March Madness is a several-week stretch where lights shine the brightest on college basketball’s most talented players. The NCAA Tournament is also a stage for head coaches to put their players in the best position to win. Perhaps more than any other level of basketball, coaching during the NCAA Tournament is at a premium, considering the short turnaround times between games, and the lack of experience certain teams have.
We’ll look at three Coach Of The Year candidates whose decisions might take their teams to the next level this March.
After a blistering start to the college basketball season, the Purdue Boilermakers have somewhat come back down to Earth. However, they will still have a high seed heading into March Madness. Head coach Matt Painter now has an opportunity to vault himself into the upper echelon of college coaches with a strong NCAA Tournament showing.
Seeing how Painter coaxes the most out of his team will be very interesting. The Boilermakers are anchored by 7’4” behemoth center Zach Edey, who has taken a massive step forward in his development this year. Edey has averaged over 22 points and 12 rebounds per game, arguably making him the best big man in the country.
He’ll be difficult to match up with for most teams in the NCAA Tournament, but Painter will have to balance playing a slower style to accommodate him, while still searching for easy baskets in transition. Painter may also have to give freshmen, like guard Fletcher Loyer, the confidence needed to spread the floor if Edey is doubled.
Not many basketball fans will give Randy Bennett the type of credit he’s due for leading the St.Mary’s basketball program. Year in and year out, the Gaels have been a formidable unit, expanding their recruiting search far and wide to find the best talent. St. Mary’s has traditionally had several players from Australia on their roster, which proves their commitment to harvesting the best prospects regardless of where they come from.
St. Mary’s won a share of the West Coast Conference regular season title this year, wrestling some glory away from national powerhouse Gonzaga. Coach Bennett has done a great job with his team, and the Gaels have the type of players that can give opponents trouble in March.
Bennett will lean on guards Logan Johnson and Aidan Mahaney, who can control the tempo of a game together. Neither player is particularly physically imposing, but both have a knack for scoring in the drive and kick game, which leaves defenders scrambling to get in front of them. If Bennett can maximize their strengths, and trust that they will make good decisions, the Gaels have a good chance to make some noise during March Madness.
The UCLA Bruins will be one of the standout representatives of the Pac-12 conference heading into March Madness. They’ve had a tremendous season, as head coach Mick Cronin has blended a mix of veteran leadership along with some youthful promise.
Senior Jaime Jaquez Jr. and redshirt senior Tyger Campbell have played in big games before, as evidenced by the team’s run to the Final Four just a couple of seasons ago. Jaquez has become one of the most deadly players in the sport and is as good a bet to make a play as anyone in crunch time. Campbell’s play has been a bit inconsistent this season, but he has the resume to raise his game during March Madness.
The Bruins’ fortunes might come down to a couple of talented freshmen, and how Cronin prepares them to play during the NCAA Tournament. Forward Adem Bona from Nigeria has all the physical tools to become a force, and is slowly becoming more polished. Guard Amari Bailey also looks like he’s going to be something special someday. One of those two players will need to come of age early if UCLA is going to make it back to the Final Four.
Even though it’s likely that someone else will take home Coach Of The Year honors this season, Providence’s Ed Cooley has once again done a great job with his Friars in 2023. The 2022 Coach Of The Year has been a mainstay at the school since the 2011-2012 season.
Cooley took home the honors last year after leading the Friars to a 27-6 record, which was good enough to earn them a four-seed in last year’s March Madness tournament.
Providence has a few seniors in its rotation, and that experience could come into play this year.
|2021||Juwan Howard||Michigan (2)|
|2019||Chris Beard||Texas Tech|
|2018||Tony Bennett (2)||Virginia|
|2016||Bill Self (2)||Kansas (3)|
|2015||John Calipari||Kentucky (3)|
|2014||Gregg Marshall||Wichita State|
|2013||Jim Larrañaga||Miami (FL)|
|2012||Frank Haith||Missouri (2)|
|2011||Mike Brey||Notre Dame|
|2009||Bill Self||Kansas (2)|
|2007||Tony Bennett||Washington State|
|2006||Roy Williams (2)||North Carolina (2)|
|2004||Phil Martelli||Saint Joseph’s|
|2003||Tubby Smith||Kentucky (2)|
|2001||Matt Doherty||North Carolina|
|2000||Larry Eustachy||Iowa State|
|1998||Tom Izzo||Michigan State|
In addition to the excitement of the men’s NCAA Tournament, the women’s March Madness competition is also exceptionally thrilling. There are some exemplary tacticians in the women’s game who can make a huge difference for their teams in March.
Geno Auriemma is arguably the greatest women’s basketball coach of all time, and will once again lead his UConn Huskies into an NCAA tournament. They’ve dealt with some critical injuries this season, but they hope to come together during the postseason.
Dawn Staley has also become an institution, leading her South Carolina squad to impressive victories year in and year out. A third Coach Of The Year candidate is Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, who is neck and neck with Auriemma as the winningest coach in the sport’s history. VanDerveer has a slight edge on Auriemma in this category, one that could easily flip the other way during the NCAA Tournament.
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