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NCAA March Madness betting: Which coaches should you avoid during the NCAA tournament?

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The NCAA tournament is finally here and it’s one of the biggest gambling events of the sports calendar.

Bettors are doing in-depth breakdowns of first-round point spreads, looking for any edge to make the right picks and put cash in their pockets.

If you want to bet the NCAA tournament at BetMGM, you should study specific matchups and the way teams have performed against the spread during the 2020-21 season. But it’s also worth diving into the NCAA tournament history for head coaches.

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.

This post is about the coaches who have been unreliable for bettors — coaches you should consider avoiding.

Rick Barnes, Tennessee

Dating back to 1989, Rick Barnes has coached in the NCAA tournament a whopping 25 times. Barnes has brought Providence, Clemson, Texas and now Tennessee to the big dance. Across those stops, Barnes has advanced past the Sweet 16 only three times.

Late in his Texas career, the Longhorns really struggled in NCAA tournament play — both straight-up and against the spread. In his last 10 games at Texas, the Longhorns were 2-8 straight-up and 1-8-1 against the number.

Things haven’t gotten much better at Tennessee, where Barnes has been since he was let go by Texas after the 2015 season. The Vols are 1-4 against the spread under Barnes. That puts his ATS mark over his last 15 NCAA tournament games at 2-12-1. Yuck.

His first-round numbers aren’t great either. At Texas and Tennessee, Barnes is a combined 7-10-1 ATS in Round 1.

If you are looking to bet on the Tennessee game (-7 vs. Oregon State), though, you may want to consider the over. The over is 14-6 in Barnes’ last 20 tournament games.

Mark Turgeon, Maryland

Maryland fans haven’t exactly been infatuated by the way the Terps have performed under Mark Turgeon. It’s Year 9 for Turgeon, and the Terps have just one Sweet 16 during his tenure. He’s been very unreliable for bettors, too.

Maryland is 2-6 against the spread in the NCAA tournament under Turgeon, with an 0-4 ATS mark in the first round.

This year, the Terps are the No. 10 seed in the East Region, set to square off with UConn. Maryland is a 2.5-point underdog at BetMGM. It’s the first time the Terps are first-round underdogs under Turgeon.

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nebraska, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon reacts during the second half against Nebraska on Feb. 17, 2021, in College Park, Maryland. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Tony Bennett, Virginia

You could argue that Tony Bennett is most known for two things. He led Virginia to a national title, and he coached as Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed.

On the whole, though, UVA has a 13-6 record in NCAA tournament play under Bennett. For bettors, however, UVA has not been reliable whatsoever. The Cavaliers are 7-12 against the spread in tournament play under Bennett and just 2-6 ATS in the first round. As a first-round favorite, UVA is 1-5 against the spread.

This year, Virginia is dealing with some COVID-19 issues yet is still favored by 7.5 points as a No. 4 seed against Ohio. It might be best to tread lightly when it comes to Virginia.

Leonard Hamilton, Florida State

There are two sides to the coin with Leonard Hamilton in the NCAA tournament. Between his stops at Miami and Florida State, Hamilton’s teams are 7-2 against the spread as an underdog during March Madness.

As a favorite, however, things get dicey. Hamilton’s FSU teams are 2-8 against the spread as favorites in NCAA tournament play, including a 1-5 record against the spread during the first round. Only once, as a one-point favorite over Texas A&M in 2011, have the Seminoles covered the spread as a first-round favorite.

Can the Seminoles break that trend this year? They are currently 11-point favorites against UNC Greensboro in a 4-13 matchup in the East Region.

Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

Oklahoma is the fifth university Lon Kruger has coached in the NCAA tournament. This year’s trip will be the seventh for Kruger with the Sooners. The previous trips have not gone well for bettors backing OU.

Though OU has a respectable 7-6 record in the tournament under Kruger, OU is just 4-9 against the spread during that span. In the first round, the Sooners have covered the spread just once in six tries. That happened in 2019, the most recent NCAA tournament.

Before that, OU had gone five consecutive first-round matchups without covering the spread — including all three times as a favorite. The Sooners are favorites again this season, this time by two points as the No. 8 seed in the West Region against No. 9 seed Missouri.

OU hasn’t done well as an underdog either, going 2-5 against the spread in seven tournament games under Kruger.

Roy Williams, North Carolina

Roy Williams is a Hall of Fame coach with two national championships and a national runner-up finish during his tenure at North Carolina. In recent years, though, UNC has been unkind to bettors.

In UNC’s last 10 NCAA tournament games, it is just 3-6-1 against the spread. The Tar Heels were favorites in all 10 of those games. They are favorites again this year and currently are listed as 1.5-point favorites in their first-round matchup against Wisconsin. UNC is just 1-6 against the spread in its last seven first-round games.

If UNC gets past Wisconsin, a matchup with No. 1 seed Baylor would likely be on the horizon. Should that come to fruition, UNC would find itself playing the rare role of underdog. UNC has been an underdog just five times in its last 30 NCAA tournament games. UNC is 0-5 ATS in those games.

If you are looking for a Tar Heels trend to back, you may want to look toward the under, which is 7-2-1 in UNC’s last 10 NCAA tournament games.

Greg McDermott, Creighton

Creighton hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2014.

The Blue Jays are 3-5 in NCAA tournament games under Greg McDermott, with a lowly 2-6 mark against the spread. In first-round games, the Blue Jays are 2-3 against the spread, but just 1-3 ATS as a favorite in Round 1.

This year, Creighton, the No. 5 seed in the West Region, is a 7.5-point favorite against No. 12 seed UC Santa Barbara. Could the Gauchos be poised for an upset?

Creighton head coach Greg McDermott talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Butler in the Big East conference tournament Thursday, March 11, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Creighton head coach Greg McDermott talks to his team during the first half against Butler in the Big East conference tournament March 11, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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