2023 NCAA tournament: Which coaches are the worst against the spread?
The NCAA tournament is finally here.
If you’re in the process of filling out your bracket, you’re looking for any edge you can find to make the right picks. That goes for bettors too.
March Madness is one of the biggest gambling events of the sports calendar and you need all of the information available to make educated bets. A valuable bit of context can be how head coaches have performed against the spread during the tournament.
Which coaches have done well against the spread in the NCAA tournament? Whose teams tend to go over or under the total? We covered the top March Madness coaches and trends here.
Now it’s time for a deep dive into the coaches who have been unreliable for bettors — coaches whose teams you should consider avoiding.
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Rick Barnes, Tennessee
Rick Barnes will make his 27th appearance in the NCAA tournament this week. Barnes, now in his eighth season at Tennessee, also brought Providence, Clemson and Texas to the tournament, but he hasn’t had much success.
Of all those tournament appearances, Barnes has only made it past the Sweet 16 three times. He has lost in the Sweet 16 four times, in the Elite Eight twice and only once made it to the Final Four in 2003. Every other tournament appearance has either resulted in a first-round exit or a loss in the Round of 32, including last year when Tennessee was a No. 3 seed and lost to 11 seed Michigan.
The Longhorns really struggled in postseason play late in Barnes' Texas career. In their final seven NCAA tournament games under Barnes, the Longhorns were 2-5 straight-up and 0-6-1 against the spread.
Barnes was fired by Texas after the 2015 season and things haven’t gone much better for him at Tennessee from a betting perspective. The Vols are 2-6 against the spread under Barnes in the tourney. That means his ATS record in his last 15 NCAA tournament games (dating back to 2010) is 2-12-1. Yikes.
Overall, Barnes has a combined 16-25-2 ATS record across his time at Texas and Tennessee. His first-round numbers aren’t great either. At Texas and Tennessee, Barnes has a combined 8-11-1 ATS record in Round 1.
Tennessee is the No. 4 seed in the East and will face No. 13 seed Louisiana on Thursday. The Vols are favored by 11.5 points at BetMGM. Buyer beware.
Jamie Dixon, TCU
Now in his seventh season at TCU, Jamie Dixon is making his third NCAA tournament appearance with the Horned Frogs. Before that, he coached Pittsburgh to the tournament 11 times.
The deepest run Dixon made at Pitt was to the Elite Eight in 2009. Other than that, there were two losses in the Sweet 16 and a slew of early-round exits.
Dixon is 13-13 straight-up in NCAA tournament play but is just 9-17 against the spread. At Pitt, Dixon’s teams were 7-16 ATS, so he’s actually managed to cover the spread in two of the three tournament games he’s coached at TCU. TCU blew out Seton Hall 69-42 as a 1.5-point favorite in the first round last year and then covered as a 10-point underdog to Arizona in the second round, losing 85-80.
Will those good fortunes carry over to this year’s tournament? Dixon’s history suggests it’s unlikely.
Tony Bennett, Virginia
You could argue that Virginia head coach Tony Bennett is most known for two things: He coached Virginia to a national championship and he coached Virginia when it became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament.
Those two historic moments came in back-to-back seasons — 2018 and 2019. Since then, Virginia has had a first-round exit and an NIT appearance. This year, the Cavaliers are the No. 4 seed in the South with a first-round matchup with No. 13 Furman.
Virginia is favored by only 5.5 points. You may want to stay away.
Under Bennett, Virginia is 7-13 against the spread in tournament play. That includes a lowly 1-7 ATS record in first-round action. Virginia was favored in all but one of those first-round games, resulting in a 1-6 ATS mark.
Fran McCaffery, Iowa
Betting the over in Iowa’s NCAA tournament games coached by Fran McCaffery has been a profitable venture. But betting on McCaffery’s Hawkeyes to cover the spread has not gone well.
In 10 NCAA tournament games coached by McCaffery, Iowa is 3-7 against the spread. That includes last season’s first-round upset at the hands of Richmond in a 5 vs. 12 matchup. On the heels of winning the Big Ten tournament, the Hawkeyes were favored by 9.5 points over the Spiders. They lost 67-63.
This year, Iowa is the No. 8 seed in the Midwest region and a slight underdog — 1.5 points at BetMGM — vs. No. 9 seed Auburn.
Greg McDermott, Creighton
Creighton has struggled to cover the spread in NCAA tournament games under coach Greg McDermott. The Blue Jays covered in both games they played last season, and that improved McDermott’s ATS record to 5-8 in tournament play at Creighton.
Creighton has especially covered in first-round games, covering the spread in just one of their last five. Creighton has also struggled as a favorite under McDermott, going just 2-4 ATS overall and 1-3 in the first round.
This year, Creighton is the No. 6 seed in the South and is favored by 5.5 points over No. 11 seed NC State.
If you don’t want to fade Creighton against the spread, maybe you should look at the under. In McDermott’s 16 NCAA tournament games across his time at Creighton and Northern Iowa, the under is 11-4-1.
Jim Larrañaga, Miami
Jim Larrañaga made a name for himself when he coached George Mason to an epic run to the Final Four as an 11 seed back in 2006. Besides that run, though, Larrañaga’s teams have not been very reliable for bettors during March Madness.
Larrañaga has been at Miami since 2012 and is set to make his sixth NCAA tournament appearance with the Hurricanes. Larrañaga coached Miami to the Sweet 16 in 2013 and 2016 and then made a run to the Elite Eight last year.
Despite that, Miami is just 5-7 against the spread in NCAA tournament play under Larrañaga. That includes an ugly 2-5 ATS mark as a favorite.
This year, the Hurricanes won the ACC regular season title and are the No. 5 seed in the Midwest. They drew a tough matchup with No. 12 seed Drake, the champions of the Missouri Valley Conference. Miami is favored by only 2.5 points at BetMGM.
Additionally, the total is listed at 146.5. Miami’s last five tournament games have gone under the total.
Kevin Willard, Maryland
Kevin Willard is in his first season at Maryland following a 12-year run at Seton Hall. Willard built Seton Hall into a consistent contender in the Big East, but his teams never had much success in the NCAA tournament.
Willard is just 1-5 all-time in NCAA tournament games. His Seton Hall teams covered the spread just twice in those six games. In Round 1 play, Willard’s teams were 1-4 straight up and 1-4 against the spread.
Will things change for Willard now that he’s coaching a different program? Maryland, the No. 8 seed in the South, is currently a 2.5-point underdog in its first round matchup vs. West Virginia, the No. 9 seed.
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Gonzaga has made a lot of deep NCAA tournament runs under head coach Mark Few, but his all-time ATS record is just 19-27-1. In Gonzaga’s most recent 30-game tournament stretch, it is 13-17-1 ATS despite being 22-8 straight-up.
The Bulldogs have failed to cover the spread in five consecutive tournament games and are just 5-9 ATS as a favorite in the first round. Five of Gonzaga’s last six first-round games have gone under the total.
This year, Gonzaga is the No. 3 seed in the West and will face No. 14 Grand Canyon in the first round. The Bulldogs are favored by 15.5 points at BetMGM with the total listed at 155.5.
Eric Musselman, Arkansas
Eric Musselman has made two runs to the Elite Eight in his four seasons coaching at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have a 6-2 straight-up tournament record under Musselman but are just 3-5 against the spread.
Between Musselman’s stops at Arkansas and Nevada, he is just 5-8 ATS in tournament games. That includes an ugly 1-5 ATS mark as a favorite. In this year’s tournament, Arkansas is favored by 1.5 in its first-round matchup vs. Illinois.
Additionally, the under is 8-4-1 in the 13 tournament games Musselman has coached. The total for the Arkansas-Illinois game is currently listed at 143.5 at BetMGM.