Heading into what everybody hopes will be a return to normalcy in college basketball, bettors are faced with the challenge of interpreting the impact of 57 head-coaching changes. Compare this massive number with last year’s 21, and you immediately feel the gravity of the situation.
All of the COVID-19 issues that affected college basketball last season had a great deal to do with the low number of coaching changes, as programs didn’t want to introduce another major variable. But that doesn’t make it any easier for bettors to get on top of this year’s challenge.
I’ve grouped the changes into several defining traits. For this piece, I will be sharing Group 1, detailing the situations in which 11 former assistant coaches at a school were promoted this season to the top job.
The rest of the 46 coaching change breakdowns can be found in the upcoming VSiN College Basketball Betting Guide, due out next week! Make sure you are lined up to receive your digital copy the moment it’s released.
Group 1: Former assistant coaches promoted at their school
The assumption with this group is that the coaching change will be universally accepted by players and fans and that there will be very little difference in the pace at which the team plays.
ABILENE CHRISTIAN: Brette Tanner (assistant last 8 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 3 (62 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: ACU is coming off a strong three-year run of 59-23 under Joe Golding, and Tanner has been around for all of that and more. Last season was a big power rating jump, however, and I don’t see the Wildcats getting back to that level this season.
BINGHAMTON: Levell Sanders (assistant L2 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 3 (73 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Binghamton hasn’t finished above .500 since 2009, but Sanders has been around for only the last two years. Word is he would like to see his team play at a faster pace than former head coach Tommy Dempsey did. I still can’t envision a major improvement.
EASTERN WASHINGTON: David Riley (assistant L10 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 1 (15 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Ten years is a long time to spend as an assistant at a program, but Riley has been on the bench for the last seven strong seasons, so there’s no real reason to expect a lot to change schematically. He is starting over in terms of roster, however, so expect a rebuilding season.
HOFSTRA: Speedy Claxton (assistant L7 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 3 (57 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Most people remember Claxton’s name because of what he accomplished on the court at Hofstra, not for his seven seasons as an assistant coach. The program has won 20+ games in four of those seven years and figures to be competitive in the CAA once again as Claxton has added a bunch of transfers who should contribute.
LOYOLA-CHICAGO: Drew Valentine (assistant L4 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 4 (71 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Porter Moser took the Ramblers to unexpected heights and earned the shot he is getting at Oklahoma. Valentine has been on the bench with him for the last four years and should do well right out of the gate. Replacing Missouri Valley Player of the Year Cameron Krutwig will be a challenge, but the rest of the roster is loaded with super seniors. However, I have dropped the Ramblers four points in my first power ratings since the end of the season.
MCNEESE STATE: John Aiken (assistant L3 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 1 (26 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Since its last plus-.500 season in 2014, McNeese State has won fewer than 10 games four times. With all of the roster changes Aiken is inheriting in his first season, it will be tough for him to get to 10 in 2021-22.
NORTH CAROLINA: Hubert Davis (assistant L9 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 4 (63 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: This is obviously the biggest name change of any in Group 1. Replacing a legend like Roy Williams is never easy, but let’s not overlook that the Tar Heels finished a combined 32-30 over the last two seasons. North Carolina seems like a team that needed a breath of fresh air. Davis will provide that and I expect an experienced UNC squad to be a contender in the ACC again this season.
PORTLAND STATE: Jase Coburn (assistant L8 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 3 (41 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Coburn has been at Portland State for eight seasons and gets a shot at a head gig only because Barret Peery left to be an assistant at Texas Tech. The Vikings struggled in the COVID-19 season, going 6-12, its worst record since Coburn first arrived. In between those bookends, they’ve been about a .500 team. I expect closer to that.
TEXAS TECH: Mark Adams (assistant L6 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 3 (43 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Adams made a difficult decision to separate from Chris Beard when the latter left for Texas, despite having been with him since 2015. Adams gets a much-deserved chance at running a program that has been to the big time in recent years. Although it will be hard to match Beard’s success in Lubbock, this should still be an upper-half Big 12 team.
TEXAS-ARLINGTON: Greg Young (assistant L12 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 2 (34 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Chris Ogden gave up the top job at UTA to join Chris Beard’s staff at Texas. Young has spent plenty of time in the program and should provide a seamless transition. The team is in need of a jolt, however, as after three straight seasons of 20+ wins from 2016-18, it is 38-47. It won’t be an easy first season, however, as the roster is down and Young has indicated he wants to pick up the pace.
UNLV: Kevin Kruger (assistant L2 years)
Returning starters (percent mins): 1 (29 percent)
Steve's expectation in 2021-22: Kruger, son of Lon Kruger and former star at UNLV, has been around basketball his whole life. He is clearly ready to be a head coach, and after serving behind TJ Otzelberger for the last two years in Las Vegas, he gets his shot. The team is barely recognizable from last season, however, so there will be some early hurdles to overcome. After going 10-15 last season, the Rebels added some transfer talent and should eventually be better than their predecessors.