As a fresh season of Men’s College Basketball gets underway, a look back at last year should provide some context for the landscape of this season. The 2012 NCAA tournament might best be remembered for the slate of second-round matchups staged on March 16th, when it became patently clear that no game was a gimme.
That night saw not one, but two rare 15-over-2 upsets, when shortly after Norfolk State stunned the nation with an 86-84 victory over Missouri, lightning struck twice in Lehigh’s 75-70 shocker over Duke. And, as if enough brackets hadn’t already been busted, thirteenth-seeded Ohio’s toppling of fourth-seeded Michigan satisfied a month’s worth of March Madness on one Friday night.
But all three upsets were a long time coming, a result of the continued progress each coach has steadily built in his first handful of years at the program’s helm. Norfolk State’s Anthony Evans and Lehigh’s Brett Reed both reaped their school’s winningest seasons in their fifth seasons since taking over underachieving programs.
For Evans, the turnaround from an 11-19 team (282 RPI) to 26-10 (117) has earned him a three-year contract extension, while Reed’s Lehigh squad bounced back better than ever from a 2010-2011 hiccup that halted three years of increasing win totals. Meanwhile, John Groce followed three years of increased success at Ohio with a 29-win season and Sweet 16 appearance that caught the attention of the University of Illinois.
A number of other coaches with under six years of coaching experience have seen similar progress in their first few seasons with non-traditional powerhouses. Max Good of Loyola Marymount, Dan Hurley of Wagner, and Steve Masiello of Manhattan have all turned single-digit win programs into 20 win seasons, Masiello in the matter of one year.
The table below highlights these and other coaches making large strides in this time frame.
With the new season underway, we look back at last season's Men's College Basketball season to see which coaches made significant strides. We found a good deal of progress from non-traditional powerhouse teams and look forward to continued development and more upsets as this season progresses.