Based on pick data from ESPN’s and Yahoo’s free bracket challenges, Kansas is the most popular choice to win the title this year, fitting for the number one overall seed. In second place, though, is Michigan State, a team that is not even a (1) seed in its own region. One possible reason for this much love for Sparty: Tom Izzo.
Coaches matter in the NCAA tournament. Obviously, any coach who makes it to the NCAA tournament is a successful coach. But historically, some coaches, like Izzo, are able to consistently navigate the bracket successfully, while others tend to come up short in the postseason. So let’s take a look at how this year’s tournament coaches have done in the past.
The goal of this article is to isolate a coach’s tournament performance. To do this, we compare each coach’s results to what might be expected given his team’s seed. As seen in my earlier post on conference performance, I constructed a model to project outcomes based only on the seeds of the two teams playing, and the distance each team traveled to the game location. The model uses data from every tournament game since 1985.
With this model, we can project the win probability and expected point differential given average coaches on both sides. This leads to two complimentary metrics: Wins Added and Points Added.
Wins Added estimates the extra number of wins a coach has accumulated over his career compared to an average coach. For example, if the model gives a team a 40% to win a game, a win would give the coach +0.6 Wins Added for that game, while a loss would cost the coach -0.4 Wins Added.
Points Added follows the same logic. If the model projects an expected point differential of -3, a win by 5 would give the coach +8 Points Added, a loss by 1 is +2 Points Added, and a loss by ten would be -7 Points Added.
So let’s take a look at how this year’s coaches stack up based on these two metrics, region by region.
South Region Coaches
- The region is marked by two coaches who made impressive debuts: Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie and California’s Cuonzo Martin. Ollie took the (7) seed Huskies to the NCAA title in 2014. Meanwhile, Martin guided (11) seed Tennessee from the First Four to the Sweet Sixteen in 2014, winning each of his first three games by double digits. It will be interesting to see how these two coaches follow up in their second tournaments.
- Wins Added does not love the top two seeded coaches, Kansas’s Bill Self and Villanova’s Jay Wright, although Self does significantly by the Points Added metric.
- By these measures Fran Dunphy, might be the worse tournament coach in the field. Out of all 2016 coaches, he is last in Wins Added by more than one full win, and is third to last in Points Added.
- The matchup between Gregg Marshall and Sean Miller is yet another reason that Wichita State vs. Arizona is my favorite first round matchup this year.
West Regions Coaches
- No surprise that Coach K is on top by both measures.
- One thing to watch is how Shaka Smart’s past success translates in his first year at Texas.
- Dana Altman is an interesting case, as he is ranked third in the region in Points Added, but has a negative Wins Added rating.
- Oklahoma is a popular pick to take this region, but Lon Kruger is ranked last in the region by both metrics.
- Overall, the West as a region has the most coaches with negative Points Added (seven), and is tied for the most coaches with negative Wins Added (six).
East Region Coaches
- This region is characterized by a few very strong coaches (North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Kentucky’s John Calipari, and Michigan’s John Beilein) and a few very weak coaches (Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, and Indiana’s Tom Crean).
- I was pretty shocked at how Roy Williams’s ratings turned out. He and Izzo are the runaway top two coaches in the tournament this year.
- Andy Enfield’s back! Can he recapture the Dunk City magic this year?
- West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, like Dana Altman in the West, does really poorly in Wins Added, but is above average by Point Added.
Midwest Region Coaches
- Looking at the coaches makes it pretty clear why Michigan State is such a favorite to come out of this region. Not only is Tom Izzo one of the best pure tournament coaches of all time, but top-seeded Virginia’s Tony Bennett is ranked last in the region by both metrics.
- The potential second round matchup between Izzo and Dayton’s Archie Miller would be fun. Miller has made quite the impression in his first two tournaments, but he’s going to have a tough time getting two wins for the third straight year.
- I was not expecting Tubby Smith to be rated so highly, considering it has been eleven years since he made it out of the first weekend of the tournament. But prognosticators might want to take a second look before they jump on the Butler bandwagon in the first round.
Data from Sports Reference College Basketball
Data organized and compiled using MySQL
Visualizations made with Tableau Public.