This is the time of year when a coach from outside the major conferences can make a name for himself and perhaps parlay an NCAA Tournament upset into a bigger job.
It’s been done before.
Brad Underwood led Stephen F. Austin to an NCAA Tournament victory two of the last three years, including an upset of West Virginia last season. Underwood is back in the NCAA Tournament this season with Oklahoma State, which hired him after Stephen F. Austin’s recent run of March success.
Here are 10 coaches in the tournament — all 51 or younger and listed in alphabetical order — who could emerge as candidates on the coaching carousel.
JOHN BECKER, VERMONT
First-round game: Thursday vs. Purdue in Milwaukee.
Notable: Becker owns a 139-68 record at Vermont and has won at least 20 games in each of his six seasons on the job, though this is just the Catamounts’ second NCAA Tournament appearance during that stretch. Vermont is 29-5 and has the nation’s longest active winning streak with 21 straight victories. Vermont went unbeaten in America East competition .
JOHN BRANNEN, NORTHERN KENTUCKY
First-round game: Friday vs. Kentucky in Indianapolis
Notable: Brannen, the Horizon League coach of the year, has Northern Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament in its first season of eligibility. After going 9-21 last season in Brannen’s first year on the job, Northern Kentucky is 24-10 this year. Brannen was an assistant on Anthony Grant’s staffs at VCU and Alabama.
NATHAN DAVIS, BUCKNELL
First-round game: Thursday vs. West Virginia at Buffalo, New York
Notable: Bucknell has won two Patriot League regular-season championships and one Patriot League tournament title in Davis’ two seasons. He owns a 43-22 record at Bucknell after going 141-39 at Division III Randolph-Macon from 2009-15. Davis spent five seasons as a Bucknell assistant.
JOE DOOLEY, FLORIDA GULF COAST
First-round game: Thursday vs. Florida State at Orlando, Florida
Notable: Dooley owns a 91-45 record at Florida Gulf Coast has won at least 21 games each of his four seasons. He’s in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year . This is Dooley’s second head coaching stint, as he went 57-52 at East Carolina from 1995-99. Dooley spent 10 seasons as an assistant on Bill Self’s Kansas staff.
STEVE FORBES, EAST TENNESSEE STATE
First-round game: Thursday vs. Florida at Orlando, Florida
Notable: Forbes is a former Texas A&M, Tennessee and Wichita State assistant who owns a 51-19 record in two seasons at ETSU and has the Bucs in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010 . He also went 61-6 in the junior-college ranks at Northwest Florida State from 2011-13. Forbes did serve a one-year show cause as part of the NCAA investigation of Tennessee.
MITCH HENDERSON, PRINCETON
First-round game: Thursday vs. Notre Dame at Buffalo, New York
Notable: Henderson, a Princeton alum who played in three NCAA Tournaments, has led the Tigers on a 19-game winning streak . He owns a 119-59 mark in six seasons, though this marks his first NCAA appearance as a head coach. Henderson was a Northwestern assistant from 2000-11.
KEVIN KEATTS, UNC WILMINGTON
Notable: Keatts owns a 72-27 record in three seasons at UNC Wilmington and is making his second straight NCAA Tournament appearance . The Seahawks had finished last in the CAA the year before Keatts’ arrival. Keatts spent three seasons as a Louisville assistant and went 263-17 in 10 years as the coach at Hargrave Military Academy.
PAT KELSEY, WINTHROP
First-round game: Thursday vs. Butler in Milwaukee
Notable: Kelsey owns a 102-58 record in five seasons at Winthrop, which had a 20-loss season the year before his arrival. Kelsey has Winthrop in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010 . Kelsey previously worked as an assistant at Wake Forest and Xavier.
LeVELLE MOTON, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL
First-round game: Wednesday vs. UC Davis in Dayton, Ohio
Notable: Moton, the third-leading career scorer at North Carolina Central, has made his alma mater the dominant program in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. He owns a 152-102 record in eight seasons and has won at least 25 games three of the last four years. This is his second NCAA Tournament appearance .
WILL WADE, VCU
First-round game: Thursday vs. Saint Mary’s at Salt Lake City
Notable: Wade owns a 91-44 record in four seasons as a head coach, including a 51-19 mark in two seasons at VCU. He has sent VCU to the NCAA Tournament each of his two seasons on the job after going 40-25 in two years at Chattanooga. Wade is a former VCU assistant.
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