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Coaches in first year with team who can make the NCAA Tournament

Coaching changes happen every year and usually expectations for new coaches are pretty low. That’s the way it is supposed to be though, when a team searches for a new coach. Getting to the NCAA Tournament in a coach’s first year at a school is very rare, but if it does happen, puts the coach ahead of schedule. While it doesn’t happen often there are some coaches that can do it this season. Here are five such coaches:

Cuonzo Martin, Missouri

Martin left California after last season and took the job at Missouri. He recruited well at Cal, but couldn’t put it all together. The Golden Bears were disappointed to only make the NCAA Tournament once under Martin and they didn’t win a game in the one tournament. Martin was able to experience NCAA Tournament success at Tennessee, his job before he left for Cal, making it to a Sweet 16.

Although he had limited success at Cal, Martin is now at Missouri and has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. The roster wasn’t loaded with talent, but freshmen Michael Porter Jr., Jontay Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon and Blake Harris decided to go play for Martin. These players will join Terrence Phillips, Kevin Puryear and Jordan Barnett to create a solid roster.

It won’t be easy for Martin, but if top recruit Michael Porter Jr. can get some help, they can make the tournament. After failing to do damage in the NCAA Tournament at Cal with top level recruits, this season will be an indicator of Martin’s coaching proficiency.

David Padgett, Louisville

The Cardinals are going through a lot of change with the FBI scandal. Rick Pitino is out and David Padgett is in. If Louisville ends up being eligible for the NCAA Tournament, which is very much in doubt, Padgett just has to do a decent coaching job to get the Cardinals to the Tournament. Can they avoid the distraction of the FBI investigation and get to the big dance?

Brian Bowen will not play for Louisville as a result of the investigation. He was a great recruit, but Louisville has a talented roster even without him. Deng Adel is a star in the making that will improve on his 12.1 points per game. With V.J. King, Quentin Snyder, Raymond Spalding and Anas Mahmoud returning, the incoming freshmen will just have to be role players.

Padgett will likely not be the head coach after the season due to his connections with Pitino, but he has a talented enough roster to get the Cardinals to the NCAA Tournament. The only question is: Will they be eligible?

LaVall Jordan, Butler

Teams with first year coaches who can make the NCAA Tournament
LaVall Jordan (Photo by

Chris Holtman left Butler to take the job at Ohio State, but Butler is in a better position to make the NCAA Tournament. LaVall Jordan steps into the head coaching role after playing and being an assistant coach at Butler. While his first head coaching job lasted an uneventful year at Milwaukee, there is enough talent on the roster to make the NCAA Tournament.

Forward Kelan Martin is one of the best forwards in the Big East. He is coming back after averaging 16 points per game as a junior. Kamar Baldwin and Tyler Wideman return to give Butler a few more solid starters. Everyone else on the team just needs to step in and fill their role. A lot of freshmen will be getting key minutes, so Martin will need to lead the team well in order for them to make the NCAA Tournament.

Jordan has some work cut out for him with a lot of freshmen, but he has enough returning talent to make a run to make the NCAA Tournament.

Anthony Grant, Dayton

Archie Miller and a lot of talent left Dayton, but they might still have enough talent to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Anthony Grant takes over at his alma mater and has his work cut out for him, but can coach this team well enough to get the job done.

Darrell Davis and Xeryius Williams return after averaging 20 minutes per game. They will need to look for their shots more this season to make this team successful. Three other players return after playing more than 10 minutes per game, so they will also have to do well in their expanded roles. Kostas Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ younger brother is now eligible to play after redshirting last season. If he brings a little bit of talent that runs through his bloodlines, Dayton will have a star for the college game.

Grant probably has the most work to do of anyone on this list, so it won’t be easy. Making the NIT should be the expectation for Grant, with the hope that more is possible.

Brian Dutcher, San Diego State

Teams with first year head coaches who can make the NCAA Tournament
Brian Dutcher (Photo by

Steve Fisher decided to step down after last season and his long time assistant Brian Dutcher now takes over. Dutcher has been with Fisher back to his Michigan days when Fisher coached the “Fab Five”. He has a roster that is capable of making the NCAA Tournament and can definitely make the tournament and compete for the Mountain West title.

Trey Kell is a talented player and scorer, although inconsistent. He and Jerem Hemsley create a backcourt that can score. Devin Watson and Malik Pope both should have impacts for the Aztecs this season. They have depth with a lot of transfers on the roster, including Watson. Kameron Rooks and Max Hoetzel also join the program as transfers. Rooks played for Cal and Hoetzel played for Indiana. They have a hodgepodge of a team, but if they can mesh, the team can go dancing.

Dutcher finally gets to take over for Fisher after waiting for a long time. He may find success early in his career, much like his predecessor did.


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