As the 2020-21 college basketball season approaches, these five mid-major coaches have a chance to lead their teams to success.
With the 2020/21 college basketball season quickly approaching, sports betting sites have set their odds for teams to win the NCAA Tournament. Most of the noise comes from teams within the Power-Five conference realm, but Cinderella runs are what most fans live for come March. These five mid-major coaches have risen up the ranks of the college basketball coaching world and let their winning ways speak for themselves. Having set their programs up for consistent success, here are the names you should know entering the season:
5. Scott Nagy, Wright State
Scott Nagy enters his fifth season with the Raiders and is projected to win the Horizon League again in 2020. Prior to his time in Dayton, Oh., Nagy earned three NCAA Tournament bids in his last five seasons at South Dakota State. Since then, he has earned one Tournament appearance in 2017/18 and won the conference regular season in the past two years. However, for the second year in a row, his team fell short in the conference tournament and had to settle for an NIT berth, before the season was shut down due to COVID-19. Either way, it was a disappointing way to end the year.
Regardless of the final result, Wright State has won at least 20 games in each of Nagy’s four years at the helm. His program has become one of the most consistent in the conference and returns six of the top eight scorers from last season in 2020/21. The Raiders’ 6-foot-8 big man Loudon Love averaged 15.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 2019/20 and will presumably crush the program’s rebounding record this year and end his collegiate career as one of the best scorers to ever play at Wright State.
The 54-year-old Nagy is a tremendous coach, a great recruiter and someone to watch as the coaching carousel continues to turn in the next couple of years. Sports betting sites are not currently offering odds for Wright State to win the National Championship, but it does not matter because it will not. However, when top rated sportsbooks begin to offer odds for the conference titles, the Raiders will be the favorites in the Horizon League and will be a great bet.
4. Joe Pasternack, University of California, Santa Barbara
UCSB has not won less than 21 games in each of the three years that Joe Pasternack has been the head coach. The 43-year-old Louisiana native began his head coaching career at New Orleans and was hired to coach the Gauchos in 2017. He took a team that finished 6-22 in 2016/17 and won 23 games in his first season.
His team has consistently finished second in the conference under Pasternack, but this could be the year that UCSB takes the next step and wins the Big West to receive an NCAA Tournament berth. The Gauchos boast a high-major caliber front court with 6-foot-10 former Oregon forward Miles Norris and Amadou Sow. JaQuori McLaughlin will be the team’s leading guard and should be a legitimate Big West Player of the Year candidate come March. To help lessen the blow of Max Heidegger’s departure, Pasternack tapped into the transfer portal and added Destin Barnes, a 6-foot-7 wing who averaged 12.1 points at Jacksonville last season.
Odds are not available for UCSB to win the NCAA Tournament or the Big West, but when betting sites open their lines, expect Pasternack’s squad to contend for the top spot in the conference, at the very least.
3. Chris Jans, New Mexico State
Chris Jans was hired by New Mexico State in 2017 and has won three consecutive Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards, leading his team to two NCAA Tournament berths in his first two seasons and what likely would have been a third last year.
Even before Jans took over, the Aggies have been the team to beat in the WAC and will continue to be this season. He will have to replace four starters from 2019/20, but that should be no problem for a team that adds eight transfers, including three former Division I players. Marcus Watson comes from Oklahoma State and was a top 50 prospect out of high school, Donnie Tillman averaged 10.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists at UNLV last season and Jacob Tryon comes from Portland and will be a big, experienced center who can stretch the defense with his outside shooting.
If the five junior college transfers can step up to provide quality depth, New Mexico State will be a dangerous team in the conference and will certainly go dancing again in 2020/21. Not only will they get back there, but the Aggies could be a team to keep an eye on to pull an upset or two once March Madness begins.
When online sports betting sites open odds for conference winners, the Aggies odds might reflect the departure of most of its starting five from 2019/20. If that is the case, the inflated value for a Jans-led team to win the WAC will be a great pick.
2. Earl Grant, College of Charleston
43-year-old Earl Grant will lead the College of Charleston basketball tournament for the seventh year and continues to have his name circle in coaching carousel talks at the end of each season. The Cougars went 9-24 in his first year and has yet to lose 15 or more games since. His group saw a slight drop off with a record of 17-14 in 2019/20, but finished in the top 25 nationally in turnover percentage and in the top 60 in free-throw shooting for the fourth straight season. Team discipline is something that Grant prides himself on and he has instilled that at Charleston.
Grant will have to replace most of his starting lineup in 2020/21 but brought in two consecutive talented recruiting classes to fill the production void. Dontavious King is a physical forward that brings a strong paint presence but can also shoot from beyond the arch. Trevon Reddish and Brenden Tucker are athletic guards who will need to take over the backcourt if Charleston wants to put the pieces together to reach the NCAA Tournament.
There are not currently odds for Charleston to win the Colonial Athletic Association, but the question marks surrounding this group could open up the value for a Grant team that will compete near the top of the conference. Stay tuned to our top-rated sports betting sites to get in on the pick before the rest of the college basketball world catches on.
1. Mike Rhoades, Virginia Commonwealth
VCU began 2019/2020 ranked in the Top 25 but finished 18-13 and held a conference record below .500 at year’s end. The Rams, led by 48-year-old Mike Rhoades, were 17-6 in early February, but lost seven of their final eight games. The 2020/21 season will be a challenge, as all five starters from last year are gone, and Rhoades will have his hands full.
However, VCU has won at least 18 games in Rhoades’ first three years and if anyone is up to the task, it is him. Nah’Shon Hyland is the team’s only top-six scorer from last season that is returning this season and averaged 9.0 points and 43.4 percent shooting from three as a freshman. He was a four-star recruit out of high school and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. He will lead the way while KeShawn Curry, Vince Williams and Corey Douglas provide experience as upperclassmen despite all three playing less than 20 minutes per game in 2019/20. Hason Ward stands 6-foot-0 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and shot 62.5 percent from the field in limited minutes as a freshman and showed great potential.
Rhoades is a tremendous recruiter and added the top-rated recruiting class in the A10 this offseason. The four freshmen will provide a serious talent boost for the coming years, and though this year is to be considered a transition year, could foreseeably burst onto the scene.
VCU is not expected to win the A10 this year, but Rhoades’ group is talented and set up for success in the not-so-distant future. If sports betting sites are offering significantly inflated odds to win the conference, giving the Rams consideration could offer a giant payout for a team that might arrive a year or two earlier than expected.