By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on July 1, 2014
Fresh off a surprise national title run by Kevin Ollie’s UConn Huskies, college basketball could see another newcomer join the ranks of national championship-winning coaches. Although the usual powers like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky's John Calipari will have a lot to say about which team cuts down the nets next March, here are 10 CBB coaches who have the best chance to win their first title in 2014-15.
If you are looking for a sleeper team to make a run for it all, why not the Cincinnati Bearcats? Mick Cronin's teams have consistently put together good regular seasons, and their defensive mentality keeps them in games. Also consider that Louisville is now in the ACC and the defending National Champion UConn Huskies will be without Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, and three other key seniors this season.
Tony Bennett’s defense-first style won’t attract headlines, but it helped the Cavaliers become a feared team once again. The Cavaliers did lose a couple of starters from last year’s 30-win team in Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, but the defense-first mentality instilled by Bennett will always give the Cavaliers a chance to win every game the play in.
As long as Steve Fisher is with San Diego State, the Aztecs will be annual contenders to reach the Final Four, if not win it all. Last season, the Aztecs won 31 games and gave the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats a run for their money in the Sweet 16. San Diego State loses two key players in Xavier Thames and Josh Davis, but they retain a good corps of players and some promising freshmen.
Some will argue that if Georges Nieng didn't get hurt early in the NCAA Tournament, the Iowa State Cyclones and Fred Hoiberg could just have easily been a Final Four team. Hoiberg's teams have stayed at or increased their win total in each of his four seasons with the Cyclones. The Cyclones did lose Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, but they do retain Dustin Hogue, Naz Long and Nieng.
Reigning Coach of the Year Gregg Marshall has won 65 games in the last two seasons, including a perfect regular season last year. That gaudy total also includes a 2013 Final Four visit. The 2014-15 Shockers will boast several key players who contributed to both of those achievements. Among them are Fred VanVleet, one of the best point guards in the country, and Ron Baker, one of the best shooters in the country.
If not for a buzz saw against Stephen F. Austin last year, the VCU Rams were as dangerous as any team in the nation heading into the tournament. Smart's havoc defense even makes the most disciplined teams go crazy. The Rams did lose Juvonte Reddic to graduation, but they return a majority of their key players from a season ago, including guard Treveon Graham.
If Jay Wright's Wildcats didn't face Shabazz Napier and UConn, a second career Final Four appearance last season could have happened. Even with a young team, the Wildcats finished 29-5 with two losses to Doug McDermott and Creighton. Villanova returns four starters from last year's team and without McDermott in the Big East, the Wildcats should have an equally successful season
For a coach who has made three NCAA tournaments at his current program, Sean Miller has built an extraordinary resume at Arizona. The Wildcats posted a 30-win season before losing to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight. Miller has yet to reach a Final Four, but his Wildcats have every reason to expect that to change in 2014-15. Back are T.J. McConnell and Brandon Ashley should return 100 percent healthy from a season-ending injury a year ago.
The Michigan Wolverines have lost four first-round picks in the past two seasons, but coach John Beilein's program allows the Wolverines to compensate for those losses after reaching the Final Four and Elite Eight the past two seasons. When the Wolverines start hitting their threes, they are as dangerous as any team in the country.
Bo Ryan and the Badgers came so close to reaching their first National Championship game last year, but Kentucky had something to say about that. In 2014-15, the Badgers will have the unfamiliar role of being the hunted instead of the hunter. However, the Badgers return four starters off of last year's team and with players like Adreian Payne, Noah Vonleh and Nik Stauskas in the NBA, it gets much easier for Wisconsin and coach Ryan.
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The 2014-15 college basketball season was compelling largely due to its great storylines rather than its quality basketball. Read More