Friday, February 17, 2017

Coach of the Year Candidates

It is impossible to argue with the job Mark Few has done in Spokane this year.  Even with a loss in the WCC tourney, they could easily be the number one overall seed out of a non-power conference.  The reason that I am not putting him on the top of my Coach of the Year short list is because he is basically doing the same thing he has done every year, and the Bulldogs continue to get results.  He is not necessarily exceeding expectations given the resources and competition faced.

1.     Andy Enfield, USC: Funny story.  When I was contemplating Enfield as a candidate, I was floored to realize that he is now in his fourth year at USC (not second- man FGCU seems like it was yesterday) and that he inherited the program from years of Kevin O’Neill damage, not just Tim Floyd fallout.  Holy crap!  Has USC been that anonymous for this long that the last 10 years are a total blur?  Was Mayo/Young the last time they really had any hope?  I pegged them to finish 5th again, but this is the 3rd best team in the conference, except in those rare instance UCLA decides to play both ways.
2.     Mike White, Florida: Billy Donovan left the program in decent shape, but this was expected to be a down year for Florida, likely sitting on the fringes of NCAA contention.  They are the best team in the SEC this year.  Maybe not the most talented team, but certainly the most effective team.  The Egbunu injury may take away any Final Four prospects, but this will remain a Top 15 team despite playing just 8 home games to date.
3.     Grant McCasland, Arkansas State: Remember when ASU was good? Me either.  They scheduled ambitiously and were rewarded with a 2-3 mark against the Top 100 non-conference… they would love another shot at Arlington.
4.     Scott Drew, Baylor: Like, literally spitting in the face of adversity.  He has kept a talented, but certainly not elite, team focused amid a brutal schedule and negative publicity… many people want to see Baylor fail, but certainly not the basketball team.
5.     Kermit Davis, MTSU: The Blue Raiders encore to throttling Michigan State last year has been to go 5-1 against the Top 100 (kenpom) and look like the best mid-major program nobody talks about.  It would be a travesty for a 5 loss MTSU team to miss out on the Dance if they get upset by decent ODU, Rice or LaTech teams.
6.     Mark Few, Gonzaga
7.     Bob Huggins, West Virginia: Just when you think the game has passed him by, Huggy Bear grabs a drink and takes you to school.  The shorter shot clock encourages teams to press more to prevent teams from getting into their offense.  However, most teams that press run standard configurations that can be exploited for 3 on 2 breaks, or pick up fouls taking poor angles.  The Mountaineers broke many a weak-willed teams with disciplined reaching and shifting to force horizontal movement, limiting the ball handler’s vision to take the next pass.  Players rotate quickly and everyone plays free safety when it’s their turn.  Huggins doesn’t have a deep lineup, but gets top seed performance when it clicks.
8.     John Becker, Vermont: The Cats brought back a solid 3rd place squad, but wasn’t expected to run the table like this.  Unfortunately, they missed all 4 opportunities to take a Top 50 win to secure their at large spot, but Becker’s name will be at the top of many coaching short lists.

Honorable Mentions: Cuonzo Martin, Rick Pitinos (both), Brad Underwood, Frank Martin, Dana Altman

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