Will College Basketball’s New Coaches Make the 2017 Tourney?

The start of the 2017 season is looking to be the start of a new era for some of the country’s most prominent college basketball teams. After nine years at Indiana, in which he pulled the program out of the deepest hole in its history, Tom Crean was ushered out by Hoosiers leadership, which went onto hire Archie Miller from Dayton. In the nation’s capital, Patrick Ewing, formerly of the Charlotte Bobcats, was hired to guide his alma mater Georgetown back to national prominence. These decisions then set off chain reactions of coaches being hired up to bigger jobs and vacating their own, and so on down the line.

How will the new hires acquit themselves in their unfamiliar environs?

Indiana

Archie Miller starts his career at Indiana after six winning seasons at Dayton and four trips to the NCAA tournament, including one to the Elite Eight in 2013-14. Miller will hopefully bring some defensive competency to the Hoosiers, who recruited well and scored well under Tom Crean but were never difficult to score against. Things are looking good for Miller’s first season: Collin Hartman and Robert Johnson have both decided to return for one last year, the top three 2017 recruits have re-affirmed their commitments despite the coaching change, and recruiting for 2018 is off to a promising start, not that that will impact next year’s team. But still, it’s a nice nugget for the Indiana faithful.

Indiana O/U: 20.5 games

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 1/2

Dayton

Archie Miller to Indiana left an open job at Dayton, a role which Anthony Grant was tapped to fill. Grant is coming off a year as an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder and a six-year stint at Alabama. There, he was fired after producing a 117-85 record, one trip to the NCAA tournament, and three losing records in-conference. The coach Grant is replacing (Miller) produced far more success in reaching the Big Dance and making it out of the first round with an Atlantic 10 team than Grant had with an SEC team, so maybe expect a little regression in Dayton this year.

Dayton O/U: 19.5 games

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 3/1

Georgetown

Patrick Ewing taking over at Georgetown is probably the flashiest hire of this offseason. Bringing on the best player in school history and an NBA legend as head coach is an obvious move by a team looking to restore its fading national relevance. Ewing established himself as a respected assistant coach in the NBA, but the transition to college head coach isn’t an easy one. Ewing has no experience recruiting, and attracting elite talent to Georgetown will be necessary to elevate the program to the level its fans, boosters, and administrators are expecting from this hire. Convincing a crew of experienced assistants to take a noted risk in joining Ewing’s staff will be critical to easing his transition into the head coaching role and a difficult task in and of itself. In all likelihood, Ewing’s first year at Georgetown probably won’t be as good as Hoyas fan hope or as bad as they might fear.

Georgetown O/U: 16.5 games

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 4/1

Missouri

Cuonzo Martin is off to great start at Missouri, if only from a recruiting standpoint. After a labyrinthine recruitment path, McDonald’s All-American and genuine superstar Michael Porter Jr. has committed to play for the Tigers. This is maybe not super surprising, since Michael Porter Sr. was recently hired as an assistant coach in Columbia as well. Since then, four-star point guard Blake Harris has also elected to switch from Washington to Missouri, and with a couple of other blue-chip recruits, this has become Missouri’s best recruiting class ever. Turning elite talent into results isn’t, however, a guarantee, particularly for a program inexperienced in such things. If Cuonzo Martin fails to turn this squad into a legitimate national contender, he’ll be disappointing his new employers in a big way. …

Missouri O/U: 19.5 games

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 3/4

LSU

… Just ask former LSU coach Johnny Jones, who recruited first-overall pick Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney to Baton Rouge, failed to do anything of note with them, and then was fired. Former VCU head coach Will Wade was brought in to replace Jones, who ended his career at LSU by going 2-16 in SEC play and missing the NCAA tournament. Wade has four years of head coaching experience, and he’s made the NCAA tournament in his last two. Wade’s also brought a crop of newcomers to Baton Rouge, including North Texas graduate transfer Jeremy Combs and four-star guard Tremont Waters, in what should be something of a roster upgrade for the Tigers.

LSU O/U: 15.5 games

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 5/1

Washington

Cuonzo Martin’s recruiting coup at Missouri is owed largely to Washington’s decision to fire head coach Lorenzo Romar (and assistant Michael Porter Sr.) in favor of Mike Hopkins. Other than a brief period as an interim boss, this is Hopkins’ first experience as head coach, after spending twenty years at Syracuse under Jim Boeheim. His early task is daunting: build a winning team without star point guard Markelle Fultz or the bulk of the 2017 class that looked so spectacular. Bringing in Jaylen Nowell and Nahziah Carter (who, by union rules, I am required to inform you is related to Jay Z) will help, certainly, but neither has the program-altering talent of Porter or Fultz. This is looking to be a rebuilding year for the Huskies, and setting expectations too high for Hopkins would be unwise.

They also went 9-22 last year, which is about as bad as a major team can do, and it’s tough to imagine this team doing worse. 

Washington O/U: 8.5 games 

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 7/1

Cal Golden Bears

Staying in the PAC-12, Cal’s new head coach, Wyking Jones, is looking to recreate the success of Cuonzo Martin and his predecessor, Mike Montgomery, both of whom produced consistent winning seasons and frequent NCAA tournament appearances. Jones is a former assistant of Martin, as well as a disciple of Louisville legend Rick Pitino. His first season as head coach is off to an up-and-down start, with Charlie Moore transferring to (where else?) Kansas and four-star guard Jemarl Baker decommitting. The Golden Bears also lose 6’10 forward Ivan Rabb, who was good for 14.0 points per game and more than 10 rebounds. The rest of the recruiting class has stayed intact, but Jones isn’t playing with the same hand Cuonzo Martin had last year.

Cal O/U: 18.5

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 2/1

VCU

Will Wade taking the LSU job opened up VCU to hire Mike Rhoades. Rhoades is coming off three seasons at Rice, where the team improved from a 12-20 disappointment to 23-12 and fifth in Conference USA. Earlier in his career, he spent ten years at Randolph-Macon, where he won four consecutive conference titles and produced ten winning seasons. Rhoades wasn’t a big-name hire, but he’s produced remarkable success at the mid-major level and it’s that success VCU is looking to recreate. Rhoades is also familiar with the culture and community of VCU, where he worked on Shaka Smart’s staff as an associate head coach (2009-14).

If anyone is going to slot in at VCU and maintain a sense of continuity, it’s Mike Rhoades. With a tough non-conference schedule, however, VCU’s win total might take a step back: Seton Hall, UVA and Texas are sure to be tough games for the Rams, as will the Maui Invitational.

VCU O/U: 23.5

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 3/4

Ohio State

The biggest coaching news of the year arguably comes from Columbus, where Ohio State parted ways with legendary Thad Matta and hired Butler head coach Chris Holtmann to an eight-year deal, to some controversy. Holtmann also decided to take his whole coaching staff with him from Butler. The pillaging of the Big East continues. Hopefully Holtmann can help the Buckeyes with their recruiting woes, and get the team a little further in the postseason than the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Butler made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen, after all.

In his first year, he’ll need to do a lot with very little. Ohio State has only one top-100 recruit, and only one of its four top scorers from last year. Holtmann needs time to build the Buckeye roster back up from its somewhat fallow state, so don’t look for big results in year one. It’s not unreasonable to expect some improvement, however.

Ohio State O/U: 17.5

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 2/1

Illinois

Also in the Big Ten, newly-named Illinois head coach Brad Underwood is coming off a highly successful single season at Oklahoma State where he helped build one of the best offenses in college basketball. He won’t have the same tools at Illinois, and while he’s recruiting well so far, it’s not clear that he’ll be able to produce in 2017-18. Illinois loses guard Jalen Coleman-Lands to a transfer, as well as junior forward D.J. Williams, who’s making use of the graduate transfer rule. Underwood hopes to replace Coleman-Lands with Mark Alstork, formerly of Wright State, who averaged 19 points per game last season. Whether this can all come together to form another 20-win team is yet to be seen, but look for the Illini to regress a little in their new coach’s first year.

Illinois O/U: 18.5

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 5/1

Oklahoma State

Brad Underwood’s surprise exodus from Oklahoma State left the job to assistant Mike Boynton Jr. He’ll be hoping to continue Underwood’s successes from last year, and after four seasons under the departing head coach (he was Underwood’s assistant at Stephen F. Austin as well), he’s certainly in a position to. With star point guard Jawun Evans entering the NBA draft and shooting guard Phil Forte out of eligibility, Boynton has work to do. Evans averaged 19.2 points per game in his sophomore season at Oklahoma State, and was the key piece in the Big 12’s best offense.

Oklahoma State O/U: 17.5 

Odds to make the 2017 NCAA Tournament: 3/2

Geoff Johnson

MTS co-founder Geoff Johnson is a lifelong Mets fan, something he can't do anything about. He has a great track record when it comes to wagering on baseball – largely because he's more than willing to bet against the Mets. His career profits are impressive, but not quite as good as his handsome friend Frank Lorenzo. He wishes he hadn't let Frank write his profile.