HomeSports10 coaches in first place ahead of the NCAA Tournament

10 coaches in first place ahead of the NCAA Tournament

March is the time of year when many teams are looking forward to making deep runs in the NCAA tournament. For other programs, the season was a huge disappointment, leaving head coaches in hot water.

Louisville is in the second year of the Kenny Payne era and, after a grace year last season, it may be time to say goodbye to the former Knicks assistant and longtime head coach at Kentucky.

Ohio State pulled the plug early and fired head coach Chris Holtmann last month after a mediocre season. The Buckeyes are now 4-1 under interim head coach Jake Diebler, including a win over No. 2 Purdue.

DePaul fired Tony Stubblefield in late January after a dismal start to the season. The Blue Demons are 3-26 and have yet to win a game under interim head coach Matt Bradley. That job will be one of the hottest spots to fill once the season is over.

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with winning this time of year and a few coaches’ jobs depend on whether they can make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

“If you’re one of those coaches and you know you’re in first place, you’ve got to try to separate your team from that,” former Villanova head coach Jay Wright told Yahoo Sports. “Players hear it too and care about their coaches. The coach doesn’t want the extra pressure to be on their players so they have to worry about their careers too. Most coaches would probably say to their guys, ‘This is going to happen. not about me.’ One chance in a lifetime to get to the NCAA tournament. Let’s focus on our best game and don’t let this noise get to you.'”

This could be one of the craziest years for the coaching carousel, with all the moves that could happen after the season. Yahoo Sports takes a look at coaches from major programs who are in the right seats heading into the postseason.

Louisville coach Kenny Payne yells at players during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Louisville coach Kenny Payne yells at players during the second half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Kenny Payne, Louisville

Current record from 2023-2024: 8-21

The Louisville program has been a disaster the past two seasons and Payne gets a pass for his first season after inheriting the team. But after hitting the transfer portal hard and signing some highly rated players, this year hasn’t been much better. In his first season, Payne finished last in the ACC with a 4-28 record. The Cardinals had high expectations this year with key transfers Skyy Clark (Illinois) and Tre White (USC). They also brought in top-30 recruit Trentyn Flowers and brought back Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Michael James.

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Before the season even started, things fell apart. Flowers opted to leave Louisville in August and played one season in the Australian National Basketball League for the Adelaide 36ers. The on-field chemistry never got off to a good start and low morale and attendance among the fan base could escalate into a coaching change in the near future.

Bobby Hurley, Arizona State

Current record from 2023-2024: 14-15

Things haven’t exactly been harmonious in Tempe, and both Hurley and the Sun Devils may need a fresh start. Hurley is rumored to be the leading candidate for DePaul’s position and this could be an amicable split for all parties involved. ASU is currently eighth in the Pac-12 and it has been a disappointing performance for Hurley over the past nine seasons. ASU has made the tournament three times, all as one of “the final four in,” but fell short in recruiting against Arizona and ultimately advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Jerod Haase, Stanford

Current record from 2023-2024: 12-17

Stanford has yet to reach the NCAA tournament in eight seasons under Haase. Recruitment hasn’t necessarily been an issue. Over the past four years, Haase and his staff have brought in five-star Ziaire Williams (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and most recently former McDonald’s All-American Andrej Stojaković (son of former NBA player Peja Stojaković) and potential first-round pick Kanaan Carlyle . Stanford’s results have been disappointing every season, even with an array of talent on the roster, and it might be time to move on from Haase and enter a new era of coaching.

Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt

Current record from 2023-2024: 8-21

Things looked better last season as Vanderbilt finished 22-15 and fourth in the SEC. It was the best season under Stackhouse and the coaching staff scored a huge offseason win when senior guards Tyrin Lawrence and Ezra Manson opted to return to the team. Everything fell apart early in the season when they lost to Presbyterian and went 5-9 ahead of rigorous SEC conference play. It was an uphill battle from there (with a pair of close losses to Alabama and NC State), and in Stackhouse’s fifth season, Govs could look elsewhere to be competitive in one of the toughest conferences in college hoops.

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Andy Enfield, USC

Current record from 2023-2024: 12-17

Enfield and his staff brought in the No. 1 recruit this year in Isaiah Collier and also brought in Bronny James while bringing back Boogie Ellis and Kobe Johnson. On paper, this selection was supposed to propel USC to the top of the Pac-12. Injuries and chemistry issues on the field caused things to fall apart early for the Trojans. This coaching change feels like it’s a year premature, but fans at USC are growing impatient for Enfield’s 10th season in Los Angeles.

Mike Hopkins, Washington

Current record from 2023-2024: 16-14

Hopkins, a longtime assistant under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, took over the Washington job in 2017 after a disastrous 9-22 season under Lorenzo Romar. In his second season, the Huskies finished first in the Pac-12 (27-9) and made the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years. Since then it has been mediocre at best. Washington moves to the Big Ten next year and loses a large portion of its roster this year with eight seniors on the team. They currently have a verbal commitment from four-star guard Zoom Diallo, but with the conference change and all the players they will lose after this season, it may be time for a renewal across the board.

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard leads his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan State on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)Michigan head coach Juwan Howard leads his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan State on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard leads his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan State on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Juwan Howard, Michigan

Current record from 2023-2024: 8-22

Many might describe this season as a rebuilding year, but it was one bad year of construction then. Michigan lost Kobe Bufkin (Atlanta Hawks) and Jett Howard (Orlando Magic) to the NBA last year and Hunter Dickinson moved to Kansas. There was little success in the transfer portal after former North Carolina guard Caleb Love initially committed to Michigan. It wasn’t long after Love failed to meet the academic requirements that he soon ended up in Arizona.

Howard has had success in his four years as head coach. He made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in both 2021 and 2022 and narrowly missed the cut last season after too many close losses to Quad 1 teams.

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Howard has already landed four-star recruits Khani Rooths and Christian Anderson, but things need to change quickly if he wants longevity at his alma mater. This year, the Wolverines have lost to Big Ten opponents by an average of 18.3 points and the team has been tough to watch at times this season.

Mike Woodson, Indiana

Current record from 2023-2024: 16-13

The Hoosiers are currently ranked No. 96 in the KenPom rankings and have lost four of their last six games. Yes, Indiana lost Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino to the NBA last year, but they also landed a key transfer in Kel’el Ware, a former five-star recruit projected to be a 2024 NBA first-round pick selected. Provisional version. It feels a little early for so much pressure on Woodson, but Indiana fans are eager to get back to the blue blood glory. This is a program that hasn’t made the Final Four since 2002 and hasn’t won a title since 1987. Woodson is getting a five-star recruit in his third year, but there will be serious conversations about the program’s trajectory moving forward after the season.

Mike Boynton, Oklahoma State

Current record from 2023-2024: 12-17

It feels like yesterday Boynton landed the nation’s No. 1 recruit (Cade Cunningham in 2020) and led them to the round of 32 for the first time since 2009. Only it wasn’t yesterday and the Cowboys have struggled in the Big 12 over the past three seasons. This year they started with a tough loss to Abilene Christian and lost six straight games to start conference play in January. Boynton is one of the best recruiters around and gets it done at the high school level, but that hasn’t translated into long-term success in his seven years at Oklahoma State.

Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State

Current record from 2023-2024: 12-17

Oregon State is in last place in the Pac-12 and the Beavers have made the NCAA Tournament just twice in the last 10 seasons under Tinkle. They made a surprising run to the Elite Eight in 2021, but have gone 26-66 since that magical season. Oregon State is not known as a basketball school and Tinkle’s job security alone could weigh on that. Considering he was scheduled for the tournament twice and before he was hired the Beavers had missed the Big Dance 24 times in a row, his job might be safe for another season.

Honorable mention

Kevin Keatts, NC State – It may be a year too early for Keatts, but after a mediocre season and a ninth-place finish in the ACC, he’s on the bubble and is a coach to watch for next season.

Johnny Dawkins, UCF – The Knights are ranked 15-13 and 11th in the Big 12. It’s tournament or bust for Dawkins after his eighth season at UCF.

Dana Altman, Oregon- The Ducks have brought in high-level recruits and transfers every year, but have failed to put anything together since their 2017 Final Four run. Altman may be headed for early retirement or Oregon may be having discussions about who is next.

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