Whenever a college basketball program spirals downward and a new coach takes over, it’s generally fair to temper expectations.

Let the new coach recruit his own players, the thinking goes. Allow him to properly implement his offensive and defensive schemes. That stuff can take time; some new coaches have a rough first three or four years before turning things around. There are countless examples — Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard comes to mind.


There are also several examples — perhaps more than you’d think — of new coaches taking over downtrodden programs and succeeding very quickly.

The conclusion? Turning around a college basketball program in three years or less isn’t easy. But it’s certainly possible, as we’re seeing this season. If you’re a fan of a struggling team, the fix may be years away. But nail a coaching hire, tap into a few key players’ potential and get a lucky bounce or two, and the path to becoming a contender can be short.

Here’s a look at currently successful teams whose hopes looked bleak not too long ago.

*Ohio State

The Buckeyes are ranked 22nd after missing the NCAA tournament the last two years. Thad Matta had a remarkable run in Columbus, but Ohio State’s arrow was pointing down. Insert Chris Holtmann — who’s done this before, as we’ll get to — and the Buckeyes are in contention for a Big Ten title.

In Holtmann’s first season at Butler, he took a team that wasn’t expected to make any noise and helped them earn a 6-seed in the NCAA tournament. Ohio State has a top-25 offense and defense, and Keita Bates-Diop is finally the player who many envisioned when he first set foot on campus. Bates-Diop is averaging 20.3 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 41 percent from 3; he averaged 9.7 points last season.