Forget Jim Calhoun. Place Roy Williams aside. Sorry Jamie Dixon. And you Coach Capel...tremendous job, but Oklahoma had a freakish future NBA star returning.
Plain and simple, this aforementioned quartet was expected to win this season—and win each did.
Some teams exceed expectations, while others come out of nowhere. Either way you slice it, more often than not, a team’s success comes down to coaching—and while there have been various top coach lists coming out in recent days, here are 10 candidates that really should be considered the favorites for Coach of the Year in College Hoops...
Tyrese Rice was the only senior on BC’s roster, and in a deep ACC, a down year was expected for the Eagles.
Give credit to Coach Skinner, who has gotten many of his younger players to step up their game, most notably sophomores Corey Raji and Joe Trapani.
The result so far is a wide range of new scoring options to take the heat off Rice, a 20-win season, and a great shot at an NCAA berth.
The Tigers lost their SEC opener on January 11 at Alabama.
Since that day, LSU hasn’t lost a conference game, running off 13 straight victories.
Johnson, in his first year at LSU, has taken this team from a 13-18 record, to nearly double the victory total to date.
If the overall depth of the SEC wasn’t in question, he would likely be higher on this list.
When was the last time the Nittany Lions were relevant in college basketball?
Most of you had to think about it.
The answer is the 2000-2001 season, when they upset No. 2 seed North Carolina to make the Sweet 16.
Coach DeChellis, potentially sitting in a hot seat as the year began, has pushed Penn State from a stretch of under .500 seasons to 20-wins this season, and a spot on the tournament bubble, with hopes of earning a berth come Selection Sunday.
Some may argue Coach Cal belongs off this list and coupled with the other elite teams.
But while losing three players to the NBA, including the top overall pick in Derrick Rose, Memphis wasn’t expected to be this good, even with players like Tyreke Evans coming on board.
Still, the Tigers have rattled off 20 straight wins, the unblemished Conference USA streak continues, and Calipari and company have an outside shot to steal away a No. 1 seed in the big dance.
Montgomery proved this year that he’s easily one of the best coaches in the game.
The former Stanford head returned this year to the Pac-10, and what did he do?
He took a team that finished ninth in the conference last season, and vaulted them to a double-digit conference win total, and a likely berth in the tournament.
Strolling under the radar, the Seminoles were in the ACC title hunt until late February.
Even today, Florida State is a ranked team sporting 22 wins, plus a number of close losses to teams like Pitt, Duke, Carolina, and Wake Forest.
Led by Coach Hamilton, Toney Douglas and a very young team have responded and played tournament-worthy basketball throughout the year.
Sure, the Tigers returned four starters, but from a team that finished 16-16 overall, and 6-10 in the Big 12 conference last season.
This year has featured a solid turnaround, with a talented frontcourt of DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons, who have helped Coach Anderson lead Missouri to a 24-5 record, along with what will likely be a fairly high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Stevens entered his sophomore season as the head guy at Butler with only one returning starter from a team that gave Tennessee headaches in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
But the Bulldogs haven’t skipped a beat, once again landing on top of the Horizon League.
Ranked, and holding a 25-4 record, Coach Stevens has this youthful team performing at a high level yet again.
The Huskies, 16-17 overall last season, returned a few talented seniors, while adding a sparkplug freshman in Isaiah Thomas.
And while everyone had penciled in UCLA as the regular season conference champion, Washington has emerged under Coach Romar, already posting 13 conference victories, while having four players averaging in double figures.
Not only is this team the likely Pac-10 champion, but also could make some noise in the big dance.
Most prognosticators had teams like Oklahoma and Texas finishing well ahead of the Jayhawks this season, and who could blame them as the returning champs lost five players to the NBA, including three underclassmen.
The new and returning talent has responded, and Kansas is on top of the Big 12, with its only conference loss being a two-point defeat at Missouri.
Coach Self and Kansas once again find themselves ranked in the top 10, and another deep run in March is certainly not out of the question.