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Ohio State's Chris Holtmann leads the way among first-year coaches

In May, when I attempted to forecast how well each first-year head coach would fare this season, Chris Holtmann hadn't even been hired at Ohio State.

Today is the day I address this oversight. You might have noticed the Buckeyes head coach is having a fairly good season, and he is now among his fellow rookies of 2018, where he belongs.

This is how I would rank the coaching performances we've seen from this group thus far, with the previous rankings also listed so you can see just how much things have changed.

1. Chris Holtmann, Ohio State (19-5, 10-1 Big Ten)

Previous: N/A

Any of the other nine coaches listed here would have given his eyeteeth for a player the caliber of Keita Bates-Diop, who has been terrorizing opposing defenses from both sides of the arc. Holtmann would be the first to point out that having a conference-POY-level performer anchoring your offense is going to make you look like a really smart coach.

That being said, Holtmann has more than earned all the plaudits that have come his way. Indeed, the year-to-year turnaround Ohio State has recorded on defense, in particular, has been remarkable. The Buckeyes have held their Big Ten opponents to 0.97 points per possession, the best such figure (for now, by a hair) in the league.

Meanwhile, OSU has suddenly become a paragon of wise shot selection, draining no less than 58 percent of its 2-point tries in conference play. Defense and shot selection are pretty fair markers of good coaching, and Ohio State has a very good coach.

2. Kevin Keatts, NC State (15-7, 5-4 ACC)

Previous: No. 6

Based on where his team was expected to be at this point, Keatts has worked wonders. NC State has wins over Arizona, Duke, Clemson and North Carolina (in Chapel Hill).

With a résumé like that, an NCAA tournament bid is a real possibility for a Wolfpack team that does some of its best work where it's hardest to spot. Opposing offenses have absolutely feasted against NC State on the interior, but in ACC play the Wolfpack have a clear and crucial advantage in turnovers.

Getting more chances to score (along with chasing opponents off the 3-point line) has allowed Allerik Freeman, Torin Dorn, Braxton Beverly, Omer Yurtseven & Co. to make the jump to tournament consideration faster than anticipated.

3. LaVall Jordan, Butler Bulldogs (16-7; 6-4 in Big East)
Previous: N/A

Jordan inherited all the disadvantages of late timing that faced the former Bulldogs coach, Holtmann, when the latter took the job at Ohio State. And, like Holtmann, Jordan has performed superbly, up to and including beating the Buckeyes earlier this season. That, plus a win over Villanova (the only defeat suffered by the Wildcats so far), demonstrates how the first-year coach has put together quite a season. Having Kelan Martin on your first team is a help, certainly, but Jordan has the Bulldogs as a team playing good D on the interior and scoring with high efficiency.

4. Cuonzo Martin, Missouri (14-8, 4-5 SEC)

Previous: No. 3

Martin has had to play the season without Michael Porter Jr., making Missouri one of the more curious perceptual cases of recent college basketball experience.

We agree that the Tigers aren't everything they would have been with Porter, surely, but this does Martin a bit of a disservice. Ordinarily, we'd be pointing at Missouri as it is and marveling at how much better this team is than it was just last season. Among other things, this is a dangerous 3-point-shooting team, with Jordan Barnett and Kassius Robertson keeping opposing defenses on their toes beyond the arc.

In the space of just one season, Martin has brought Missouri from the cellar to the midsection of an improving SEC. Not bad.

5. Will Wade, LSU (12-9, 3-6 SEC)

Previous: No. 8

Wade might be ranked No. 4, but let's be clear about one thing: The transformation of the LSU defense from last season (when it was possibly the worst in Power 5 conferences) to this season (when it's so-so) is as dramatic as anything I've seen in 2018.

The Tigers aren't what you'd call formidable on the boards, but Wade has brought the "havoc" style from VCU and installed it with a minimum of fuss or culture-building.

SEC opponents are giving the ball away on 21 percent of their possessions. Freshman point guard Tremont Waters helped those defensive numbers along with eight steals in the Tigers' win over Texas A&M last week.

6. Mike Boynton, Oklahoma State (13-9, 3-6 Big 12)

Previous: No. 2

Jeffrey Carroll has been a bit less efficient than his rather amazing junior season of a year ago, yet Boynton has the Cowboys at 13-9 overall while playing in arguably the toughest conference in the nation.

The new coach already has his team denying 3-point attempts, and that has been important. In Big 12 play, opposing offenses are hitting 42 percent of the 3s they do launch.

7. Mike Hopkins, Washington (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12)

Previous: No. 7

So the 2-3 zone can work in venues besides the Carrier Dome, even on the West Coast. Now that truth can be told.

In fact, the zone has worked at Washington far beyond anyone's expectations, propelling the Huskies to the top of the Pac-12 in terms of defensive prowess. Only an offense that has struggled (and thus has kept UW off radar screens nationally) has kept us from having a long overdue discussion on why more teams don't play zone.

8. Archie Miller, Indiana (12-11, 5-6 Big Ten)

Previous: No. 1

Indiana has lost four of its past five games -- though, to be fair, one of the losses was a game in which the Hoosiers gave Purdue absolutely everything the Boilermakers could handle.

Miller has been able to address more or less straight away what had previously been a nagging turnover issue, but the point has been moot, for now, because the offense itself has fallen down a flight of stairs.

9. Brad Underwood, Illinois (12-11, 2-8 Big Ten)

Previous: No. 4

Underwood has stuck with the same takeaway-oriented, feast-or-famine defense that he scrapped a year ago at Oklahoma State after the Cowboys opened Big 12 play 0-6.

The Illini's defense is bad but not horrible. Perhaps a more conventional scheme would achieve a similar bottom-line result, though with fewer takeaways and way fewer fouls. In the meantime, the Illini are already hitting the offensive glass in a manner resembling an Underwood-coached team.

10. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown (13-8, 3-7 Big East)

Previous: No. 5

What does Ewing believe as a coach? We might reach next season without knowing an answer to that question.

Georgetown has recorded far and away the highest turnover rate of any team in Big East play, albeit while achieving decent success in getting to the line.

On defense, the Hoyas are redressing that turnover imbalance slightly with a fair number of takeaways.

11. Wyking Jones, California (7-16, 1-9 Pac-12)

Previous: No. 9

The Bears are just 7-16 overall, yet two of those wins were true road victories, at San Diego State and Stanford. Go figure.

Jones' team is outstanding at offensive rebounding. (Take a bow, Marcus Lee.) Other than that, these are bleak times for good performances in Berkeley.