It is nearing the end of the college basketball season and with the season almost in the books, some coaches have separated themselves from their peers. With all of the disarray in college basketball this season, this may be the most competitive year for the coach of the year award.
These are my top five contenders for coach of the year (in no particular order):
- Chris Mack, Xavier
Xavier has had the best regular season in school history and currently have a record of 25-4. They recently beat Villanova, the number one team in the country at the time. Mack has the Musketeers in contention to win the Big East, if they get some help by Villanova losing, and also for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. The Musketeers have a lot of depth, making Mack’s greatest accomplishment the balance of playing time between all of his great players. With the talent of Xavier’s players and the possible Coach of the Year in Chris Mack, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Musketeers in the Final Four.
- Shaka Smart, Texas
Shaka Smart finally left VCU for a bigger job and took a little bit of a rebuilding job at Texas. Texas has some talent, but former coach Rick Barnes never seemed to get the most out of his talent. Smart is winning with the players that Barnes couldn’t, and he didn’t even recruit them. At VCU, Smart was great at getting the most out of his players and he is doing the same so far at Texas. Now Texas will likely be in the NCAA Tournament, making the future look bright for the Longhorns.
- King Rice, Monmouth
Monmouth has been so good this season that if they don’t win the MAAC tournament, they will still get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Rice has led his players against some great teams this season as Monmouth has won games against USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and Georgetown. With so many good wins for a mid-major team, Rice has to be in the conversation for Coach of the Year. Also he lets the bench celebrate, which makes him a great coach to the players.
- Avery Johnson, Alabama
Alabama wasn’t supposed to make the NCAA tournament this season. Avery Johnson is in his first year as head coach of Alabama and the Crimson Tide will make the dance this season. Former Alabama coach Anthony Grant only got Alabama to the tournament one time in his tenure. Johnson being on this list should come as no surprise, because he won Coach of the Year in the NBA as the coach of the Dallas Mavericks.
- Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Lon Kruger didn’t start out with much when he took over at Oklahoma, but now he has the Sooners in contention for a national title. They might end up coming just short in the Big 12 championship race, but Kruger has led the Sooners to 22 wins this season and possibly a number one seed. Winning 22 games this season while being in the Big 12 is no small feat, as the Big 12 is the best conference in college basketball.
Other Notable contenders: Fran McCaffery (Iowa), Jay Wright (Villanova), Dana Altman (Oregon), Tony Bennett (Virginia), Bill Self (Kansas)