clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Most underachieving NCAA Tournament coaches in the past decade

These coaches’ teams have tended to flop on the biggest stage.

Fairleigh Dickinson v Purdue Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Take a look at the Hall of Fame college basketball coaches and the hundreds of wins they’ve accumulated, yet are preserved in bronze plaques and statues for just a handful of particular wins that happened to come on a neutral floor in March.

No matter how great their style of play, strategies, or recruiting skills were, take away their NCAA Tournaments, and nobody would’ve remembered them. Coaches then and now over the past 80-plus years have built entire programs around NCAA Tournament success, or watched their careers run into the ground after a series of first round exits or trips to the NIT.

Here’s a look at the coaches on the sidelines today who are separating themselves from the pack with their March track records—but not in a good way. When these coaches have coached 1-seeds and 2-seeds, they’ve gotten bounced in the second (or even first!) rounds all too often, and no matter how good their squads looked in the regular season, seem to completely disappear in an all too short NCAA Tournament run.

Let’s take a look:

Leon Rice

Boise State’s head man since 2010, the Broncos have had a lot of good seasons under Rice...regular seasons that is. They’ve made four NCAA Tournaments under his tenure and three in the last decade, but have lost in the first round every time, including each of the past two years, where they fell as an 8-seed and as a 10-seed to move their all-time NCAA Tournament record to 0-8. Ouch. To Rice’s credit, in the past 10 years, many coaches have gone 0-3 in the Big Dance, especially coaches of non-power conference schools, but the Broncos have been earning much higher seeds than a lot of those other teams and having pretty much nothing to show for it.

Rick Barnes

Seven NCAA Tournaments (two with Texas and five with Tennessee) in the past decade for the coach of teams in orange since 1994, but a lot of brutal exits to go with them. The two Sweet 16 appearances ended in defeats as a 2-seed and as a 4-seed to Purdue and Florida Atlantic respectively, and twice, Rocky Top made the Round of 32 as a 3-seed and got bounced by an 11-seed. In 2021, they also fell victim to a 5-12 upset at the hands of Oregon State, and after entering the past five NCAA Tournaments as a 5-seed or better has yet to make it past the Sweet 16.

Fran McCaffery

March has not been good to Iowa for a while, as Coach McCaffery’s Hawkeyes have yet to sniff a Sweet Sixteen in the 13 years he’s been there and have lost in the First Four or Round of 64 three times (and once as a 5-seed), and in the Round of 32 the other four. The worst was when they earned a 2-seed with NPOY Luka Garza and were rolled by 7-seed Oregon by fifteen points. They’re always in the bracket somewhere...but not for long.

Matt Painter

Purdue has been a Big Ten powerhouse for the last several years, but when it’s come to the postseason, Coach Painter has not been an escape artist. The Boilermakers have been the laughingstock of the Big Dance for years, getting bounced in the first round by 12-seed Little Rock in 2016 in double-overtime, stumbling against 13-seed North Texas in overtime of the 2021 Round of 64, and squandering a golden Elite Eight opportunity against 15-seeded Saint Peter’s in the 2022 Sweet Sixteen. Then this year, after Purdue fans had thought they’d seen it all, they had to take one of the four 1-seeds and permanent-Sharpie themselves into unwanted NCAA Tournament history by losing to the 16-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson Knights with a Boiler roster that included NPOY Zach Edey and that just won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. Perhaps what Purdue needs is to stop getting such strong seeds and make the field as one of the Last Four In, and then take everyone by surprise as they run to the Final Four like UCLA two years ago.

Shaka Smart

Things have not gone well in March for Shaka Smart since the famous VCU First Four to Final Four Cinderella run of 2011. In his seven VCU, Texas, and Marquette NCAA Tournament runs in the past decade, his teams have lost in the first round all but one time, which was this season when they finally broke through and made the Round of a 2-seed that beat their 15-seed (and then immediately got upset by a 7-seed). The Round of 64 has been ruthless to Smart: he’s lost as a 5, 7, 6, 10, 3, and 9, and some in spectacular fashion, like with Northern Iowa’s famous 2016 half-court buzzer beater upset. No matter how well you do in the Big East, eventually, a March track record like that might catch up to him with the Golden Eagles.