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Bill Self: national coach of the year?
After Kansas University stomped Missouri, 90-65, on Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse, a good friend sent me a text message:
"This team just continues to amaze me," it said.
Me too. Before Big 12 Conference play started, there's no way I would have thought the defending national champs would be sitting at 13-1 and on their way to a fifth straight conference title.
Few people are questioning the legitimacy of a KU team that easily had its most impressive week of the season, defeating then-No. 2 Oklahoma in Norman and dismantling then-No. 11 Mizzou in Lawrence.
It got me thinking: Should KU coach Bill Self be national coach of the year?
I'll say this much: No coach in America has done a better job of developing his team from October 2008 to March 2009. KU has won 13 of its last 14 games (all in Big 12 play) after starting the season 8-3 in the non-conference.
Self has as good an argument as anyone.
The criteria for national coach of the year is a bit perplexing, though.
Overachieving seems to outweigh excellence. To illustrate, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun and North Carolina coach Roy Williams aren't in the discussion for coach of the year, despite their teams being ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the latest Associated Press poll. The Big East and the ACC are the two best conferences in the land, and the coaches at the top of each conference get little to no consideration.
Here's who has won the award the last three years: John Calipari of Memphis, Tony Bennett of Washington State and Jay Wright of Villanova. Not exactly your historical powers.
Does this put Self at a disadvantage? I think he still has a good shot, considering the Jayhawks were a fringe top 25 team to start the season. Now, KU has an outside shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
A look at my candidates for coach of the year (be sure to post your picks in the comments section below):
1. Bill Self, Kansas
Argument: Losing six of the top seven scorers from last year's team? No problem. Losing all five starters from last year's team? No problem. Relying on three freshmen for major minutes and starting two of them? You get the idea. I don't think there's any doubt this is the best coaching job of Self's career.
2. Trent Johnson, LSU
Argument: LSU lured Johnson away from Stanford, and in his first year in Baton Rouge, he already has the Tigers at 25-4 and No. 12 in the nation. LSU went 13-18 last year. This year, they've already wrapped up the SEC title. His case is as strong as any for national COY.
3. Mike Anderson, Missouri
Argument: Just last season, Tigers were 16-16 and missed the NCAA Tournament. Anderson has brilliantly mixed experience (Leo Lyons, DeMarre Carroll) with youth (Kim English, Keith Ramsey, Marcus Denmon), and has effectively brought back the 40 minutes of hell style of full-court pressure defense (with the exception of Sunday). Missouri, at 24-5, is No. 15 in the nation. With such a drastic one-year turnaround, Anderson is making a strong case.
4. Bruce Weber, Illinois
Argument: A season after going 16-19 (including a 5-13 mark in league play), Weber has the Fighting Illini at 23-7 (11-6 in Big Ten) without a celebrated recruiting class. They've been consistently ranked this season and are No. 23 in the latest AP poll.
5. Jeff Capel, Oklahoma
Argument: Had expectations not been so high in Norman this season, Capel would be higher on my list. For what it's worth, SI.com's Seth Davis picked Capel as his national COY at the end of last month.
I'll conclude this entry with the latest edition of the Sorrentino Scale. The number that follows in parenthesis is what place the team was ranked last week:
- 1 (1). Oklahoma (26-3, 12-2): Top spot up for debate. Hopefully, we'll get our answer in the Big 12 tournament title game.
- 2 (2). Kansas (24-5, 13-1): Is there anyone in the nation on more of a roll right now?
- 3 (3). Missouri (24-5, 11-3): Showdown city on Wednesday when Sooners roll into town.
- 4 (4). Kansas State (20-9, 8-6): 20-point loss in Columbia somewhat alarming.
- 5 (6). Oklahoma State (19-9, 8-6): Making run at NCAA Tournament with nice victory over Texas.
- 6 (5). Texas (19-9, 8-6): Hot one minute, cold the next.
- 7 (8). Texas A&M (21-8, 7-7): Aggies doing their best to stay alive in NCAA Tournament hunt. They've won four straight and close at Colorado, then are at home to Mizzou. Win both and they'll have a strong case.
- 8 (7). Nebraska (16-11, 6-8): No longer in NCAA Tournament discussion after three straight losses.
- 9 (9). Baylor (17-11, 5-9): I wouldn't read too much into that convincing Colorado win.
- 10 (10). Iowa State (14-15, 3-11): If Craig Brackins comes back next year, Cyclones could rise to middle of pack in conference.
- 11 (11). Texas Tech (12-17, 2-12): Need recruits badly.
- 12 (12). Colorado (9-19, 1-13): Not much to say here.
That's all for now, friends. As always, discuss.