A new college basketball season means the inevitable shakeup of some of the men in head coaching positions. John Beilein has left Michigan, Eric Musselman is at Arkansas and Aaron McKie is the top man at Temple. Here's our outlook on where coaches could take their new teams this season.
These coaches will make the NCAA tournament:
1. John Brannen, Cincinnati: Cincinnati brings back Jarron Cumberland, who could end up being the AAC player of the year. The Bearcats have a winning culture that isn’t going to fade with Brannen. Mick Cronin left a program that has the pieces to stay in the mix. And while Memphis has the talent to be the conference favorite, the Bearcats should have the experience to be in the thick of the race for the title.
2. Juwan Howard, Michigan: John Beilein left a core of three players for Howard who weren’t going to leave a tremendous opportunity to play and stay at a school like Michigan. Zavier Simpson, Isaiah Livers and Jon Teske give Howard an anchor of three players who can help get the Wolverines back to the NCAA tournament. Michigan should be in the thick of the race for a top six finish.
3. Mark Pope, BYU: Dave Rose could have taken this team to the NCAA tournament this season. But he decided to make a change and retire. The school jumped at hiring Pope and there is a renewed sense of energy in the program. The return of Yoeli Childs and TJ Haws gives the Cougars a 1-2 punch that should keep BYU on the heels of Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s (don’t sleep on Pepperdine, either). If BYU can take care of some key non-conference games then the Cougars should be in the tournament.
These coaches will have their teams on the verge of the NCAA tournament:
1. Eric Musselman, Arkansas: Musselman is a winner. The Hogs are reshuffling the roster a bit but the return of Isaiah Joe, Jalen Harris and Mason Jones gives Musselman a core to work with in the SEC (three of the top four scorers from last season). Musselman should have the Hogs overachieving and in the thick of a bubble chase.
2. Nate Oats, Alabama: Oats pushed Buffalo across the threshold the last two seasons after Bobby Hurley got the program over the top in the MAC. Now, Oats has a chance to transfer his work ethic to Alabama. There is enough in Tuscaloosa to get the Tide in the thick of a chase for a bid. Kira Lewis Jr., gives Oats a top-level lead guard to anchor this team.
3. Mick Cronin, UCLA: Cronin, like Musselman above, doesn’t fade into obscurity. Cronin will ensure that the Bruins are in the mix of a Pac-12 that will have spots open in the top five. The Bruins were gutted by early-entry decisions, but playing hard and overcompensating for the lack of elite talent in year one will be the mantra. That may be enough to push the Bruins onto the bubble.
These coaches will make the biggest improvement:
1. Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt: The Commodores finished 0-18 in the SEC last season (no Darius Garland). That won’t happen again. Stackhouse will have this crew ready to climb out of the bottom of the SEC.
2. Ron Hunter, Tulane: The Green Wave had a disastrous winless AAC season last year. That won’t happen under Hunter. His teams at Georgia State were always a tough out, and he will ensure that occurs in New Orleans this season.
3. Kyle Smith, Washington State: Just check Smith’s track record at Columbia and San Francisco. His teams win. They push past projections. Smith will have the Cougars out of the bottom of the Pac-12. Book it.
These coaches will get the most buzz:
1. Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska: No coach will captivate his new digs more than Hoiberg. This was a home-run hire in every facet, one that I famously didn’t think was possible (Old takes exposed, but in this instance I’m telling you so you don’t have to bring it back up!). Hoiberg may not get the Huskers in the NCAA tournament in year one but he will have the attention of the fan base from day one.
2. Aaron McKie, Temple: McKie didn’t have a say in how Fran Dunphy left Temple. But he will benefit with a program that has solid structure. McKie has tremendous equity at his alma mater. He is fully invested in ensuring the Owls have tremendous success. Expect Temple to be in the thick of a race for a postseason bid.
3. Buzz Williams, Texas A&M: We couldn’t have a coach producing buzz next season without having BUZZ. Buzz Williams is high energy 24/7. He did it at Marquette. He did it at Virginia Tech and he will do it at Texas A&M.