NCAA Tournament Betting Trends: Best & Worst Coaches Against the Spread

NCAA Tournament Betting Trends: Best & Worst Coaches Against the Spread article feature image

Pictured: Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

A lot of big-name, tenured head coaches have retired over the past few years – Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jay Wright, et cetera.

It’s always a bit sad to see the end of an era, however it also means a new crop of head coaches is ready to step into the spotlight.

So, which head coaches are ready to capture the nation’s attention?

How about the ones with some solid tournament experience? The ones who have overachieved in their limited experience on the big stage and are ready to take the next step.

So, I pose the question: Which active coaches in this year’s tournament have performed the best? Specifically, which ones have performed the best ATS? That's the true test of whether a team is beating expectations.

I set out to find the answer using Sports Insight’s Bet Labs tools. Bet Labs’ database has ATS data from over two decades and you can build your own betting systems using the service.

That being said, let’s investigate which coaches in this year’s tournament have performed the best and the worst from an ATS perspective.

Best NCAA Tournament Head Coaches ATS

ATS Record
Profit (Units)
Andy Enfield9-26.55
John Calipari31-23-36.24
Sean Miller17-115.19
Matt Painter18-124.83
Paul Mills3-02.82

You’d think Andy Enfield’s ATS tournament success would come from the Florida Gulf Coast run. While it’s true the 2013 Eagles went 3-0 ATS on their way to the Sweet 16, Enfield’s tournament success didn’t end there.

Enfield covered his first six NCAA Tournament games as coach of the USC Trojans, including 2021’s run to the Elite Eight.

However, Enfield hasn’t covered in his past two NCAA Tournament games, including an outright first-round loss against Miami last year as 2.5-point favorites.

Enfield’s Trojans are short first-round dogs to Michigan State this year, and I’m thinking about taking that.

It’s a bit surprising to see John Calipari on this list, but maybe I’m applying too much recency bias to his recent failures. In reality, Calipari has been a consistent force in the NCAA Tournament, covering seven of eight games between 2017 and 2019.

Sean Miller is the most fascinating case study on this list. Miller went 8-1-1 ATS in the NCAA Tournament, and then turned around and went 9-11 ATS with Arizona. There is no way to know how he’ll perform back with Xavier.

The Boilermakers are going to be a popular fade this tournament season. Purdue is overvalued in the markets and a second-round Memphis play will be very public. However, Matt Painter has been a consistent force in this event.

The Boilermakers even went 2-1 ATS in the dance last season, although their most recent loss was a stunner against Saint Peter’s as a 13-point favorite.

Paul Mills and Max Abmas are 6.5-point underdogs to Duke in the first round, and that’s a line I will be hammering. Hopefully, Mills moves to 4-0 in the dance.

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Worst NCAA Tournament Head Coaches ATS

ATS Record
Profit (Units)
Rick Barnes8-19-11.36
Mark Few19-27-1-8.94
Jamie Dixon8-14-6.42
Tony Bennett10-15-5.4
Greg McDermott5-9-1-4.42

I write this head coaches article every year, and every year I’m amazed at how poorly Rick Barnes has performed in this tournament.

Not only is Barnes the least-profitable coach in this tournament, but his Volunteers are also 2-13 ATS in their past 15 tournament games. Barnes is the most consistent fade in NCAA Tournament history.

It’s shocking to see Mark Few on this list, although the Zags have always underperformed in the dance. It’s also hard to consistently cover in this tournament when you get in every year.

Additionally, Few’s Zags have failed to cover in their past five tournament games, all as favorites.

Hopefully, Jamie Dixon’s Frogs are heating up. They covered in both NCAA Tournament games last year.

Of course, the injury to Eddie Lampkin Jr. doesn’t bode well.

Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers went 2-5 ATS in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 tournaments, culminating in the first-round UMBC upset. The Cavaliers have since rebounded, going 3-3 ATS.

It’s tough for the Cavaliers to cover big numbers because their pace is so glacial. Virginia has failed to cover the past three times it was a three-possession NCAA Tournament favorite.

Greg McDermott’s squads went 2-8 ATS in his first seven tournament tries, but the Bluejays are 3-1 ATS since. This year’s squad has a great draw, and I’m high on them to cover five against NC State in the first round.

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Nick Sterling
May 26, 2024 UTC