2018 Final Four Betting Advice: Handicapping the Coaches
Four teams remain in the NCAA Tournament. That means four head coaches. Coaches have more impact in college basketball and football than any other sport because they can better implement a rigid system, find the players to work within that system, and ensure compliance with the system. And the collection of Final Four coaches we have this year is a strong one. Two guys are making their third Final Four appearance. Both have won national titles. Another is back at the Final Four for his second time since 2013. And then we have an upstart, looking to shock them all and prove that experience is overrated. Let's look at the four guys leading the way:
Jay Wright, Villanova
After bouncing around to four schools as an assistant, with the longest stay at Villanova, Wright got his first head coaching opportunity at Hofstra. He took over a program with issues and went just 19-36 in his first two seasons. But then things slowly started to turn around. He took the job in 1994, made the NIT in 1999, and then made the NCAA Tournament the next two seasons. He lost in the first round both times, but that was enough to prove he was ready to take over for his boss at Villanova, Steve Lappas.
The Wildcats had made only the NIT in Lappas' last two seasons, and that's where they wound up in Wright's first three as well. Starting in 2005, though, Wright when on a nice tournament run - Sweet 16, Elite Eight, first round, Sweet 16, Final Four. The team struggled a little after that Final Four appearance, winning only one tournament game in four years while missing the postseason entirely once. But then began the era of dominant regular seasons and postseason struggles. Three times since 2014 Wright has won at least 29 games but lost his second NCAA tournament game in a massive upset. You can't be too hard on Wright, though - the two times he hasn't lost his second game he has a National Championship and, so far, a Final Four appearance.
Bill Self, Kansas
After stretches as an assistant at Kansas and Oklahoma State, Self earned his first head coaching job at Oral Roberts in 1993. The best he accomplished there was an NIT first-round loss, but going from six wins to 21 in four years was enough to get him noticed by Tulsa. He won a tournament game there in his second season, and then in the memorable 2000 season he won 32 games and made the Elite Eight. That was his ticket to the next step on the ladder - Illinois. He went backwards there in his three seasons - he made the Elite Eight his first year, the Sweet 16 in his second, and lost in the second round in Year 3. But when Roy Williams bolted Kansas for North Carolina, Self was deemed ready for the big time.
Self has had remarkably consistent tournament success since becoming the head coach at Kansas in 2003. Not only has he made the tournament every year, but 2004 and 2005 are the only seasons he has not won at least one game. His Elite Eight appearance in his debut season was his first of five - including the last two years. This is his third Final Four appearance, having both won and lost the title game in the past. His last Final Four appearance came in 2012 when Kansas lost the title to Kentucky, so his gap between Final Four appearances is the longest among the coaches that have been there.
John Beilein, Michigan
Beilein is a very rare college coach who was never an assistant. He started as a high school coach in 1975 and has slowly climbed every step of the ladder on his way up. His first Division I job was at Canisius in 1992, and he made his first tournament appearance there during his five-year stay. Next up was Richmond, where, over five years, he got both his second tourney berth and first win. His third five-year stay was at West Virginia, where he twice made the tournament, and made big runs both times - to the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight.
In 2007 Beilein moved to Michigan, and success was slow out of the gate. In his first five seasons he made just three tournament appearances and twice won his opening game before losing the second. But things changed in a big way starting in 2013. He lost the championship game to Louisville that year - a title that the Cardinals have since vacated. Then he made the Elite Eight the next year. They missed the tournament and then lost in the first round, but then a Sweet 16 appearance last year was followed up by this run so far here. Since 2013 his 15 tournament wins are tied with Roy Williams at North Carolina for the most in the country.
Porter Moser, Loyola
Moser is the youngest coach here at 49, and he's by far the least experienced in this environment - this is his first time in 13 years as a head coach bringing a team to the NCAA Tournament, never mind to the Final Four. He did appear as a player, though, losing in the first round with Creighton in 1989. After his playing career, his first job was as an assistant at his alma mater. From there he did two stints at Texas A&M, with a stop at Milwaukee in between. Then he went to Arkansas Little Rock, first as an assistant and then as head coach after two seasons. Incredibly, he took over a 4-24 team and went 18-11 in his first year. After winning 18 games two more times, he moved on to Illinois State. Again he took over a struggling team but couldn't work a miracle, having just one winning season in four tries and going 51-67 before being fired. To regroup and grow, Moser went back to being an assistant, working under Rick Majerus at Saint Louis. They didn't have a ton of success at Saint Louis, never making the NCAA Tournament, but Moser clearly learned a lot. He came to Loyola in 2011, winning 10 games that year and slowly evolving them into the nun-fueled buzzsaw that they now are. Moser was the MVC Coach of the Year, and he clearly can coach, but his lack of experience compared to all of his potential opponents has to be seen as a significant concern.
Want free March Madness betting picks? Doc's Sports has you covered - get $60 worth of March Madness picks free from any of Doc's Sports expert handicappers. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free . Doc's Sports offers free college basketball picks, parlays, tips every day of the tournament on our homepage.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Most Recent March Madness Betting
- Final Four Betting Props with March Madness Expert Wagering Predictions
- Final Four Bracket Picks 2019
- Expert NCAA Tournament Final Four Handicapping: The Coaches
- Expert Final Four Handicapping and Betting: Geography and Crowd Advantages 2019
- Final Four Betting Trends 2019
- Sweet 16 March Madness Betting Advice 2019
- Chalky First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament Sees Most Top Seeds Advance
- Sweet 16 Bracket Picks and Predictions All the Way Through Final Four
- Handicapping the Two Cinderella Teams in the Sweet 16
- Geographical Advantages for Teams Playing in the Sweet 16