominance in the Missouri Valley Conference, and he has hung a championship banner, albeit an NIT title.


Marshall’s teams play stifling defense and play intelligently on offense.  His teams seldom beat themselves; they play hard, and they exploit any weaknesses.  If a school wants a long string of success, they need to grab him this year.


1. Jim Ferry—Long Island University (44 years old)

Most basketball fans outside of Brooklyn do not know this name, but in our opinion, Jim Ferry is the best college basketball coach in the nation.  Some astute athletic director at a Major college needs to move him to the top of his short list.  He can take a program to the Final Four.


Ferry has won big everywhere he has been in the small college world.  His teams didn’t just win; they won in John Woodenesque manner.  They play aggressive defense, control the boards, and know how to run an organized fast break.  In the halfcourt, his teams move the ball around and know how to score inside.


He took over at LIU when the program was in such pitiful shape, they were playing games in an old theater.  Within a few short years, he had the once storied program back on its feet.  


Last year, LIU was the top low major team in the East.  Following some key graduation losses, the Blackbirds were expected to fall back in the pack in the NEC.  Yet, LIU is back on top again this year in a heated race with Wagner.  


Ferry can win anywhere he goes.  He could take over at a Big East school and make them a powerhouse.  He could do the same for a school in the Big Ten, ACC, and SEC.  In fact, it is our opinion that he could be a major coup for a team in the South.  With his great recruiting ties in the Metro New York-New Jersey area, and with his history of winning big everywhere he has been, he could be the next Frank McGuire.


Sidenote: There is one other coach that we consider to be a wildcard.  He is Duggar Baucom at VMI.  Baucom, 51, falls outside our parameters, but his is a special case.


VMI has about as much chance of competing in basketball as the Kansas City Royals have of winning the next three World Series.  Height restrictions make it impossible for the Keydets to consistently defeat the Virginia’s of the world and close to impossible to beat the Coastal Carolina’s of the world.


Yet, Baucom has achieved a modicum of success, even winning 24 games one year and coming within a game of an automatic trip to the Big Dance.


VMI has led the nation in scoring the last five seasons.  They have been outmanned several times each year, but Baucom’s system has produced as many as 5 to 10 additional wins per year.  


Given a real chance to win and recruit at a major conference school, this system will embarrass a lot of other teams that play a slower, less exciting brand of basketball.  Top recruits do not desire to play in a passive, slow system.  It does not allow them to showcase their talent.  Put them in a fast-paced, 94-foot aggressive system, and all of their skills are on display.  


Baucom would be the perfect fit in the SEC, where dozens of quality talented athletes are available.

March 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview


From Sweet to Elite

Advanced Level Bracketnomics


Hello PiRate Basketball fans.  Our system worked well, but the idiots (us) in charge of the data didn’t have the guts to play all the upsets.  We still have nine teams alive, and our top-rated teams according to our system are still there, except for Kansas. 

We told you in the first round that Georgetown and Vanderbilt were the most ripe for upset bids based on their R+T scores just barely above zero.  We were there on other double-digit ups as well.

Before we preview the Sweet 16 games, let’s refresh you on the PiRate formula components.

Scoring Margin—We look for teams with a minimum scoring margin of 8 points per game, give precedence to teams with double-digit scoring margins, and develop huge crushes on teams with scoring margins of 15 or more points per game.  We award one point for as little as a 5-point scoring margin, 3 points for 8 or more, and 5 points for 10 or more. 

Teams with a negative margin who have made it to the Sweet 16 are eliminated and are automatically picked to lose the next game (unless of course there is a rare instance of their opponent also qualifying for elimination.)

Field Goal % Margin—We look for teams that have a +7.5 or better difference in field goal percentage versus opponents’ field goal percentage.  We give special consideration to teams with double-digit field goal percentage margins, and if we see a team hitting better than 48.0% and yielding less than 38.0%, we circle that team in red because they are going to be tough to beat if they are a member of one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, or SEC).  We award one point for FG% margins of 5.0 or more, 3 points for margins of 7.5% or more, and 5 points for double-digit margins. 

Like above, teams arriving at the Sweet 16 with a negative field goal margin are eliminated.

Rebound Margin—This is actually part of a multiple statistical entry, as we combine it with turnover margin as well.  However, we do separate rebounding because offensive put backs are vitally important in the Big Dance.  We are looking for teams with a +5.0 or better rebounding margin.  We award one point for a rebounding margin of 3.0 or better and 3 points for a margin of 5.0 or better. 

Teams with a negative rebounding margin receive -2 points, but they are not eliminated yet.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game—Teams with negative rebounding margins can make up for it with exceptional turnover margins, especially if they get a lot of steals that lead to great fast break opportunities.  We don’t award points solely on turnover margin and steals; we incorporate those stats into a multi-statistical formula we call “R+T.” 

R+T is a formula that applies weighted advantages to steals and turnover margin, while adding rebounding margin into the equation.  Rebounding margin is already factored into the formula by itself, but it receives fewer awarded points.  This stat balances out the rebounding with the scoring and field goal margin, and it allows us to look at the number of extra scoring opportunities a team normally receives. 

The Formula for R+T is:  R+ (.2S*1.2T), where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  Whenever this stat is negative, this team is immediately eliminated.  If this stat is less than one, don’t figure on this team staying around in the Dance.  All four teams that fell below one in R+T lost in the first round, including heavy favored Georgetown and Vanderbilt.  We award the result of the R+T in points.

Power Conference & Strength of Schedule—We give extra weight to teams that are members of the Big Six conferences.  We give a little weight to the teams from the top of the mid-majors (such as Missouri Valley, West Coast, Colonial, and Mountain West).  We deduct for teams from the lower conferences (such as America East, MAAC, Big West, and Patriot). 

We look at the strength of schedule as produced by, and multiply that number by 100.  50.00 is a mid-point, so if that number is 52.37, we consider that schedule to be 2.37 points stronger than average.  If the number is 46.28, then that schedule is 3.72 points weaker than average.  This is incorporated into our criteria.

Record Away From Home—Every team is playing on a neutral floor, so we throw out the home won-loss records.  A team that is 26-9 overall, but 17-0 at home is actually a .500 team away from home.  Likewise, in some rare instances a team might be 22-10 with a home record of 14-6 and a record away from home of 8-4.  Winning two –thirds of one’s games away from home would make this team more likely to beat the 26-9 team on a neutral floor, all else being equal.

Before the first round, our formula picked Duke as the overall favorite based on their 34.4 PiRate score.  The Blue Devils no longer own the top score after the first two rounds.  Their criteria score fell a little, while another team elevated just enough to post a higher score.  The new leader in the clubhouse is none other than Kansas State.  This surprised us all here, but the Wildcats were impressive in wins over North Texas and BYU.  Their defense was stifling, and their offense, while not spectacular, clicked in spurts.  KSU controlled the boards in both games as well.

The Wildcats have had few great moments since in the last 20+ years.  This team is starting to bring back memories of the glory days in the Little Apple when Tex Winter introduced his triple-post (triangle) offense and Jack Gardner had the Cats running and gunning.

Of the 16 teams remaining, five come from conferences outside of the Big Six conferences, but each of the quintet’s PiRate criteria scores reveals that they belong in the Sweet 16.  None of the five (none of the entire 16) have scores in single digits.

Now, it’s time to look at the eight, Sweet 16 games, using these criteria.  The number you see in (Parentheses) after the team is their PiRate Criteria Score.  All of these scores have been update to reflect their two wins in the Big Dance.                                                                            


East Regional


#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #12 Cornell (14.56)

The Wildcats are the one team that also qualifies in the 48-38% field goal margin.  John Calipari no longer officially owns any Final Four appearances to his name, after the NCAA upheld the vacating of all Memphis wins during Derrick Rose’s playing career (his U Mass team had to vacate that appearance as well).  So, we can say he is still looking for his first official visit to the Final Four.  We don’t know with 100% certainty if the Wildcats will make it there, but we are safe in saying they will be one of the Elite 8.  Cornell cannot stop DeMarcus Cousins inside unless they totally sell out on the perimeter.  John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will make the Big Red pay for that tactic, and then Patrick Patterson will break their backs if he hits a three.

Cornell might stay close through one or two TV timeouts, but this game should get out of hand before halftime.


Prediction: Kentucky 88  Cornell 64


#2 West Virginia (29.08) vs. #11 Washington (21.93)

West Virginia wins ugly.  The Mountaineers don’t look pretty, but they keep pounding at opponents until they see an opening.  Then, like a crafty boxer, they exploit that opening and grab the lead on points.  They rarely record a knockout, but they are great at keeping the lead once they get it in the final half.

Washington does look pretty when they play.  Lorenzo Romar’s teams vaguely resemble many of the great UCLA teams from the past.  With Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas providing a great one-two punch, it is hard to stop the Huskies from scoring 70 or more points.

West Virginia doesn’t usually win games if they give up more than 75 points.  Coach Bob Huggins will devise a game plan to force UW’s big threats to work harder for open shots, and Washington will not reach 75 points in this game.

Prediction: West Virginia 73  Washington 66


South Regional


#3 Baylor (26.04) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (15.47)

This looks like a classic mismatch between a power team from a power conference and a team that should be just glad to have made it this far.  It could be, but we like the way St. Mary’s plays, and we think Coach Randy Bennett is possibly the next Lute Olsen if he so chooses to move on to a school from one of the Big Six conferences.

This will be a great battle between big men.  Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and St, Mary’s Omar Samhan should balance each other out.  Samhan is a little better offensively, but Udoh is a little better defensively.  Samhan is the more likely to get in foul trouble.

Baylor has more potent weapons in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, but the Gaels have more depth.  We just don’t see the Bears running away with this game.  We will pick them to advance.

Prediction: Baylor 78  St. Mary’s 71


#1 Duke (30.48) vs. #4 Purdue (15.37)

Credit must be given to the Boilermakers for making it this far without Robbie Hummel.  They played hard and won a couple of tough games.  Unfortunately, Purdue goes up against one of the big boys.  This is their final game of the season.

Duke may have fallen a notch in winning their first two games, but having to play the play-in winner lowered their strength of schedule.  Emptying the bench may have artificially lowered their criteria score, and we still think Coach K is sitting pretty with his club in a great bracket.

Prediction: Duke 81  Purdue 67


Midwest Regional


#2 Ohio State (22.24) vs. #6 Tennessee (21.16)

These may not be the two best teams left in the Big Dance, or even in this regional, but they may be the two best-coached teams.  Buckeye head guy Thad Matta has definitely produced a better record than his talent on hand should have produced, and Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl has squeezed every last drop of juice out of his big orange.

Two years ago, when Ohio State was the top-rated team, Tennessee built up a 20-point lead against OSU, before the Buckeyes chipped away and came back for the win in this same round.  Vol center Wayne Chism can remember that game well.

We look for this to possibly be the most entertaining game of this round, but we have to go with the Big Ten in this one.  Tennessee is having to go with players that would be considered bench-warmers at Ohio State for almost one quarter of the available playing time.  Pearl will either have to play five reserves for their usual 48 combined minutes per game or go with his top seven until they drop.  Either way, it tips the scale in favor of Brutus.

Prediction: Ohio State 69  Tennessee 63


#5 Michigan State (20.92) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (13.76)

This is another game where we have to discount a team for the loss of a player.  Spartan star guard Kalin Lucas is out for the rest of the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.  He is the Spartans’ leading scorer, leader at getting to the foul line, leading passer, and best perimeter defender.  Losing him is almost like losing Magic Johnson. 

One thing MSU still has in its favor is a brutalizing inside force with a three-headed rebounding monster.  Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe will see to it that Northern Iowa will not get many second-chance points.

Northern Iowa is primed to exploit MSU’s misfortune, but we expect the Panthers to come out flat following the huge upset over Kansas.  Jordan Eglseder is going to need help inside as the Spartans attempt to force their offense to score inside the paint.  Adam Koch cannot afford to risk foul trouble, so we see some difficulty here for NIU.  We also do not believe that Ali Farokhmanesh will drain threes all night in this game.  We can see him going 2 for 9.

It’s rather obvious that this is going to be a very low-scoring game, at least until the final minutes when one team may be getting a dozen trips to the foul line.

Prediction: Michigan State 56  Northern Iowa 51



West Regional


#1 Syracuse (27.88) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Quickness over brute force strength should be the difference in this game.  Syracuse has been flying a little bit under the radar so far, and the Orangemen are about to reveal to the rest of the nation that they are an Elite 8 team. 

Butler cannot be overlooked, as the Bulldogs are now the best team in the Hoosier state.  However, Butler doesn’t have the horses to exploit the cracks in the SU 2-3 matchup zone.  We see the Bulldogs going through stretches where they cannot score, and you can’t beat Syracuse that way.

A ‘Cuse win should set up the best Regional Final of the four, regardless of their opponent on Saturday.

Prediction: Syracuse 74  Butler 60


#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #6 Xavier (18.37)

Xavier has become a household name in the Big Dance, so it’s no longer much of a surprise to see the Musketeers advancing in this tournament.  They just happened to get the wrong team in the Sweet 16, because we just cannot see them matching up inside against the purple and white.  Kansas State can bring two wide-bodies off the bench, and the Wildcats’ guards can hit the glass as well.

The storyline of this game is that KSU will hold Xavier under 40% from the field and rarely give the Musketeers an offensive rebound.  Teams just don’t win in the Sweet 16 unless they can either control the boards of shoot a high percentage.

We look for the Wildcats to set up the game of the tournament in the West Regional Finals on Saturday.

Prediction: Kansas State 77  Xavier 61


Check back with us Saturday before game time for a preview of the Elite 8 Regional Final games.


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