The cancellation of last season’s NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19 was a major blow to everyone involved in college basketball, not the least being the bettors and sportsbooks.
Bettors get a break this season, though, because the circumstances surrounding the lockdowns led many college programs to stay the course in regard to coaching changes. Only 21 have occurred since the end of the season, less than half the number handicappers usually deal with.
There will be a lot of other unusual factors, some unforeseen at this point, in getting ready to wager on the coming season. Having fewer new coaches to consider lessens that burden.
Regardless of the low quantity, a coaching change always makes a huge difference in a team’s prospectus and thus must be considered near the top of the list of important factors in handicapping. Let’s look at several high-profile changes and try to get a feel for how it might affect that team’s win-loss record as well as its style of play.
2019-20 record: 12-17 SU, 12-16 ATS, 12-17 O/U
Former coach: Tim Cluess
New coach: Rick Pitino
Analysis: Undoubtedly the biggest coaching splash came from Iona. The Gaels plucked Rick Pitino from what was thought to be retirement. Pitino is not only a name brand, he is a championship-winning coach. He eventually hopes to elevate Iona to a Gonzaga level. That might be overzealous and it certainly won’t happen right away because when he landed at Iona, he found nine open scholarships.
Better or worse in 2020-21: Worse before better; expect this program to be more competitive as the season wears on.
2019-20 record: 13-18 SU, 16-15 ATS, 20-10 O/U
Former coach: Danny Manning
New coach: Steve Forbes
Analysis: Danny Manning spent six uninspiring seasons at Wake Forest, and the program never really took off. Manning never had the recruiting impact that was projected. Enter Steve Forbes, who guided ETSU to a 30-win season in 2019-20 and was widely considered the hottest commodity on the market. Forbes gets only two starters back. ETSU averaged about 4.0 effective possessions fewer per game last year than did Wake Forest, so expect a slower pace.
Better or worse in 2020-21: Slightly worse; implementing an entirely new system in a challenging offseason.
2019-20 record: 13-17 SU, 10-18 ATS, 18-11 O/U
Former coach: Dan Majerle
New coach: Bryce Drew
Analysis: The popular Majerle was the face of Grand Canyon basketball for seven seasons, and the program flirted with success and a climb to another level. His departure leaves a void, but GCU didn’t exactly poach a nobody. Bryce Drew is a well-known commodity, having left his job as an ESPN analyst for this opportunity. He last coached in the 2018-19 season for Vanderbilt, which played at a nearly identical pace to Grand Canyon a year ago. Drew welcomes back two starters.
Better or worse in 2020-21: Slightly worse; Drew will be working in new systems.
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