2023 NCAA tournament: Which coaches should you trust with your money?
The NCAA tournament is finally here.
If you’re in the process of filling out your bracket, you’re looking for any edge you can find to make the right picks. That goes for bettors, too.
While bettors should study specific matchups and the way teams have performed during the 2022-23 season, a valuable bit of context can be a closer look at how head coaches have historically performed during March Madness.
Which coaches have done especially well against the spread in the NCAA men's tournament? Which teams tend to play in games that go over or under the total? There are plenty of trends worth your attention.
Below are some of the coaches who have been especially profitable for bettors during their careers.
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Andy Enfield, USC
Before arriving at USC, Andy Enfield coached the epic “Dunk City” Florida Gulf Coast team to the Sweet 16 in 2013. FGCU covered the spread in those three games.
At USC, Enfield has now reached the NCAA tournament five times, including a run to the Elite Eight in 2021. In Enfield’s first seven tournament games with the Trojans, they went 7-0 ATS. That means Enfield covered the spread in his first 10 tournament games as a head coach.
USC did not cover the spread in its Elite Eight matchup vs. Gonzaga in 2021, nor did it cover as a 2.5-point favorite in last year’s first-round matchup vs. Miami. That means Enfield is down to 10-2 ATS as a Division I head coach. Despite the back-to-back ATS losses, that’s pretty good.
This year, USC is a 1.5-point underdog in its first round matchup vs. Michigan State.
Bill Self, Kansas
Bill Self missed the Big 12 tournament due to health reasons but is expected to rejoin his team for the NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks have never missed the tournament during Self’s tenure, which dates back to the 2003-04 season.
On the whole, Kansas’ against-the-spread numbers in tournament play under Self won’t wow you. The Jayhawks are 31-30 in 61 tournament games coached by Self. But in recent years, KU has been very reliable for bettors in the first round. Overall, Kansas is 11-7 ATS in first-round action, including 7-3 ATS in its last 10 first-round games. Additionally, the under is 7-3 in those 10 games.
Kansas is the No. 1 seed in the West region and set to square off with No. 16 seed Howard. Kansas is 5-3 ATS as a No. 1 seed in the first round under Self. The Jayhawks are favored by 21.5 points at BetMGM.
Bob Huggins, West Virginia
When West Virginia opens up NCAA tournament play vs. Maryland on Thursday, it will be the 60th tournament game for Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins. Huggins was a tournament mainstay at Cincinnati and has been to the Big Dance 11 times in 16 seasons at WVU, including a run to the Final Four back in 2010.
Huggins is 14-10 straight up and 13-10-1 ATS in tournament play at WVU. Those are solid numbers, but where Huggins’ WVU teams have thrived for bettors has been in the role as a favorite.
WVU is 12-6 straight up and 11-6 ATS as a favorite in tournament play under Huggins. As a first-round favorite, WVU is 7-3 straight up and 6-4 ATS. By comparison, WVU is 2-5 straight up and 2-4-1 ATS as an underdog in tournament play under Huggins.
WVU, the No. 9 seed in the South region, is currently a 2.5-point favorite over No. 8 seed Maryland at BetMGM.
Matt Painter, Purdue
Matt Painter gets a decent amount of flak for only once making it past the Sweet 16 and never reaching the Final Four during his long career at Purdue. Last year's loss to Saint Peter's didn't help that narrative, but he’s still been a pretty reliable coach for bettors to back against the spread.
In 30 NCAA tournament games, Painter’s teams are 18-12 ATS. That includes a stellar 10-3 ATS mark in first-round games. Additionally, Purdue’s tournament games have tended to go over the total. The over has hit in 12 of Purdue’s last 16 NCAA tournament games.
In this year’s tournament, Purdue is a No. 1 seed for the first time under Painter. The Boilermakers will face the winner of the First Four matchup between Texas Southern and Fairleigh Dickinson in the East region.
John Calipari, Kentucky
Bettors may be a bit gun-shy with John Calipari and Kentucky on the heels of last year’s first-round loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s. Don’t be.
With Kentucky as the No. 6 seed in the East, Calipari will make his 22nd tournament appearance this week. Over the course of his storied career, Calipari has reached six Final Fours, six Elite Eights and won one national championship.
Calipari is 31-23 all-time against the spread in NCAA tournament play. At Kentucky, Calipari is 31-9 straight-up and has an excellent 22-14-4 ATS mark that dates back to 2009. Kentucky is 5-3 in its last eight games as a favorite in tournament play.
Additionally, Kentucky’s NCAA tournament games under Calipari have trended toward the under. The under is 22-17-1, including 10-4 in UK’s last 14 tournament games.
This year, Kentucky is favored by 4.5 points over Providence at BetMGM with the total listed at 145.5.
Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to 25 consecutive NCAA tournaments and there are a few trends that stick out.
The Spartans are 18-5 straight-up and 14-9 against the spread in first-round games. Additionally, the over is 14-9 in MSU’s first-round games. The over has hit in Michigan State’s last eight opening games — seven consecutive first-round games and the First Four loss to UCLA in 2021.
Michigan State is the No. 7 seed in the East region in this year’s tournament. MSU will take on No. 10 seed USC and is favored by 1.5 points at BetMGM. Under Izzo, MSU is 7-4 ATS as a first-round favorite of fewer than 10 points.
Mick Cronin, UCLA
After 13 seasons at Cincinnati, Mick Cronin has done an excellent job during his time leading UCLA. The Bruins reached the Final Four in 2021 before making a run to the Sweet 16 last year.
In the nine NCAA tournament games with Cronin as head coach, UCLA is 7-2 straight up and 7-2 against the spread. UCLA covered the spread in all six of its tournament games in 2021 and was an underdog in five of those games.
Before his time at UCLA, Cronin was 7-10 ATS in tournament games at Cincinnati and Murray State.
Bruce Pearl, Auburn
On the whole, it’s been a mixed bag for Bruce Pearl in the NCAA tournament. Across stops at Milwaukee, Tennessee and Auburn, Pearl’s teams are 16-11 straight up and 13-12-2 ATS.
At Auburn, Pearl is 5-4 ATS but the Tigers have covered the spread in five of their last six tournament games. Additionally, the over has hit in five of Auburn’s last seven tournament games.
This year, Auburn is the No. 9 seed in the Midwest and is favored by 1.5 in its first-round matchup with No. 8 Iowa. The total is listed at 151.5.
T.J. Otzelberger, Iowa State
In seven seasons as a Division I head coach, T.J. Otzelberger has reached the NCAA tournament four times. He brought South Dakota State to the Big Dance twice and has guided Iowa State to the tournament in both his seasons leading the way in Ames.
SDSU lost in the first round but covered the spread as a low seed in 2017 and 2018 before Otzelberger led Iowa State to the Sweet 16 last year. It’s a small sample of just five games, but Otzelberger is 4-1 against the spread. Additionally, the under is 4-1 in those five games, including 3-0 during last year’s run for the Cyclones.
Betting the under in Iowa State games coached by Otzelberger has been a very profitable venture. Over the past two seasons, the under is 41-26 (61.2%) in Iowa State games (21-11 this season). That includes a 22-6 mark (78.6%) vs. non-conference opponents.
Iowa State is the No. 6 seed in the Midwest region and will face the winner of the Mississippi State vs. Pitt game in the First Four.
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Other betting trends you should know
In Kelvin Sampson’s 14 NCAA tournament games at Houston, the under is 10-4. Houston has been the favorite in 10 of those 14 games. The under is 7-3 in those games. Additionally, Houston is 3-1 against the spread in its four first-round games coached by Sampson.
Greg McDermott has coached in 16 NCAA tournament games combined at Northern Iowa and Creighton. The under is 11-4-1 in those games. Specifically at Creighton, the under is 8-4-1 in 13 games. As a first-round favorite, the under is 3-1. Creighton is favored by 5.5 over NC State.
The over is 12-4 in 16 NCAA tournament games coached by Fran McCaffery, including 7-3 during his time at Iowa.
The under is 8-4-1 in Eric Musselman’s 13 NCAA tournament games as a head coach, including 6-2 at Arkansas.
The under is 6-3 in the nine tournament games coached by Providence's Ed Cooley. Before last year's tournament, Providence was just 1-5 ATS under Cooley, but the Friars covered the spread in all three games they played last year.
All four of Illinois’ NCAA tournament games under Brad Underwood have gone under the total. The Illini are 1-3 ATS in those games. The under is 7-3 in the 10 NCAA tournament games coached by Underwood across his stops at Stephen F. Austin, Oklahoma State and Illinois.
Steve Alford, now at Nevada, has coached in 22 NCAA tournament games across stops at Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA. The under is 15-7 in those games.
The over is 5-1 in Dan Hurley’s six NCAA tournament games as a head coach — 4-0 at Rhode Island and 1-1 at UConn.
Shaka Smart is 0-4 ATS in his last four NCAA tournament games — 0-3 ATS at Texas and 0-1 ATS at Marquette. The over is 3-1 in those four games. However, at VCU, Smart had a 9-3 ATS record in the NCAA tournament. The under was 4-7-1 in those 12 games.
During Sean Miller’s first stint at Xavier (2004 to 2009), the Musketeers went 8-1-1 ATS in NCAA tournament games. The over was 7-3 in that span. At Arizona, Miller was 9-13-1 ATS and his team’s tournament games trended toward the under (13-10).
Jeff Capel is making his first NCAA tournament appearance as head coach at Pitt, but he’s got prior experience at VCU and Oklahoma. In his three tournament appearances (one at VCU, two at Oklahoma), Capel has a 5-2 ATS record.
Arizona went 0-3 ATS during its run to the Sweet 16 last season, its first under Tommy Lloyd.
The under is 8-5 in the 13 NCAA games coached by Randy Bennett at Saint Mary’s.
The over is 3-1-1 in the five NCAA tournament games coached by Vermont’s John Becker.
Northern Kentucky's Darrin Horn coached Western Kentucky to the Sweet 16 in 2008 as a 12 seed. WKU went 3-0 ATS during that run, including covering as a 13-point underdog to UCLA in the Sweet 16.
Texas Southern’s Johnny Jones is 5-2 ATS in NCAA tournament games, including 2-0 in the First Four. Texas Southern is a 2.5-point favorite over Fairleigh Dickinson in the First Four of this year’s tournament.