Ranking the best college basketball coaches so far this season

Tommy Lloyd was a bit of a surprise hire in Arizona. One year he was the Naismith Coach of the Year.

Judging head coaches after half a season isn’t fair. But it’s obvious who’s off to a great start so far, or at least who has their programs headed in the right direction.

Let’s take a look at some of the coaches who are off to a strong start in men’s college basketball this season.

1. Jerome Tang, Kansas State (14-0, 3-1 Big 12): Tang was a longtime and trusted assistant to Scott Drew at Baylor. He was there early in 2003, helping build the Bears into a national title team in 2022. He was looking for the right gig to leave Waco and found it at Kansas State. Tang has been sensational, thus far, in turning the Wildcats into a legitimate Big 12 contender. Keyontae Johnson was an unknown. Kansas State was one of the places that considered letting him play after he collapsed at Florida in December 2020. His play has been spectacular. So has Markquis Nowell, who once transferred from Little Rock. This team has been able to score at will and pulled off two monster wins last week at Baylor and Texas. Tang could be this season’s Tommy Lloyd and become a national coach of the year year after year, while leading his team to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

2. Dennis Gates, Missouri (13-2, 2-1 SEC): Gates was a longtime assistant to Leonard Hamilton at Florida State. He had success at Cleveland State in the Horizon and was highly coveted on the coaching merry-go-round this offseason. It’s been a hit at Columbia so far. Gates has a star in Kobe Brown. This team can defend. And the crowd and fan base have been all on board for Mizzou. He was attacked at home by rival Kansas and that might have been a bad first impression. But then he turned around Illinois in St. Louis and Kentucky at home. The Tigers look strong for NCAA Tournament consideration in Year 1.

3. Sean Miller, Xavier (13-3, 5-0 Big East): Miller is back at Xavier and the Miller 2.0 regimen has been going exceptionally well. Miller made four NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons, including one Elite Eight. Miller has already knocked off UConn at home and has the Musketeers ready to make a run at the Big East title. He has put together a roster that was largely untouched by waste and transfers. Jack Nunge has flourished under his watch and the combination of Colby Jones and Zach Freemantle has been a tough matchup. The addition of leading scorer Souley Boum, a great find from UTEP, has been another big hit. Boum is the top scorer of the Musketeers. Miller was exonerated through the NCAA investigation into his time at Arizona and now has that in his rearview mirror as well.

4. Chris Jans, Mississippi State (12-3, 1-2 SEC): Jans led New Mexico State to a victory over UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He has a proven track record of taking over a program that is a bit under the radar and flourishing. There’s still plenty of room for this season, but so far he has the Bulldogs in position to be a potential NCAA Tournament team. Wins over Marquette and Utah will go a long way for the Bulldogs. Beating rival Ole Miss last weekend was a good first impression for everyone in the state. If he gets Mississippi State to the NCAA Tournament with a transfer-dominated roster, he’ll buy time to start building a solid foundation.

5. Chris Gerlufsen, San Francisco (12-7, 1-3 WCC): Gerlufsen took over for Todd Golden, who filled in for Florida after the Dons’ narrow loss to Murray State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Making the transition to head coaching is never easy, but Gerlufsen has done it pretty well. The Dons attacked Arizona State at home and nearly got Gonzaga, building a lead before losing it late. Will the Dons make the NCAA Tournament? Unlikely overall, but it has ensured that the Dons will be at the heart of every WCC match.

Other notable hires from the first year so far: Matt McMahon, LSU; Thad Matta, butler; Mike White, Georgia; Todd Golden, Florida; Frank Martin, UMass.

Andy Katz is a longtime college basketball writer, analyst and host. He can be seen on the Big Ten Network as well as March Madness and NCAA.com and hosts the “March Madness 365” podcast. Katz worked at ESPN for nearly two decades and, before that, in newspapers for nine years.

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