25. Bob McKillop, Davidson
Getting it started with the mid-majors. Since McKillop took over the Davidson program for the 1989-90 seasons, he’s won more 630 games and has three NCAA Tournament victories. Regardless of program size or status, McKillop has long been one of the most respected coaches in the college game. After all, the guy coached Stephen Curry. He’s also recorded eight wins over opponents ranked in the AP Top 25 during his tenure. No matter who’s on the floor for Davidson, McKillop will have the team running well.
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24. Shaka Smart, Marquette
One season into his Marquette tenure, Smart has the program back in the national picture. The Golden Eagles are not quite ready for national championship primetime, but if this season is any indicator, then Marquette expects to be a serious Big East contender on a consistent basis. As long as Smart is running things, the program will be headed in the right direction. There’s excitement in Milwaukee, and it’s not just because of the Bucks. Golden Eagles’ fans liked the Smart hire when it happened, and even more so now.
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23. Dan Hurley, Connecticut
The Huskies continue to improve under Hurley, who left his mark at Wagner and then Rhode Island. At Connecticut, it took four seasons, but the Huskies are amid their first 20-win season since 2015-16. Some of those victories this season are pretty impressive, beating Auburn and Villanova. College hoops fans should be able to agree that UConn’s future remains extremely bright. Especially with the passionate and animated Hurley calling the shots.
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22. Nate Oats, Alabama
Oats has helped make Alabama basketball relevant during his three seasons at the football-centric school. The attitude and culture of the program has gone from being content with posting a winning record to expecting to challenge for an SEC title — as well as making deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. After winning 26 games in 2020-21, the Tide have taken several body blows this season. But, Oats has them standing tall and poised for some tournament success. His talent in recruiting will take the Crimson Tide a long way.
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21. Ed Cooley, Providence
Don’t be surprised if Cooley has an opportunity to move on to a bigger, more esteemed program following this massively successful campaign at Providence. Since taking over the program in 2011-12, Cooley’s Friars have won at least 20 games six times and are headed to their sixth NCAA Tournament. While Cooley is fun to watch on the sidelines, he’s become known as one of better teachers of the game. He doesn’t have marquee-name talent at Providence, but seems to find a way to not only be competitive, but make noise in the Big East.
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20. Eric Musselman, Arkansas
Three seasons at Arkansas, and Musselman has accumulated more than 65 victories. The SEC is not an easy place to win, but Musselman is off to a rather impressive start. And, judging by the way the program is progressing under Musselman, the Razorbacks are poised to continue that success well into future. Spanning his seven seasons at Nevada and now Arkansas, Musselman’s teams won have won at least 20 games every season, and 29 on two occasions. He’s also 5-4 in NCAA Tournament play. Musselman’s ability to lure top-flight transfers to his programs is second-to-none.
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19. Greg Gard, Wisconsin
This certainly hasn’t been a dull season for Gard and the Badgers. We won’t get into his spat with Juwan Howard. But, Wisconsin has now posted at least 20 wins in three of its last four seasons. And, it’s never wise to write off the Badgers when it comes to making a run during the NCAA Tournament. Gard has maintained that high level of national competitiveness and success that was built during the Bo Ryan era. Despite an obvious talent deficiency compared to other teams in the loaded Big Ten, Gard has the Badgers competing on a nightly basis.
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18. Rick Barnes, Tennessee
Since beginning his college head-coaching career at George Mason in 1987-88, Barnes has endured just three losing seasons. That isn’t the case this season with the Volunteers, who might be flying a little under the radar heading into the NCAA Tournament. Barnes, who has spent time at five different schools, is knocking on the door of 750 career wins. Another testament to his longevity and success which has defined his coaching career.
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17. Chris Holtmann, Ohio State
For a while now, Holtmann has been hailed as one of the brightest, most promising coaches in the country. The Buckeyes have been a perennial 20-win team since Holtmann took over in 2017-18. However, he’s 2-3 in NCAA Tournament play while at Ohio State, and last season’s first round exit to 15-seed Oral Roberts still stings. The Buckeyes certainly have a chance to improve on that tourney record this season, which is why we still believe he has plenty of upside.
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16. Andy Enfield, USC
The Trojans just missed reaching the Final Four last season, and have already secured a third consecutive 20-plus-win campaign in 2021-22. That’s the sixth time in the last seven seasons under Enfield that USC has won at least 20. Even without star Evan Mobley, the Trojans are again a tournament team to watch in 2022. Though Enfield has won more than 220 games, it still feels as if he’s flying under the radar. Especially on the West Coast, where college hoops interest remains limited compared to its Midwestern and Eastern counterparts.
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15. Chris Beard, Texas
Beard bolted Texas Tech for the pride of Texas. It can be argued the Red Raiders are still the better program at the moment. In his first season with the Longhorns, Beard’s group has already won 20 games and likely laid the foundation for consistent success during his tenure. It would be a surprise (once Beard gets into the recruiting grove within his new surroundings) if the Longhorns weren’t a consistent presence among the top-10 teams in the country.
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14. Mark Adams, Texas Tech
One of the better coaching stories this season is Adams who stepped into the Red Raiders’ head-coaching job after the aforementioned Chris Beard left to run the Texas program. Adams’ only other Division I head-coaching gig came in 1996-97 at Texas-Pan American, but he’s shown this season that he’s worthy of taking on a high-major job. Texas Tech is a trendy Final Four pick, and Adams his put this talented group in that potential position because he’s smart and knows how to handle talent in the proper way.
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13. Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Some college basketball fans or pundits can question why Brey remains at Notre Dame. The Irish have never won an NCAA national championship and their only Final Four appearance came in 1978. Maybe because Brey remains one of the most respected coaches in the game. A coaching disciple of prep legend Morgan Wootten and Mike Krzyzewski, Brey’s won more than 560 games, was the Big East Coach of the Year three times and had Notre Dame in Elite Eight in 2015 and ’16. The Irish rebounded nicely from last season’s 11-15 campaign and are worth watching in the postseason.
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12. Mick Cronin, UCLA
Three seasons into his UCLA coaching tenure, Cronin had the Bruins in the Final Four. It appears the pride is back in Westwood, which is always a good thing for college basketball. Cronin has won more than 400 games in 20 seasons spanning three schools (Murray State and Cincinnati). His teams almost always get better as the year wears on, giving Cronin the opportunity to imprint his philosophy over the course of a season. He’s a basketball lifer, has great knowledge of the game and continues to get the most out of his players.
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11. Matt Painter, Purdue
In charge of the Boilermakers’ program since 2005-06, Painter topped the 400-win mark this season. Painter’s consistent presence has been comforting for the program. Much like it was under Gene Keady. Three years ago, Purdue reached the regional final and nearly toppled eventual national champion Virgina. Painter might have a team that’s good enough to take the next step this season. The Boilers boast three of the nation’s most talented players in Jaden Ivey, Zach Edey and Trevion Williams who could help lead Painter to his first title.
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10. Tommy Lloyd, Arizona
Arguably the talk of the NCAA men’s coaching circles in 2021-22 in his first season as a head coach. Lloyd, the longtime Gonzaga assistant and one of the game’s great recruiters, has Arizona back among college basketball’s elite after three middling campaigns. Lloyd certainly paid his dues to reach this point. And, to say he’s making the most of the opportunity would be a massive understatement.
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9. Kelvin Sampson, Houston
We can argue that even after more than 30 years as a college head coach, Sampson still seems he has to prove himself. That said, he’s long had a good thing going at Houston. The Cougars reached the Final Four last season and have recorded a seventh consecutive campaign with at least 20 wins. Since taking over, Sampson has transformed Houston into a powerhouse in the American Athletic Conference. Houston has ended each of the last four seasons ranked in the top-25 — and will do so again this year.
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8. Bruce Pearl, Auburn
Bruce Pearl might not be everybody’s cup of tea. Opposing fan bases tend to find him obnoxious, and he’s certainly had his run-ins with NCAA rules and regulations over the years. However, he’s won more than 620 games and turned programs at Tennessee and Auburn into perennial national powers. After reaching the Final Four in 2019, his 2021-22 Tigers have a legitimate shot at winning the school’s first national title.
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7. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
It’s been a rough 2022 for the Spartans, but Izzo is still one of the great coaches in college hoops history. He’s won more than 660 games, 52 NCAA Tournament contests and been to the Final Four eight times. He also guided the Spartans to their most recent national title in 2000. We’re not sure how much longer Izzo will man the sideline, but the hunger still appears to be there and fans continue to enjoy watching him.
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6. Bill Self, Kansas
Self ranks among the top 10 in college coaches with 47 NCAA Tournament victories. However, he only has that one national title (2008). Still, the consistency Self has enjoyed at Kansas is obviously impressive with three Final Four berths while maintaining the program’s status as the class of the Big 12. He’s won more than 750 games during his career, and at least 21 victories in 24 consecutive seasons dating to his days at Tulsa.
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5. Mark Few, Gonzaga
The Zags are still searching for that elusive national championship, but Few remains the right man to guide them to the promised land. Since Few took over the Gonzaga program in 1999-2000, only Kansas has won more games than the Bulldogs during that span. Gonzaga has never won fewer than 23 games in any of Few’s seasons, and he’s produced some of the top players in the college game. Now, all he’s missing is that national championship.
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4. John Calipari, Kentucky
Calipari has won more than 760 college games (that are recognized), and his Wildcats are playing well again in 2021-22. Kentucky bounced back nicely from last season’s 9-16 debacle to once again top the 20-win mark and return to the national championship conversation. Calipari, obviously, has a lot to do with molding young, elite talent quickly. Has he done enough to lead the Wildcats to a national title on the 10-year anniversary of their last one?
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3. Scott Drew, Baylor
What Drew has done in Waco is truly remarkable. When he took over at Baylor prior to the 2003-04 campaign, the program was in disarray. Since 2007-08, however, the Bears have not experienced a losing season and are the current reigning national champions. This season and last, Drew’s teams have had to overcome COVID and untimely injuries to remain one of the best in the country. The Bears will look to become the first school since Florida in 2006 and ’07 to win back-to-back titles.
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2. Jay Wright, Villanova
Wright has won two national championships during his run at Villanova. Yet, it seems like his program still doesn’t garner the level of praise it deserves. Wright has posted more than 630 regular-season wins and at least 20 in nine of the last 10 seasons. His Wildcats have suffered more than seven defeats in a season once in the last nine years. It’s never wise to cast Wright’s teams aside, even if they are not playing to a dominant level.
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1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
This is Coach K’s swan song, and he again has the Blue Devils playing like a national championship contender. Whether they can pull it off in their legendary coach’s final run might be a tall order. However, when the end comes it will be emotional. Nobody has won more NCAA Division I college basketball regular-season or Tournament games (97) than Krzyzewski. He’s made a record 12 Final Four appearances and his five national titles are second only to John Wooden’s 10.
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