Coach Self is Mr Consistency

  • Great read on ESPN Insider, thought Id share with you all.

    Oct 20, 2016 John Gasaway ESPN Insider Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email print comment When we think of consistent basketball styles, certain coaches always come to mind. I wanted to test these impressionistic and possibly scattershot notions, so I decided to look at five years’ worth of actual college basketball performance.

    Here’s what I found: Kansas coach Bill Self has been the most stylistically consistent coach in major conference basketball over that time, with Virginia’s Tony Bennett placing a close second. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say these two have been stylistically predictable.


    The can’t-miss, must-see games of this college hoops season With college hoops a few weeks away, it’s a good time to know those games you need to see. So get your calendars. You’ll want to mark these down.

    Ask Calipari: Not even Duke can do what Kentucky does John Calipari is the godfather of one-and-done. Now every school is doing it. “It took Duke to do it for it to become OK,” he says. Calipari has a message: You’ll never do it as well as Kentucky.

    How experience (or lack of) will shape this college hoops season Wisconsin has its whole team back; Kentucky is living its usual one-and-done life. Which teams have the most experience? Which have the least? It’s time to look at how, and if, any of it matters. Whichever terminology you prefer, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach works pretty well for Self and Bennett. Since the 2011-12 season, Kansas and Virginia have won a combined 77 percent of their conference games. In the cases of the Jayhawks and the Cavaliers, stylistic consistency isn’t a scouting advantage for opponents as much as it is a hallmark of quality.

    For example, this season, it’s aberrantly likely that KU will average 68 possessions per 40 minutes in Big 12 play, while the Hoos will devote 30 percent of their shot attempts, give or take, to 3-point tries. Does that kind of advanced knowledge give future opponents an advantage? Not really, particularly not the bit about the Jayhawks’ tempo.

    Instead, these style constants tell us simply that both Self and Bennett found approaches that worked, stuck with those methods and, not least, felt confident enough across five distinct rosters to stay the course systemically. Clearly, this is one path to success in college basketball.

    Then again, the reigning national champion, Villanova’s Jay Wright, rates out as very close to the opposite extreme in terms of stylistic consistency. Over the past five seasons, we’ve seen Villanova shoot a ton of 3s (2014-15), but we’ve also seen the Wildcats show a Virginia-level orientation toward the interior (2011-12). Speaking of 2011-12, that was the campaign in which Villanova emphasized going after offensive rebound opportunities, an approach that was but a distant memory during last season’s guard-oriented national championship run.

    It’s fair to say that where style constancy is concerned, there’s more than one way to get the job done. When a coach changes his spots and it works, we say he is “adapting to his personnel.” When a coach sticks with what works, we say he’s a “system coach.” There’s room at the college hoops table for both types of success.

    Measuring consistency in style

    There are 38 major conference coaches who have been in their present positions for five or more seasons, as well as two other veteran head coaches (Kevin Stallings and Jamie Dixon) who just switched jobs within the major conference firmament. This gives us a population of 40 coaches, and those guys would be the first to say that the degree of control they exercise over what their teams do on the court is far from total.

    Even so, there are certain facets of the game commonly recognized as bearing a coach’s signature. I enlisted three of those facets to help me get my arms around this matter of predictability in hoops methods since 2011-12. Bear in mind that I looked at conference games only, in order to remove any static attributable to these coaches’ wildly differing approaches toward scheduling.


    In terms of possessions per 40 minutes, your most consistent performer in major conference basketball is Oregon’s Dana Altman. The Ducks’ head coach is followed closely in this regard by Indiana’s Tom Crean and by the aforementioned Self.

    Naturally, the game itself has accelerated in the wake of the NCAA’s shortening the shot clock to 30 seconds prior to the 2015-16 season. Nevertheless, that was a change that impacted all coaches equally, and guys such as Altman and Crean have been more predictable under both types of clock than their peers, when it comes to tempo. Oregon will presumably play the game at a clip equivalent to 69 possessions per regulation contest, with the Hoosiers clocking in at 67 (the five-year average is 65.2).

    Washington coach Lorenzo Romar is among the least consistent coaches when it comes to pace of play. Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire The least consistent on pace: Washington’s Lorenzo Romar, Pittsburgh’s Kevin Stallings and Xavier’s Chris Mack.

    3-point tries

    Let’s define a coach’s consistency in perimeter orientation as steadiness in the percentage of attempts launched from behind the 3-point line. On this front, your winner is Bennett, who barely edges Colorado’s Tad Boyle as No. 1 for consistency (with Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton finishing third). There is a very good chance that this season Virginia will devote between 28 and 32 percent of its attempts to 3-pointers.

    The least consistent on 3-point tries: Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger, Ole Miss’ Andy Kennedy and Villanova’s Wright.

    Rebound ratio

    Coaches can’t exercise total control over how well their teams rebound, of course, but what they can do is place greater or lesser emphasis on attacking the offensive glass. I like to measure this orientation, or lack thereof, as a simple ratio between a team’s offensive and defensive rebound percentages.

    When it comes to maintaining the level of exertion on the offensive boards, Arizona’s Sean Miller stands alone. Actually, I might like this rebounding-ratio list best of all in terms of confirming prior assumptions. Your leaders here are Miller, Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and NC State’s Mark Gottfried, with Tom Izzo (duh) just missing out on ranking among the top three.

    Iowa coach Fran McCaffery’s teams have consistent rebounding numbers. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall The least consistent on rebound ratio: Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard, Villanova’s Wright and Texas A&M’s Billy Kennedy.

    Add up all three categories, and Self – No. 3 in consistency in pace, No. 9 in 3-point tries and No. 14 in rebound ratio – comes out on top. Congratulations, Coach Self. You, sir, are a credit to steadiness of purpose, as amply demonstrated by that whole historically unbelievable streak thing.

    Here are the full results for consistency and/or predictability among the coaching ranks:

    COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S MOST PREDICTABLE COACHES RANK COACH TEAM 1 Bill Self Kansas Jayhawks 2 Tony Bennett Virginia Cavaliers 3 Pat Chambers Penn State Nittany Lions 4 Tad Boyle Colorado Buffaloes 5 John Calipari Kentucky Wildcats 6 Dana Altman Oregon Ducks 7 Mike Anderson Arkansas Razorbacks 8 Fran McCaffery Iowa Hawkeyes 9 Leonard Hamilton Florida State Seminoles 10 Jamie Dixon TCU Horned Frogs (new job) 11 Mark Gottfried NC State Wolfpack 12 Tom Izzo Michigan State Spartans 13 Mark Turgeon Maryland Terrapins 14 Brad Brownell Clemson Tigers 15 Mike Brey Notre Dame Fighting Irish 16 Mark Fox Georgia Bulldogs 17 Sean Miller Arizona Wildcats 18 Scott Drew Baylor Bears 19 Thad Matta Ohio State Buckeyes 20 Matt Painter Purdue Boilermakers 21 Lon Kruger Oklahoma Sooners 22 Mike Krzyzewski Duke Blue Devils 23 Rick Pitino Louisville Cardinals 24 Roy Williams North Carolina Tar Heels 25 Larry Krystkowiak Utah Utes 26 Bob Huggins West Virginia Mountaineers 27 Tom Crean Indiana Hoosiers 28 Chris Mack Xavier Musketeers 29 Andy Kennedy Ole Miss Rebels 30 Greg McDermott Creighton Bluejays 31 Jim Larranaga Miami Hurricanes 32 Kevin Stallings Pittsburgh Panthers (new job) 33 Billy Kennedy Texas A&M Aggies 34 John Beilein Michigan Wolverines 35 Lorenzo Romar Washington Huskies 36 John Thompson III Georgetown Hoyas 37 Ed Cooley Providence Friars 38 Jay Wright Villanova Wildcats 39 Kevin Willard Seton Hall Pirates 40 Jim Boeheim Syracuse Orange

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