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6 NCAA Tournament Coaches With The Pressure To Win Immediately

Every coach in the NCAA Men’s Tournament feels the pressure to step up. Yet all pressure is relative.

Here are the six that have the most feeling to deliver some measure of success – from at least one win to a national title.

Nate Oates, Alabama

Oats leads the No. 1 overall seed and one of the Betting Favorites To Win The National Championship, The Crimson Tide have never reached the Final Four. They have never been so good either. Alabama (30–5) enters the NCAA Tournament having won both the SEC regular season and tourney titles.

This is the losing team.

Championship expectations are certainly part of it. Oates’ program is at the center of controversy after team members were involved in a Jan. 15 shooting in Tuscaloosa that resulted in the death of a 23-year-old single mother. One, Darius Miles, was indicted last Friday on capital murder charges. Two others, star freshman Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley, were also at the scene.

Miller, his attorney acknowledged, after receiving a text request to do so, Miles fired his gun, where it soon became the alleged murder weapon.

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

That inaction has drawn widespread criticism about the program’s discipline and values. The victim’s family has repeatedly blasted Oates and the program for their perceived concern or lack of accountability.

Alabama’s reputation has been on fire, seen by many as the best win at any cost in recent college athletics memory.

Even by Alabama’s standards, a national championship might not be worth all that. Anything less though, with the Tide defeat celebrating on a national scale, would certainly fall short.


Matt Painter, Purdue

There may not be a program in the country that has been as consistently and historically good as Purdue, but has never been truly great.

The Boilermakers have appeared in 30 of the last 43 NCAA tournaments. During that stretch they have won at least 20 games 28 times, been nationally ranked 20 times and won 10 Big Ten regular season championships. They have a devoted fan base and tradition that dates back to the 1930s, when John Wooden played there for the great Piggy Lambert.

Yet Purdue has never won a national title and has not reached the Final Four since 1980. Since then there have been just three trips to the Elite Eight, including a crushing overtime loss to eventual champion Virginia in 2019. Then there was last year, when a 29-win team that included top-five NBA selector Jaden Ivey was somehow upset by St. Peter’s in the Sweet 16.

Well, Purdue is back to take another crack at it. Behind national player of the year Zack Ade, the Boilermakers (29-5) are champions of the Big Ten and the No. 1 seed in the Midwest.

Here in Painter’s 18th season of otherwise outstanding success, it is left to wonder, if not now for Final Four success, then when?

Or given that it’s been 43 years… ever?

John Calipari, Kentucky

The Wildcats have not won an NCAA tournament game since 2019 and have not been to the Final Four since 2015. In fairness, they were national contenders in 2020 when COVID-19 shut down the tournament, but even so, such a drought – including an opening round loss to St Peter’s the year before – caused huge disappointment in parts of the fan base. Made

Kentucky entered this season with high expectations. They returned national player of the year Oscar Tshebwe and the roster was filled with quality transfers and Calipari’s usual new stars, including top recruits Kaisson Wallace and Chris Livingston.

Instead of looking like a true contender, they pulled 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 score crucial runs. It has also shown itself capable of another early-round defeat. Calipari is in the middle of a 10-year contract with a huge buyout (around $40 million) and another surprising group of recruits coming in, so he’s not going to be fired.

That doesn’t mean Cal couldn’t really use some tournament wins to restore a sense of pride and excitement around the program. Another first-round knockout — especially for a Providence team that’s 4-6 in its last 10 — could make life in Lexington untenable.

Calvin Sampson, Houston

The work Sampson has done in building the Cougar program is the stuff of legend, including a trip to the 2021 Final Four. He may have had NCAA troubles at Oklahoma and later Indiana, but his ability to coach was never in doubt.

UH is 31-3 and the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region. It is also the top-ranked team in the respected KenPom ratings, where it ranks fourth in adjusted defense and 11th in adjusted offense. Oh, and it’s got a lottery pick in Jereus Walker among a deep and athletic group.

A school from the American Athletic Conference should never have an expectation of winning a national title. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a team capable of doing it. Sampson, 67, has been coaching for a long time and certainly recognizes that these opportunities are rare. Adding to the situation: The Final Four is in Houston, and the Cougars are in a region with both Texas and Texas A&M.

The magic three weeks are likely right there for the program and the school.

Bill Self, Kansas

Pressure is really the wrong word for itself. 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) is the No. 1 seed in the West. The Jayhawks are deep and talented and are probably the only team in the country capable of going toe-to-toe with 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 consecutive national titles. When you’re already a Hall of Famer, there are still a lot of distinctions to chase.

Adding to the plot is that Self missed the Big 12 Tournament due to a health issue. He was released from the hospital Sunday and is expected to coach the team throughout the NCAAs, making his return a rallying point for the program.

John Scheer, Duke

It’s never easy for a legend to take over and when the Blue Devils slumped to 17-8 in mid-February, it was surprising whether Krzyzewski’s post-1 year wasn’t quite working out.

Instead, Scheyer led Duke to a nine-game winning streak, including two over rival North Carolina and an ACC Tournament championship. The 35-year-old played on the Blue Devils’ 2010 national title team and was a longtime assistant coach. More recruits are coming in and the program looks very solid. Nothing will notice that Duke isn’t going anywhere, though, more than a trip on the second or third weekend of this tournament.

Krzyzewski will always loom large, but this is Shearer’s first real attempt to stamp himself in the national consciousness.



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