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Tracking the Big Six Tournament Coaches

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One of these coaches is unbeaten in the 1st round and the other is nearly unbeaten in the 2nd round.
One of these coaches is unbeaten in the 1st round and the other is nearly unbeaten in the 2nd round.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

With UNC's two wins in Jacksonville to return to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in three years, Roy Williams notched his 750th career victory, becoming only the 14th Division I coach to do so. Meanwhile Williams won his 65th NCAA tournament game, which ties him for second place all-time with his mentor, Dean Smith. It was also Williams' 30th and 31st NCAA wins at UNC, and Williams ran his first-round NCAA record to an incredible 25-0. That's right, Roy Williams has never lost a round of 64 game in the NCAA tournament. Ever.

Since Williams returned to Carolina for the 2003-04 season, he has posted a 31-8 record in the NCAA tournament in 11 appearances over 12 seasons. So how does Williams stack up with some of the other top coaches in this year's tournament?

Listed below are the records of the six most successful active coaches over the past dozen years. Included are overall record, titles, and appearances in the Final Four, Elite Eight, and Sweet Sixteen, including this season. Also included are "first game losses" in which the team has lost in the round of 64, and "upset losses" which are losses in the round of 64 or 32 while the higher seeded team.

Coach

App

Record

Win %

Titles

Final 4

Elite 8

Sweet 16

FRL

Upsets

John Calipari

10

34-8

80.9

1

4

5

7

0

0

Tom Izzo

12

25-11

69.4

0

3

4

8

3

1

Mike Krzyzewski

12

24-10

70.5

1

2

3

7

3

4

Rick Pitino

11

26-9

74.2

1

3

5

7

2

1

Bill Self

12

27-11

71.1

1

2

5

7

2

5

Roy Williams

11

31-8

79.4

2

3

6

7

0

1

Correction: There were multiple errors which we think we have corrected at this point.

A couple of takeaways from the data:

  • There is no denying John Calipari is the real deal. Since 2004, he has won 81% of his NCAA tournament games and has been to four Final Fours between Memphis and Kentucky. Roy Williams has won 79% of his NCAA games and been to three Final Fours in the same period.
  • Tom Izzo is receiving tons of media love as Mr. March, and his 13-1 career record in the round of 32 is astonishing. He has made it to the second weekend 8 of the past 12 seasons. However when stacked up against the other five coaches, his winning percentage of 69.4% since 2004 is the lowest of the group, just ahead of Mike Krzyzewski's 70.5%.
  • Krzyzewski and Izzo lead this group with three first-round losses since 2004 while Bill Self, and Rick Pitino each have two. Calipari and Williams have won each of their first round games over the past 12 years, although Calipari has been to the NIT twice during that span and Roy Williams once.
  • Self has been the victim of only two first round losses but five total upsets in the past 12 years where Kansas has not made it to the second weekend despite being the higher seed. Neither Calipari nor Williams have suffered a first-round loss and Williams has just one upset loss in the past dozen years.
  • While this is UNC's first trip to the Sweet 16 in three years, UNC's losses in the previous two years in the round of 32 were as the lower seed. Kansas has also only been to one Sweet 16 in the last three years but their two losses in the round of 32 were as the higher seed.
  • Krzyzewski is the all-time NCAA tournament wins leader but has only 24 wins in the past 12 seasons, surprisingly ranking him last among this group of six in total wins during this time.
So what does all of this mean? First, all six of these coaches are really, really good in March. Even the worst in total wins over the past 12 years is the all-time leader in career wins and NCAA wins. It also shows that Calipari was pretty doggone good before going to Kentucky and has only continued his winning ways there.

Of course, analyzing this data as it relates to Roy Williams is reflective of a great streak from 2005-2009, but his last five tournaments haven't been too bad either. Two of those were Elite 8 runs, the team is currently in the Sweet 16, and has won at least one game every year. Not bad for someone who is supposed to be slipping.