No. 6 Bryce Drew – Head Coach Vanderbilt
In five years as Head Coach of Valparaiso, Bryce Drew’s teams averaged over 24 wins per season. Twice, Drew led Valpo to the NCAA Tournament.
In his first season at Vanderbilt, the Commodores are 19-15 and a 9-seed in this season’s NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt will face Northwestern in its opening NCAA game in the West Regional.
Drew led Vandy to three wins this season over Florida, as well as wins over Iowa State and South Carolina, all NCAA Tournament teams.
The only small asterisk to go next to Drew’s Vandy record is Vandy’s past NCAA Tournament and regular season history. Kevin Stallings did not take Vandy to the Big Dance every season, but he did so often.
In the seven previous seasons with Sallings as Head Coach, Vandy won 63% of its games. Vandy won 56% this season under Bryce Drew. Drew did a very good job at Vandy this season. He is to be commended even if he is only continuing the Dores established pattern of winning.
247 Sports ranks Vanderbilt as the No. 43 recruiting class for the 2017-18 season.
No. 5 Avery Johnson – Head Coach Alabama
Picking the 5th best coach in the SEC between Avery Johnson and Bryce Drew was very difficult.
Both Alabama and Vanderbilt currently have 19 wins on the season. Vandy is in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama basketball is a No. 3 seed in the NIT. Vandy has more good wins on the season than the Tide, but they did not beat Alabama.
Both teams made the SEC Tournament Semi-finals. Arkansas handled Vandy with relative ease. Alabama basketball pushed the tournament champion Kentucky Wildcats to their closest tournament result.
Both teams appear to have bright futures, but Alabama basketball is bringing in the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation, second only to Kentucky in the SEC.
Perhaps we should have flipped a coin. In the end, Johnson edged out Drew because this season Avery has done almost equally well with a good bit less talent. There is no justification for discounting the work Avery Johnson did this season, signing one of the best Alabama basketball classes ever.
Next season, Alabama fans should expect Alabama basketball to make it to the Big Dance. Selection Sunday for Alabama basketball next year should be sweating its seed rather than worrying about the bubble.
Alabama basketball is a No. 3 seed in the NIT Tournament and will face Richmond in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday.
No. 4 Frank Martin – South Carolina
In five seasons at Kansas State, Frank Martin’s teams made the NCAA Tournament four times. Martin’s five-year win record with the Wildcats was: 21 wins; 22 wins; 29 wins; 23 wins; and 22 wins.
Martin has been steadily building South Carolina for five seasons. Over the last two seasons, the Gamecocks have won 47 games. This season South Carolina has gone 3-2 against Top 25 teams.
Martin’s teams play a tough, in-your-face half-court defense. Their tenacity matches their coach. It suits the team and the coach well.
South Carolina does not attract big-name recruits as easily as some SEC schools. In addition, not every player is willing to endure Martin’s uncompromising intensity. 247 Sports has South Carolina ranked as the No. 53 class for next season.
Frank Martin may do more with less than any other coach in the SEC.
South Carolina is a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will face Marquette in a first-round game.