by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The opening rounds of the tournament cater to the shock and awe aspect of March Madness. But as the underdogs begin to fade, and the remaining sixteen teams appear, it’s a surprisingly familiar crowd of faces.

Good coaches win. It’s a learned behavior.

Sure, one or two are usually caught off guard by a Florida Gulf Coast or a Harvard in the Round of 64 or 32 each year, but the cream always rises to the top, so to speak.

One marquee match-up in the Sweet Sixteen as proof: Michigan State vs. Duke.

“College basketball is all about the coaches, for better and worse,” Seth Davis told 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes. “To have Tom Izzo and Mike Krzysewski playing each other in the Sweet Sixteen with the winner most likely getting Rick Pitino, that’s pretty good.”

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Again, that’s just one match-up.

To further emphasize the point, take a second look at the thirteen coaches who’ve yet to be mentioned.

Four are making their Sweet Sixteen debuts: Andy Enfield (FGCU), Dana Altman (Oregon), John Giannini (La Salle) and Gregg Marshall (Wichita St.).

“You really kind of hit upon the balance that I think the tournament always sort of hopes to strike, and I can tell you my bosses at CBS and Turner hope to strike, which is you want your Cinderella upset and you want your excitement,” Davis said.

But the difference between them and their competition isn’t just dramatic; it’s the difference between a resume of experience and on-the-job training.

“We have our Florida Gulf Coast story,” Davis said. “We got Wichita State and La Salle, and you know, Oregon to a lesser extent. But when you look down the line – Miami, Marquette, Indiana, Syracuse, Kansas, Michigan, Florida – you got the blue bloods there.”

Twelve of the remaining sixteen coaches have advanced to this point in previous tournaments, and many even further.

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This list is a veritable coaching pantheon of active leaders, albeit some names have more experience with success than others (listed in order of attrition based on Sweet Sixteen appearances): Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Pitino, Izzo, Self, Donovan, Matta, Miller, Crean, Beilein, Williams and Larranaga.

“I got a feeling as we get later into the tournament that the matchups are going to get more and more blue-bloody, if you will,” Davis said.

Consistent tournament track records prove that coaching at the college level is not much different from any other competitive-based career. The more you find success early, the easier it is to find again.

Altogether, the twelve returning coaches account for a total of 96 Sweet Sixteen appearances, 35 Final Four visits and 10 NCAA championships.

More often than not, the experienced coaches win out.

That’s certainly something to mull over before filling out your next bracket.


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