The Atlanta Tipoff Club named the five finalists for the 2014 Naismith Men's College Basketball Coach of the Year Award on Thursday, and it figures to be one of the most interesting votes in recent memory.
According to the official press release, Michigan's John Beilein, Virginia's Tony Bennett, SMU's Larry Brown, Florida's Billy Donovan and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall will vie for the title of college basketball's best coach.
That list was confirmed by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com:
Naismith COY Finalists: Billy Donovan, Gregg Marshall, Tony Bennett, John Beilein and Larry Brown.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 20, 2014
All five candidates certainly have their merits, and all of them can potentially stake claim to the award.
Who will win the 2014 Naismith Coach of the Year Award?
Donovan's Gators finished the season with a perfect record in the SEC, and they enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 team in the nation.
Brown is the most accomplished coach on the list; however, he is probably the biggest underdog. Brown didn't lead the Mustangs to the NCAA tournament (they are part of the NIT), but he did manage to help SMU win 24 games after winning just 15 last season.
However, Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports wouldn't have had Brown on his list of finalists:
Marshall is the only coach to lead his team to an undefeated record this season. The Shockers finished the regular season with a perfect 34-0 mark after reaching the Final Four in 2013.
Bennett's Cavaliers are among college basketball's most surprising teams, as they shockingly nabbed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Beilein has managed to build upon Michigan's national title game appearance last year by establishing the Wolverines as one of the top contenders to win it all once again this year.
It would be difficult to argue with any of these coaches as Coach of the Year, but Marshall has to be considered the favorite as the only coach who hasn't tasted defeat.
Based on his comments prior to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament (per Roger Kuznia of Sporting News), Marshall couldn't be happier with the way his team has performed:
Very proud. Very proud of these guys, how they handled this. There's been a lot of focus, both positive and negative about this team. Every day they've come to work. They've worked extremely hard, they a great group of young men, they're fun to be around and they deserve to be 31-0.
Even though Wichita State's level of competition wasn't on par with some of the best teams in the nation, Marshall's squad was prepared and executed well every time it hit the floor.
A soft schedule could hurt Marshall's chances in the eyes of the voters, but look for him to ultimately come out on top.
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