Sideline Strategists: the 5 Best Coaches in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

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The NCAA Tournament is the greatest time of the year for anyone that even marginally enjoys basketball. The games and coverage are on TV seemingly 24 hours a day, and even your boss knows that realistically, you won’t be doing a damn thing at work. But what does it take to put together a great bracket? The 2013 field offers even more parity than usual with a deep and evenly talented pool that could yield any number of different champions. So this year, play it smart and look for the teams with the best coaching to outlast the rest.

5 Shaka Smart – Virginia Commonwealth University

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His name says it all—this dude is Smart. In his short, three-year coaching career, Shaka has proven to have an unbelievable mind for the game, and quickly established himself as one of the best young coaches in the NCAA. He has led Virginia Commonwealth to 84 wins, and took them on an unforgettable run in the 2011 tournament when, as an 11 seed, his Rams toppled 1-seed Kansas and became the first ever team from a play-in game to reach the Final Four. VCU fans are hoping for some déjà vu in 2013, as the fifth seeded Rams are once again in the same region as the 1-seed Kansas Jayhawks.

4 Mark Few – Gonzaga University

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Mark Few has spent his entire 13-year head coaching career at the helm of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, and he has done a hell of a job making sure we all know exactly who they are come tournament time. While he has yet to make a Final Four, Few has turned Gonzaga into a constant contender, making the NCAA tournament in all but one of his seasons, and winning 8 conference titles en route to 342 total wins. Few’s recruiting visits often mirror that of a UN Summit, as he has become known for pulling talented players from Canada, Poland, Germany, France, Brazil and at some point, probably Narnia.

3 Mike Krzyzewski – Duke University

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Along with Ol’ Roy at UNC, Coach K has kept Duke among the perennial ACC powerhouses who are in competition for a National Title nearly every year. This year, his Blue Devils bested their Tobacco Road rivals and ended the season with the nation’s #2 overall ranking. Despite an early exit in the ACC tournament, Coach K’s squad should be a formidable one in this year’s bracket, having gone 18-1 this season when Ryan Kelly, who recently returned from injury, was in the lineup. Coach K has 11 Final Fours under his belt already, and he may be poised to add another notch.

2 Bill Self – University of Kansas

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All Bill Self has ever done as a head coach is win, and right now he seems to be at the very top of his game. In 19 seasons, Self has only had three losing campaigns, all of which were in his first three years at the helm of Oral Roberts (shocking that a school with a name like that isn’t a sports powerhouse, right?). Since then, Self has amassed 476 total wins, including a .835 win percentage in his 10 years at Kansas and has not missed a single NCAA tournament since he took over.

1 Rick Pitino – University of Louisville

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This guy just looks like a basketball coach. He’s the Pat Riley of college hoops. Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals come into the tournament hotter than perhaps any other team in the nation, rightfully earning them the tournament’s #1 overall seed. Pitino’s years of winning experience paired with his veteran duo of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith make Louisville the team to beat in 2013. As a head coach, Pitino has compiled 627 wins over 26 seasons, and has turned one-time second fiddle Louisville into a legitimate Kentucky basketball powerhouse. As long as he doesn’t get caught in any more extramarital restaurant bathroom encounters, Pitino’s road to another Final Four should be nice and smooth.

Next: Mighty Mid-Majors: the Top 5 Small Schools in the 2013 NCAA Tournament