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Conference Call: Coach on the hottest seat in each power league

The news coming down this past week regarding the departure of Thad Matta surprised many, especially with the timing. Looking ahead to the 2017-18 season, we dissect the most sizzling of hot seats at each power conference and how important the 2018 recruiting class is for each respective program.

MORE: Ohio State makes right choice in Holtmann


Brad Brownell
Brad Brownell (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The heat is on for Brad Brownell at Clemson and after throwing more than $60 million into the renovation Littlejohn Coliseum, the hopes are that many more wins are on the way. Starting point guard Avry Holmes and primary scoring weapon Jaron Blossomgame are gone but Clemson has welcomed in transfers Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas last season and will also bring in a quality 2017 recruiting class featuring AJ Oliver, Clyde Trapp, Malik William and Aamir Simms. However, the elephant in the room remains the talents of in-state phenom Zion Williamson, a five-star rising senior whose stepfather once played at the school. Toss in the super talented 2019 class within the state, a group that showcases Christian Brown, Juwan Gary and Deuce Dean, and so it would be big for Brownell to show he can keep the best in the state.


Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Chris Mullin is almost on this list by default as the Big East is in good shape at almost every spot. After a disastrous 1-17 league record in his first year, Mullin went 7-11 in conference play in Year 2. Entering an important third season at St. John’s, Mullin’s bunch must take a leap ahead, a jump that will come with resistance thanks to the depth of the league. Talent is not lacking as the Red Storm will indoctrinate Justin Simon and Marvin Clark into their system, while also bringing back a star-studded backcourt with Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett. The Red Storm made nice work this spring by landing 2017 wing Sidney Wilson and former Florida State signee Bryan Trimble. The 2018 class will be even more vital to the long-term success of the program but thankfully for Mullin, the proper groundwork has been made with top local talents including Luther Muhammad, Lou King and Montez Mathis. St. John's remains a darkhorse for top-50 wing Nassir Little.



Tim Miles
Tim Miles (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Nebraska has suffered three straight losing seasons since it made its surprising run to the 2014 NCAA Tournament under then-second-year coach Tim Miles. The original thought was that the Cornhuskers would build onto their young foundation and consistent bids into the postseason would become the norm. Unfortunately for Miles, that has not been the case. Nebraska has regressed and heading into an offseason where Ed Morrow, Michael Jacobson and Jeriah Horne each decided to transfer, optimism is lacking. The need to win and win now is at hand but, thanks to the coaching change at NC State, the Cornhuskers were able reel in one of the top shooters in the 2017 class, Thomas Allen. Upside wing Nana Akaten could be one of the better surprises from the freshman class and a healthy Isaiah Roby could bring change for the better in Lincoln. The Huskers need to pick up notable wins this upcoming season and also hit the recruiting trail hard where, landing a combination of Keyshawn Embery, Trey’Von Hopkins and CJ Fredrick, is a must.


Bruce Weber
Bruce Weber (USA TODAY Sports Images)

There will be some heat on first-year head coach Mike Boynton at Oklahoma State but the biggest pressure remains on Bruce Weber. The Kansas State coach surprised some last season by leading his program back to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed. He is 21-33 in Big 12 play the last three seasons after making the NCAA tournament his first two years in Manhattan. Losing DJ Johnson and potential NBA Draft pick Wesley Iwundu is going to hurt. The Wildcats need to regroup fast as the reliance on Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown will be evident. The hope is that Dean Wade takes a step forward and becomes the face of the program as he has the chance to be an all-league member by the time March rolls around. If not, and the Wildcats fail to lands a prospect such as Karrington Davis or Miller Kopp, questions will persist surrounding the long-term future of Kansas State basketball.


Steve Alford
Steve Alford (USA TODAY Sports Images)

It is difficult to put Steve Alford back onto the hot seat, seeing that his teams have reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament three of his four years in Westwood. Bruins fans though, want championships and after the exiles of Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, the Bruins will be practically starting over from scratch. The returns of Aaron Holliday and Thomas Welsh cannot be understated but bringing in six new faces, each accustomed to being ‘the guy’, along with one-time contributor Prince Ali coming off of his redshirt, keeping everyone happy will be difficult. Talent will not be an issue, as it never has been for Alford at UCLA. However, expectations are different at UCLA – just ask Ben Howland. Final Fours are not only expected, they are demanded.


Bruce Pearl
Bruce Pearl (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Bruce Pearl enters his fourth season at Auburn with his most talented team and he has shown progress in each season, but it is time to make some noise. He is 16-38 in three years in the SEC, so a winning conference record will me the minimum of what he needs this year. Pearl has never been one to shy away from going toe-to-toe with some of the top programs nationally on the recruiting trail. During his tenure at Auburn, each of his classes have steadily improved and after landing three top-60 prospects in the 2017 class, one being Austin Wiley who enrolled mid-season and produced thereafter, it is Pearl’s job to put each of these talented pieces into their proper roles. The SEC, for the most part, is wide open. Horace Spencer, Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper must become the faces of the program while Wiley, Chuma Okeke and Davion Mitchell need to pitch in accordingly. Auburn has already landed five-star 2018 big man EJ Montgomery and 2019 power forward Jared Jones. In order for each to suit up for Pearl at Auburn, the Tigers need to make that last push and receive their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2003.