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Crunch the Numbers: How do Chris Holtmann’s first four seasons stack up to his Big Ten counterparts?

The perception of Holtmann’s first four seasons in Columbus varies depending on who you ask. Well, how do his first four years stack up to everyone else’s?

Ohio State v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Whether you think Chris Holtmann has under-achieved (not making it to the second weekend of the tournament yet) or over-achieved (a ton of regular season wins, including ranked wins), it’s always good to keep things in perspective. It’s easy to look around college basketball and find examples of coaches who took over a program and immediately elevated it to new heights —like Eric Musselman at Arkansas— as well as coaches who couldn’t even get the plane off the ground, — like Archie Miller at Indiana (RIP).

To show how Holtmann stacks up to his Big Ten counterparts, we’re going to break down the first four seasons of each current B1G head coach at their current program. If they have not been a head coach for four seasons, we will note that. If they’ve been a head coach for longer than four seasons, but for less than four years at their current school, we will note that as well. And if they’ve been the had coach at one program for say, 26 years, we will still only be looking at the first four.

Does Ohio State have it better than we think, or does the head ball coach have some serious work to do? Let’s dig in:


Chris Holtmann (Ohio State)

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Record in first four seasons at Ohio State: 87-44 (.664)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 10.61
B1G titles: 0
B1G tournament titles: 0
Tournament appearances: 3
Tournament record: 2-3

The biggest knock on Holtmann right now is his success (or lack thereof) in the NCAA Tournament. Had COVID-19 not cancelled the 2020 NCAA Championship, he would be 4-4 in tournament appearances, but the Buckeyes have yet to get out of the second round so far. Year five will be a big one for Holtmann, as the regular season success needs to translate into a deep tournament run before the fans start getting antsy for a change.


Brad Underwood (Illinois)

Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament - Ohio State v Illinois Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Record in first four seasons at Illinois: 71-56 (.559)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 10.06
B1G titles: 0
B1G tournament titles: 1
Tournament appearances: 1
Tournament record: 1-1

Another team that would have made the tournament two seasons ago, Underwood’s tenure at Illinois started with two poor seasons, but it seems he’s righted the ship. Despite a disappointing loss to Loyola-Chicago in the second round of this year’s tournament, Illinois was one of the most dominant teams all season long. Underwood’s start at Illinois may have been rocky, but their trajectory is upwards heading into 2021 and beyond.


Mike Woodson (Indiana)

New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Mike Woodson was announced as the next head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers on March 28, 2021. He replaces Archie Miller following his four unceremonious seasons at the helm of the IU basketball program. Woodson — the fifth-leading scorer in IU history— returned home to the same school he played at 40 years ago. He has never been a college basketball coach at any point in his career until now. Following an 11-year playing career in the NBA, Woodson coached in the NBA as an assistant and head coach for the next 25 years, before being hired at IU this spring.


Fran McCaffery (Iowa)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 03 Iowa at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Record in first four seasons at Iowa: 74-63 (.540)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 7.42
B1G titles: 0
B1G tournament titles: 0
Tournament appearances: 1
Tournament record: 0-1

Like many coaches making the jump from smaller schools to the B1G, McCaffery’s Iowa tenure didn’t start out too hot, winning fewer than 20 games each of his first two seasons and missing the NCAA Tournament each of his first three. During year four, his Hawkeyes went 20-12 and earned a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament before getting bounced in the first round to 11-seed Tennessee.


Mark Turgeon (Maryland)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 12 Big Ten Tournament - Maryland v Michigan Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Record in first four seasons at Maryland: 87-50 (.635)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 6.58
B1G/ACC titles: 0
B1G/ACC tournament titles: 0
Tournament appearances: 1
Tournament record: 1-1

Turgeon has been consistently good since he arrived at Maryland in 2011, making the NCAA Tournament six times and winning one B1G title. However, only one of those tournament appearances came during his first four seasons. During the 2014-15 season, Maryland went 28-7, but were bounced by 5-seed West Virginia in the second round of the tournament.


Juwan Howard (Michigan)

LSU v Michigan Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Record in first two seasons at Michigan: 42-17 (.712)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 11.21
B1G titles: 1
B1G tournament titles: 0
Tournament appearances: 1
Tournament record: 3-1

Howard’s Wolverines probably would have made the NCAA Tournament in 2020 had COVID not happened, so he has not had a season yet that was not worthy of postseason play. Despite never coaching in college before taking the Michigan job, Howard’s transition from the NBA to NCAA has been as smooth as they come, winning his first B1G title in year two while advancing all the way to the Elite 8 this past season. His next two years will be telling, but he very well may end up having the best four-year start on this list.


Tom Izzo (Michigan State)

Michigan State v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Record in first four seasons at Michigan State: 88-41 (.682)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 9.28
B1G titles: 1
B1G tournament titles: 2
Tournament appearances: 2
Tournament record: 6-2

There’s not much more to say about Tom Izzo than he’s one of the best to ever do it. After two very “meh” seasons in East Lansing from 1995-1997, Izzo’s Spartans turned on the jets, winning the B1G championship during his third AND fourth seasons, while also making a Final Four run during year number four. He hasn’t slowed down since then, winning eight more B1G titles as well as a national championship in 2000.


Ben Johnson (Minnesota)

Former Minnesota player and Minnesota/Xavier assistant coach Ben Johnson was named the next coach at the University of Minnesota on March 21, 2021. He has never been a head coach at the collegiate level and therefore has no record to analyze. Minnesota’s roster went over a drastic overhaul this offseason, so year No. 1 of the Johnson regime should be interesting.


Fred Hoiberg (Nebraska)

Nebraska v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Record in first two seasons at Nebraska: 14-45 (.237)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 11.47
B1G titles: 0
B1G tournament titles: 0
Tournament appearances: 0
Tournament record: 0-0
Days when Hoiberg made the face in the above photo: Many

Hoiberg’s first two seasons at Nebraska have been a shitstorm, inside a tornado, inside a hurricane. He was able to secure five-star guard Bryce McGowens in the 2021 class, but one player does not make a team, and this roster in particular is always in flux. Hoiberg will probably win more than his current average of seven (woof) games next season, but his days in Lincoln could be numbered.


Chris Collins

Northwestern v Wisconsin Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Record in first four seasons at Northwestern: 73-60 (.548)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 7.08
B1G titles: 0
B1G tournament titles: 0
Tournament appearances: 1
Tournament record: 1-1

Chris Collins led Northwestern to their first ever NCAA Tournament in 2017 (his fourth season), but he hasn’t been back since, and the fanbase is quickly falling out of love with him. He’s essentially had two good seasons sandwiched in between six bad ones, including last season when he won nine games. Collins’ first four years at Northwestern made people think this was a program on the rise, but immediately after that NCAA tournament appearance, things sunk back to where they were when he first arrived in Evanston.


Micah Shrewsberry (Penn State)

Former Butler, Purdue, and Boston Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry was introduced as the next head coach at Penn State on March 15, 2021. He has never been a head coach at the DI-level, but was the head coach of NAIA Indiana University South Bend from 2005-2007, amassing a win-loss record of 15-48 over two seasons.


Matt Painter (Purdue)

Vermont v Purdue Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Record in first four seasons at Purdue: 83-50 (.624)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 7.14
B1G titles: 0
B1G tournament titles: 1
Tournament appearances: 3
Tournament record: 4-3

Folks, Matt Painter is elite. And we don’t seem to talk about it, or put him in the conversation with some of the other great coaches in the country for some reason? Painter made the NCAA Tournament three times during his first four seasons, taking the Boilermakers to the Sweet Sixteen in year four. Not that it matters (because we’re only looking at the first four seasons), but he won his first B1G title the following year, in season number five. Painter just keeps on going year in and year out, and somehow we let him continue to fly under the radar.


Steve Pikiell (Rutgers)

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 21 Nebraska at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Record in first four seasons at Rutgers: 64-65 (.496)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 8.12
B1G titles: 0
B1G tournament titles: 0
Tournament appearances: 0
Tournament record: 0-0

The numbers are deceiving, because Pikiell’s Rutgers teams have gotten a little bit better every year since he arrived, and the Rutgers basketball program was an absolute joke before he was hired in 2016. Rutgers would have made the NCAA Tournament in 2020 (his fourth season) if it hadn’t been for COVID. While it doesn’t fall under the four-year requirement for this piece, Rutgers did make the NCAA Tournament in 2021, their first appearance in the big dance in 30 years.


Greg Gard (Wisconsin)

Wisconsin v Xavier Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Record in first four seasons at Wisconsin: 80-47 (.629)
Average SOS (strength of schedule): 9.82
B1G titles: 0
B1G tournament titles: 0
Tournament appearances: 3
Tournament record: 4-3

The transition from Bo Ryan to Greg Gard in 2015 was odd and kind of felt like an arranged marriage (there was never really a coaching search by the Wisconsin Athletic Department, Bo Ryan just kind of stepped down and said “Here’s your new coach!”), but Gard was great during his first four seasons, taking Wisconsin to three NCAA Tournaments and two Sweet Sixteens. They won a B1G title in Gard’s fifth season, so maybe Bo Ryan knew what he was taking about when he bypassed the whole hiring process and just told Wisconsin that Gard was his replacement.