Which coaches are on the rise in college basketball? Check out our list of 10 coaches below. In no particular order…
John Becker, Vermont: Becker has quietly led the Catamounts to an average of 23.2 victories during his six-year run in Burlington, with last year’s 29-win campaign leading to Vermont’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012. With several key pieces returning this upcoming season, Becker could be in line for a higher-level job next spring if the Catamounts continue their current run. The former Catholic University standout had interest from Duquesne last spring before staying at his current post.
King Rice, Monmouth: College basketball is now an event at the Jersey Shore — that’s a direct result of the job Rice has done since moving the Hawks’ program from the NEC to the MAAC. Monmouth has won a combined 55 games in the last two seasons, and even though it hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament, this school is now mentioned when people discuss the top mid-major programs in college basketball. Boisterous and confident at 48, Rice has both the temperament and pedigree to one day be the face of a high-major program.
Dan Hurley, Rhode Island: Much as Gregg Marshall made Wichita State the flagship program in the Missouri Valley, Hurley is on the verge of doing the same in the Atlantic 10 with the Rams. After nearly reaching the Sweet 16 last March, Rhode Island returns several key pieces from last season, which should keep it in the top 25 for the majority of the upcoming year. Hurley will always have interest from power five programs when positions become available, but it will take an awfully good situation for him to leave his current setup in Kingston. With the transitions in place at both Dayton and VCU, the Atlantic 10 is set to go through Rhode Island for the foreseeable future.
Joe Dooley, Florida Gulf Coast: Four straight 20-win seasons and back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament have made Dooley a name that’s trending in the right direction. A disciple of Bill Self, Dooley almost won a game at Michigan State last season and should have a few prime opportunities to beat a ranked team again this year, when Florida Gulf Coast travels to both Wichita State and Rhode Island.
James Jones, Yale: Jones made history two years ago when he led the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament win in program history, but his efforts last season were equally as impressive. With star guard Makai Mason lost for the year due to injury, Yale still managed to win 18 games and reach the final of the Ivy League Tournament. With Mason back in tow along with guards Miye Oni and Alex Copeland, the Bulldogs should have an excellent chance to challenge Harvard at the top of the Ivy League.
Richie Riley, Nicholls: The grinder’s grinder, Riley won a game at Boston College last season in his first year as a head coach and should have a chance to win the Southland this upcoming season thanks to an influx of transfers. Riley will add Roddy Peters (Maryland, South Florida), Tevon Saddler (UNC-Greensboro), Legend Robertin (Clemson), Kimani Jackson (Colorado State), and Maurice O’Field (Arizona State) to a program that won 14 games last season. Simply put, this guy knows how to get players.
Eric Musselman, Nevada: Since arriving in Reno, all Musselman has done is win. The former head coach of both the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings has averaged 26 victories in his first two years in Reno, and he should have a legitimate chance to to lead the Wolf Pack to its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018. Similar to Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, Musselman has had incredible success luring transfers to Nevada and has several more — Caleb and Cody Martin (N.C. State), Kendall Stephens (Purdue), Darien Williams (St. John’s) and Hallice Cooke (Iowa State) — who should make a major impact next season.
Dan Muller, Illinois State: The former Redbird star looks like he’s 31 and acts like he’s 51, but the 41-year-old Muller has his alma mater in position to be the dominant program in the Missouri Valley Conference. With Wichita State now off to The American, everything is aligned for Illinois State to flourish. The Redbirds won 28 games last season, including the conference regular season title, and should become synonymous with the top mid-major programs in the country as long as Muller is at the helm.
Nathan Davis, Bucknell: After averaging more than 23 wins per season in six years at Division III Randolph-Macon, Davis led the Bison to an NCAA Tournament appearance last March, when they were extremely competitive before falling by six to West Virginia. Well-versed in the infrastructure of the Patriot League thanks to his time as an assistant at Bucknell, Navy and Colgate, Davis has the understanding of what it takes to be successful in his current environment. Expect that familiarity and the Bison’s strong returning nucleus to make Davis’s name a common one next spring.
Kermit Davis, Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders have won a game in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons, with the 2016 triumph over Michigan State in discussion as arguably the biggest upset in the history of the sport. Davis doesn’t self promote and is a coach’s coach. He’s set the bar high at a place that was in the Sun Belt just a few years ago before joining Conference USA, and that alone should put him in discussion for any SEC or ACC job that becomes open. This is a high-major head coach at the mid-major level.
Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.