September 20, 2007

Coaching changes will bring mixed fortunes

MORE: The Coaching Carousel: All the moves

The coaching carousel still hasn't stopped spinning.

One of the 62 openings is still unfilled (Texas Southern).

Some faces in new places landed softly. They are taking over programs where there is plenty of talent and support. Others enter like contestants on Survivor: NCAA, inheriting programs in disarray where they'll have to fight their way out of the jungle of also-rans to the postseason.

But there is pressure in both situations, probably more at an already-successful program. Any coach who inherits most of a roster that went to the NCAA Tournament last season can expect his honeymoon to be shorter than the attention span of a first-grader.

Which coaches in new places have the best chance for success? Which are headed into murky waters? Here are some thoughts on five who should be playing in March and five for whom March will be just another month in a long year.

Five playing in March | Five watching in March

Built to succeed
John Pelphrey, Arkansas
Outlook:
22-25 wins,
NCAA Sweet 16
OK, the hiring process came off like an episode of Punk'd, but the bottom line is the Razorbacks landed a good coach with a good pedigree. John Pelphrey won at least 20 games in each of the past two seasons at South Alabama, and he spent eight years as an assistant under Billy Donovan.

The new coach, for whatever number he was on the Hogs' search list, gets a roster that returns every significant contributor. The only competition in the SEC West should come from Mississippi State now that Alabama point guard Ronald Steele has decided to take a medical redshirt this season.
Brad Stevens, Butler
Outlook:
22-26 wins,
NCAA second round
Barry Collier handed it to assistant Thad Matta, who handed it to assistant Todd Lickliter, who handed it to assistant Brad Stevens. Butler has become the model of mid-major programs because of its stability. They preach "the Butler Way," team-first, unselfish, hard-nosed, fundamental basketball.

Lickliter took off for greener pastures at Iowa, but he left behind most of the key parts on a team that won 29 games and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Butler is No. 27 in the Rivals.com Top 64 Countdown, and expectations among Bulldogs fans are much higher than that.
Billy Gillispie, Kentucky
Outlook:
20-23 wins,
NCAA second round
In Lexington, it's succeed or else. For Tubby Smith, it was succeed and leave.

The Wildcats are thin in the frontcourt but loaded at guard. Billy Gillispie already has shown himself to be an active recruiter, and his first class with Patrick Patterson and Alex Legion will contribute immediately. It also doesn't hurt that the beast of the SEC East, Florida, lost its top six scorers.
Mark Turgeon, Texas A&M
Outlook:
20-23 wins,
NCAA second round
Gillispie left College Station for college basketball's Holy Grail, but he left plenty of talent for Mark Turgeon. The former Wichita State coach inherits what may be the best frontcourt in the Big 12.

The biggest challenge for Turgeon, a former point guard who helped Kansas to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, will be finding a point guard to replace Acie Law IV. Any semblance of steady backcourt play, and the Aggies will be dangerous.
Bob Huggins, West Virginia
Outlook:
19-22 wins,
NCAA Tournament
The Mountaineers return some top-notch talent. Bob Huggins obviously is a top-notch coach. The question: Will the styles mesh?

In making the rounds around the state at various functions, Huggins has said more than once that if the Mountaineers get down by 10-15 points, he'll call a timeout and tell the players to run what they did last season. But John Beilein had begun to lure more athletes to Morgantown, so this may not be the square peg into the round hole some believe it is. Expect this team to run more, pressure like it never has and still shoot plenty of 3-pointers.
It will take time
Todd Lickliter, Iowa
Outlook:
15-19 wins,
NIT at best
The former Butler coach wasn't the first option for the Hawkeyes. He's a solid coach who eventually has a chance to get it done in Iowa City. But it won't be this season, even in a down Big Ten.

Iowa lost three of its top four scorers, including Adam Haluska. Haluska not only was the leading scorer but the heart and soul of the team. Then Tyler Smith transferred to Tennessee when Steve Alford left for New Mexico. That's 35.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists gone just between those two.
Stan Heath, USF
Outlook:
13-16 wins,
no postseason
The former Arkansas coach steps into a program that isn't ready to compete in the Big East, and he faces an uphill battle. The Bulls lost their second- and third-leading scorers, who just happened to be the starting forwards. Melvin Buckley and McHugh Mattis combined for 27.6 ppg and 12.1 rpg. Buckley had 44 more 3-pointers than anyone on the returning roster.

Simply put, getting USF to a point where it can compete with the Georgetowns, Louisvilles and Syracuses of the world isn't going to be easy. When you consider the conference has nine teams in the Rivals.com Top 64 Countdown, you can figure this isn't going to be the season the turnaround begins.
Donnie Jones, Marshall
Outlook:
11-14 wins,
no postseason
The Billy Donovan protégé has his work cut out for him in Huntington. The Thundering Herd hasn't had a winning season since 2000-2001.

The two leading scorers return, but the three after that are gone. So is anyone who averaged more than two assists per game. With Conference USA on an upswing, Donnie Jones can look forward to next season, when a host of big-time transfers become eligible.
Dan Monson, Long Beach State
Outlook:
7-10 wins,
no postseason
Dan Monson made a long season at Minnesota shorter for himself when he accepted a buyout just seven games into last season. The Golden Gophers were 2-5 at the time, on their way to a 9-22 record.

Things could be worse with the 49ers. The top nine scorers are gone. The leading returning scorer averaged less than two points.
Billy Taylor, Ball State
Outlook:
7-10 wins,
no postseason
The former Notre Dame player left Lehigh to take the Ball State job. It's a position he interviewed for before last season, when the Cardinals hired Ronny Thompson.

What has happened since? Well, Thompson resigned after this past season. Ball State officials said it was because of a school investigation that determined he had broken NCAA rules two years in a row by attending voluntary offseason workouts. His attorney said he stepped down because of a racially hostile work environment.

That didn't stop Billy Taylor, who, like Thompson, is black. He inherits a team that finished 9-22, ranked 309th nationally in scoring (59.6 ppg) and lost its leading scorer.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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