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Another day, another collaborative piece between Max and I. Today we will be debating which conference in all of college hoops has the best collection of head coaches from top to bottom. Remember, a conference is only as strong as its weakest link. Alright let’s take the hot takes out of the oven:

Mason – Big 12

My first thought is to go to the ACC, considering that they have more “historically successful” programs, right now than any other conference. However, you also have to realize that they have a total of 15 basketball teams. This includes Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Boston College, and Clemson. While these teams aren’t bad per se (even though Boston College wasn’t able to win a single conference game) the ACC is pretty top heavy. Of the 15 teams in the conference, I’d say that only 5 of them are competitive for the conference title on a consistent basis: Duke, UNC, Virginia, Louisville, and Syracuse. Whereas you look at the Big 12 and there are consistently around 7 teams that are fighting (Kansas) for the conference title.

“Well Mason, how can you say the ACC is top heavy when Kansas has won the Big 12 for 12 consecutive years?” Well you see, Kansas is just in a league of its own. That doesn’t mean that the other coaches and teams aren’t good. After all Kansas has been a powerhouse since before World War II. Let me list all of the current coaches in the conference, along with some of their career accomplishments, in order of where their teams finished in conference:

  1. Bill Self (Kansas)
    • Head Coaching Record: 592 – 188 (.759)
    • Record at Kansas: 385 – 83 (.823)
    • 16 regular season Big 12 conference titles
    • 8 conference tournament championships
    • 2 Final Four appearances
    • 1 National Championship
  2. Bob Huggins (West Virginia)
    • Head Coaching Record: 784 – 315 (.713)
    • Record at West Virginia: 194 – 104 (.651)
    • 11 conference regular season titles
    • 10 conference tournament championships
    • 2 Final Four appearances
  3. Lon Kruger (Oklahoma)
    • Head Coaching Record: 590 – 361 (.620)
    • Record at Oklahoma: 111 – 57 (.661)
    • 2 Conference tournament championships
    • 1 conference regular season title
    • 2 Final Four appearances
  4. Shaka Smart (Texas)
    • Head Coaching Record: 183 – 69 (.726)
    • Record at Texas: 20 – 13 (.606)
    • 2 conference tournament championships
    • 1 Final Four appearance
  5. Scott Drew (Baylor)
    • Head Coaching Record: 272 – 183 (.598)
    • Record at Baylor: 252 – 172 (.594)
    • 1 conference tournament championship
    • 1 NIT championship
    • 2 Elite 8 appearances
  6. Steve Prohm (Iowa State)
    • Head Coaching Record: 127 – 41 (.756)
    • Record at Iowa State: 23 – 12 (.657)
    • 1 conference regular season title
    • 1 conference tournament championship
  7. Tubby Smith (Texas Tech)
    • Head Coaching Record: 557 – 276 (.669)
    • Record at Texas Tech: 46 – 50 (.479)
    • 7 regular season titles
    • 5 conference tournament titles
    • 1 Final Four appearance
    • 1 National Championship
  8. Bruce Weber (Kansas State)
    • Head Coaching Record: 392 – 209 (.652)
    • Record at Kansas State: 79 – 54 (.594)
    • 5 conference regular season titles
    • 1 conference tournament championship
    • 1 Final Four appearance
    • 1 National Championship appearance (Lost to North Carolina)
  9. Brad Underwood (Oklahoma State)
    • Head Coaching Record: 89 – 14 (.864)
    • Conference record while at SFA: 53 – 1 (.981)
    • 3 conference regular season titles
    • 3 conference tournament championships
  10. Jamie Dixon (TCU)
    • Head Coaching Record: 328 – 123 (.727)
    • 2 conference regular season titles
    • 1 conference tournament championship
    • 2 Sweet 16 appearances
    • 1 Elite 8 appearance

*Underwood and Dixon have not yet coached a season at their respective schools so we included their record at their previous programs.*

 Of all of the current Big 12 coaches that have coached at their schools for a full season, you could make the argument that Weber is the “worst” of the bunch…and he’s been to a national championship. There is not a single bad coach in the conference. Tubby Smith, who has the lowest winning percentage of any of those coaches, just won Big 12 coach of the year after guiding Texas Tech to a winning record and a .500 in conference finish.

Last year, it is also worth noting that the Big 12 had 7 of its 10 teams make the tournament, with the lowest seed being Tech (7th seed). 70% of the conference’s teams made the tournament. The power 5 conference with the least amount of basketball teams, ended up having the most teams in the tournament. Now that is a testament to good coaching if I’ve ever seen one.

While 4 of the coaches in the ACC have won a national championship compared to the Big 12’s one, the middle of the Big 12 mops the floor with that of the ACC. Only 2 of the coaches in the Big 12 have never made the Elite 8 in their career, whereas in the ACC 7 coaches have never gotten that far.

So while the ACC has 4 of the greatest coaches in all the land, there are still about 7 teams that I would say consist of the bottom of the conference. You then compare that to the “bottom” coaches of the Big 12, and in my eyes it’s no contest. The Big 12 is the best coached conference, from top to bottom, in the country.

Max- ACC

Personally, I feel the ACC is the Justice League of college basketball. With teams such as Syracuse, Louisville, and Duke the conference has a collection of some of the historically best teams in NCAA basketball. In the introduction Mason talks about how a conference is only as strong as its weakest link.  As a whole the ACC has had 16 NCAA tournament championships, along with 30 NCAA tournament final appearances, and 62 regional tournament championships leading to a position in the Final Four. These accolades and accomplishments would not have been possible without legendary coaches to drive such high levels of success. Specifically, I would like to highlight three coaches that separate the ACC from the competition: Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, and Roy Williams.

Mike Krzyzewski or more commonly known as Coach K is the winningest coach in D1 College Basketball history with 1,043 career wins.  With his remarkable 46-year career at Duke some consider Coach K the best collegiate coach of all time. In that span the Duke Blue Devils have 7 regular season championships, 3 ACC tournament championships, 8 Final 4 appearances, and have won the NCAA tournament twice. Duke’s impressive accomplishments on the court have been driven by Coach K’s ability to bring in top recruits to the program. Over the past 10 years Duke has averaged the 11th best recruiting class in the nation. This constant influx of top talent combined with Mike’s fantastic coaching abilities have cemented Duke’s place as one of the best basketball program in the country.

While they are fairly new to the ACC Syracuse has shown why they deserve to be in the best college basketball conference in the land. Under the leadership of Jim Boeheim, the Orange have had five final four appearances with most recently being this year as the 10th seed in the tournament. Syracuse has also won the big dance once in 2003. Boeheim’s continued success has allowed him to hold the title of head coach at the university since 1976 where he has racked up a total of 966 wins second only Coach K. Coach K and Boeheim currently occupy the top two spots on the winningest D1 coaches. The next person behind them has almost 100 less wins. This shows that these two coaches are nothing short of elite when compared to everyone else.

Finally, in 13 short years at UNC Roy Williams has accomplished feats to rival to the two great men above him. Since taking over as the Tar Heel’s coach in 2003 he has 7 regular season championships, won the ACC tournament three times, 4 Final Four appearances, and won the NCAA tournament in 2005 and 2009. In a tenure that is less than half of the two men above him he has a resume that is just as or more impressive than Coach K and Jim Boeheim. UNC’s strong performance since Williams takeover further supports his coaching ability. While winning games is important just like LeBron in Cleveland nothing matters until you win the hardware. Which the Tar Heels have consistently been able to do since Williams arrival.

The accomplishments of the men mentioned above are enough to cement the ACC as the collection of the game’s best coaches. With thousands of wins, dozens of championships, and a continuing influx of young talent three coaches stand apart from the rest. Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, and Jim Boeheim elevate the ACC to the pedestal that is unmatched by any other conference in the land.

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