6 NCAA tournament coaches with pressure to win immediately

Every NCAA men’s tournament coach feels the pressure to move forward. However, all pressure is relative.

Here are the six who are perhaps most eager to achieve some degree of success, from at least one win to a national title.

Nate Oates, Alabama

Oats rank first in the overall standings and one of Betting on favorites to win the national championship. Crimson Tide have never made it to the Final Four. They have also never been this good. Alabama (30–5) competes in the NCAA Tournament, having won both the SEC regular season and tournaments.

This is the team that needs to be defeated.

Expectations from the championship, of course, only part of it. Oates’ program was at the center of controversy after team members were involved in a January 15 shootout in Tuscaloosa that killed a 23-year-old single mother. One of them, Darius Miles, was charged last Friday with capital murder. Two others, star freshmen Brandon Miller and Jayden Bradley, were also at the scene.

Miller, his lawyer admits, took Miles his gun after receiving a text request to the scene, where it soon became the alleged murder weapon.

Neither Miller nor Bradley have been charged with the crime and are referred to by law enforcement as “cooperating witnesses”. Citing this, the school refused to suspend or punish the players. He did not conduct his own investigation into the incident.

This inaction led to widespread criticism of the program’s discipline and values. The victim’s family also repeatedly accused Oates and the program of perceiving a lack of care or responsibility.

Alabama’s reputation has been damaged and is considered by many to be a win-win operation that surpasses anything college athletics has ever remembered.

Even by Alabama standards, a national championship might not be worth it all. However, anything less, with many nationally celebrating Tide’s defeat, definitely didn’t live up to expectations.

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Matt Painter, Purdue

Perhaps there is no program in the country that is as consistently and historically as good, but never truly great, as Purdue.

The Boilermakers have appeared in 30 of the last 43 NCAA tournaments. During this time, they won at least 20 games 28 times, finished nationally 20 times, and won 10 Big Ten regular season championships. They have a dedicated fan base and a tradition dating back to the 1930s when John Wooden played there for the legendary Piggy Lambert.

However, Purdue has never won a national title or made the Final Four since 1980. Since then, there have been only three Elite Eight appearances, including a crushing overtime loss to eventual champion Virginia in 2019. Then there was last year when a 29-win team that included Jaden Ivey’s top five NBA picks was somehow upset by the St. Peters in the Sweet 16.

Well, Perdue is back to try it again. After National Player of the Year nominee Zack Edie, the Boilermakers fighters (29-5) are the Big Ten Champions and #1 in the Midwest.

Here in Painter Season 18, which was otherwise excellent, it’s fair to wonder if not now for a Final Four breakthrough, then when?

Or given that it’s been 43 years… never?

John Calipari, Kentucky

The Wildcats have not won an NCAA Tournament since 2019 and have not made the Final Four since 2015. In fairness, they were national contenders in 2020 when COVID-19 closed the tournament, but nonetheless, such a drought, including a first-round loss to St. Peters a year ago, has led to huge disappointment among part of the fans.

Kentucky entered this season with high expectations. They brought back national player of the year Oscar Chibwe and the roster was full of quality transfers and regular freshman stars from Calipari, including top recruits Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston.

Instead of looking like a real contender, they trudged their way to a 21-11 season and the 6th seed in the East opening against Providence.

This is a team that has the talent to make a significant run. He also showed himself capable of another loss early in the round. Calipari is in the middle of a 10-year contract with a huge buyout (nearly $40 million) and another amazing group of recruits so he won’t be fired.

This doesn’t mean that Cal can’t use a few tournament wins to restore his sense of pride and excitement about the program. Another knockout in the first round – especially for the Providence team, who are 4-6 points in their last 10 games – could make life in Lexington unbearable.

Calvin Sampson, Houston

The work Sampson has done to create the Cougar program has become legendary, including a trip to the 2021 Final Four. He may have had trouble with the NCAA in Oklahoma and then Indiana, but there was never any doubt about his ability to coach.

UH is 31-3 and the #1 seed in the Midwest region. It is also the first team in the respected KenPom rankings, where it is ranked fourth in adjusted defense and 11th in adjusted offense. Oh, and he has a lottery pick in Jaras Walker among the deep and athletic group.

Winning a school national title at the American Athletic Conference should never be an expectation. This does not mean that this team is not capable of it. Sampson, 67, has been a coach for a long time and certainly admits such opportunities are rare. Adding to the story: The Final Four is in Houston and the Cougars are in a region that has both Texas and Texas A&M.

The potential for a magical three weeks for the program and school is right there.

Bill Self, Kansas

In fact, pressure is not the right word for “I”. He led the Jayhawks to a national title last year and has a so-called “lifetime” contract with the school. It’s more about opportunity.

KU (27-7) – seed No. 1 in the West. The Jayhawks are deep and talented, and may be the only team in the country capable of taking on Alabama. This gives Self a legitimate chance to join Billy Donovan (Florida, 2005, 2006) and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke, 1991, 1992) as the only coaches since John Wooden to win back-to-back national titles. When you’re already a member of the Hall of Fame, there aren’t many awards left to chase after.

Adding to the storyline is that Self missed the Big 12 tournament due to health issues. He was released from the hospital on Sunday and is expected to coach the team throughout the NCAA, making his return a rallying point for the program.

John Scheyer, Duke

It’s never easy to get the better of a legend, and when the Blue Devils fell to 17-8 in mid-February, it was fair to wonder if the first year after Krzyzewski wouldn’t work.

Instead, Shyer led Duke to a nine-game winning streak, including two over North Carolina and the ACC Tournament Championship. The 35-year-old played on the 2010 Blue Devils national team and was a longtime K assistant coach. New recruits are coming in and the program seems very solid. Nothing could signal that Duke was going anywhere other than a trip to the second or even third weekend of this tournament.

Krzhizhevsky will always be of great importance, but this is Scheier’s first real attempt to gain a foothold in the national consciousness.


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