College basketball predictions: Grant McCasland, Kim English will excel in Year 1

Sometimes, all you need is the right coach. Just look at the impressive turnarounds achieved by first-year head coaches in college basketball. Last season, Jerome Tang led Kansas State to a 12-win improvement and an Elite Eight appearance. Dennis Gates guided Missouri to a 13-win improvement and a trip to the NCAA Tournament second round. Kevin Willard took Maryland to the NCAA Tournament in his debut season at College Park, while Sean Miller brought Xavier to the Sweet 16 after a three-year absence from the big dance.

Now, the question is, which first-year power-conference head coaches will have a similar impact this season? We asked our panel of experts for their predictions, but with one caveat: we excluded legendary coach Rick Pitino to make things more interesting. So, who else could make a splash?

Our panel voted for Kim English and Grant McCasland as the coaches most likely to have the most wins in their first year. English, at 35 years old, has impressed with his ability to lead. Despite a relatively short coaching record, he won over the Providence athletic director and president during the hiring process. He also received a glowing endorsement from Rick Barnes, a former coach at Providence. English takes over a Providence team with NCAA Tournament potential and a solid roster, including top recruit Bryce Hopkins and returning key players. While Providence was predicted to finish seventh in the Big East, English has the opportunity to energize Friars fans in his first season.

McCasland, on the other hand, has a track record of turning programs around. He led Arkansas State to a 20-win season in his lone year there and did the same at North Texas before taking over at Texas Tech. Although the Red Raiders face the challenge of replacing key players from last season’s roster, McCasland’s defensive-minded approach and ability to grind out wins could help them reach the NCAA Tournament. With a relatively weak nonconference schedule, a .500 conference record and 20 wins overall are within reach for Texas Tech.

Adrian Autry takes over the Syracuse program after the retirement of legendary coach Jim Boeheim. While Autry has big shoes to fill, he brings new energy and a commitment to modernizing the team’s defensive strategy. With a talented roster that includes guard Judah Mintz and transfer Naheem McLeod, Autry has the potential to keep the Orange in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth.

Similarly, Ed Cooley faces the challenge of replacing a beloved coach in his debut season at Georgetown. However, Cooley has a proven track record of success and the ability to recruit top talent. While he may not restore Georgetown to its former glory, Cooley is expected to bring consistency and excitement back to the program.

Lastly, Josh Eilert will serve as the interim head coach for West Virginia this season. With 16 years of experience on the coaching staff, Eilert brings stability and institutional knowledge to the team. He also has a talented roster, including a strong group of transfers. Eilert will implement a new system and aims to prove himself as the interim head coach.

Overall, these first-year power-conference head coaches have the potential to make a significant impact on their respective programs. While success is not guaranteed, their unique qualities and the talent at their disposal make for an exciting season ahead.


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