Bossi's Best: Early leaders for Coach of the Year honors
This week in Bossi’s Best, national analyst Eric Bossi takes a look at the top 10 conferences in the country and picks his mid-season Coach of the Year from each.
Three-Point Play: FutureCast picks, Cole Anthony, Kendall Brown
2022 Rankings: Top 75
AAC: FRANK HAITH, Tulsa
Why him?: Picked 10th in preseason, Tulsa has been the story of the American Athletic Conference and Frank Haith is having one heck of a season at the helm. There had been preseason hot seat talk but now Haith has his program in serious contention for the NCAA Tournament and riding a six-game win streak that has put the Golden Hurricane atop the AAC.
ACC: LEONARD HAMILTON, Florida State
Why him?: It seems like Leonard Hamilton is always quick to get recognition as a great recruiter but doesn’t always get the credit he’s due as a coach. Picked fifth by the media in preseason, Hamilton has the Seminoles squarely in contention for an ACC title and in the national top 10. The development of guard Devin Vassell has been huge.
ATLANTIC-10: ANTHONY GRANT, Dayton
Why him?: I don’t there’s any debate that Anthony Grant should be the runaway pick from the A-10. He should also be on the short list for national Coach of the Year candidates. Dayton was expected to be a tourney contender this year, but who could have expected them to be this good? Under Grant’s leadership the Flyers are undefeated in conference, ranked No. 6 nationally and have a viable National Player of the Year candidate in forward Obi Toppin.
BIG 12: SCOTT DREW, Baylor
Why him?: This one is another easy call. Scott Drew has built Baylor into a perennial contender in the Big 12 and the Bears were picked second in the preseason. However, the Bears have run through a pretty tough schedule while ascending to No. 1 in the national rankings. Over the past few years Drew has flipped national perception of him from being a guy that can recruit but is questionable coach to a guy that gets the most out of his players and adapts as a coach.
BIG EAST: KEVIN WILLARD, Seton Hall
Why him?: The preseason favorites to win the Big East by ever so slight a margin over usual favorite Villanova, Seton Hall has done a nice job of going from hunter to hunted. Having the potential National Player of the Year in senior guard Myles Powell is obviously hugely beneficial. But, let’s not shortchange the job that Kevin Williard has done in leading the Pirates. He and his staff have put together a fun team, full of competitors and are coaching them hard.
BIG TEN: BRAD UNDERWOOD, Illinois
Why him?: The Big Ten may have been the toughest conference for me to choose who wins at this point. Steve Pikiell at Rutgers, Fran McCaffery at Iowa and probably even Pat Chambers of Penn State could be in the mix but I’m going to go with Brad Underwood at Illinois.
The Illini fanbase had been getting restless over the past few years and under the direction of Underwood the program has taken a massive step forward this season. Freshman big Kofi Cockburn has been one of the most pleasant surprises in America and the Illini are at the top of the Big Ten and ranked No. 20 nationally as they prep for a huge Friday matchup with Maryland.
MOUNTAIN WEST: BRIAN DUTHCER, San Diego State
Why him?: Who else could I possibly pick from the Mountain West? Brian Dutcher isn’t just the Coach of the Year in his conference, he’s a serious contender for the award nationally thanks to stewarding the Aztecs to an undefeated record and No. 4 ranking nationally. His team is tough, can make teams pay from deep and has an All-American type guard in Malachi Flynn.
PAC-12: DANA ALTMAN, Oregon
Why him?: The Pac-12 was another that was tough for me to pick as Colorado’s Tad Boyle, Stanford’s Jerod Haase and USC’s Andy Enfield all merit consideration. But, I’ll go with Dana Altman because the Ducks have been the Pac-12’s best team from the start of the season until now and appear to be about as steady as it gets during a conference race that has been interesting to follow. It’s going to be weird to see them play next season after enjoying the last 15 seasons or so of Payton Pritchard running the show.
SEC: WILL WADE, LSU
Why him?: I had a tough time deciding between Auburn’s Bruce Pearl and Will Wade here. Pearl and the Tigers are proving last year’s Final Four run was no joke but given that Wade has guided LSU to an undefeated record during conference play and 10-game win streak overall, it’s hard to argue against him. Senior guard Skylar Mays has been one of the more underappreciated performers in the country.
WCC: MARK FEW, Gonzaga
Why him?: Does Mark Few even need another WCC Coach of the Year award at this point? He’s only got about 50 of them, well actually 13. Still, the Zags are once again the cream of the crop in the conference and a legit title contender who rank No. 2 nationally. This season, Few has put together a team that has size, experience and perhaps as much balance as anybody in America with six double-digit scorers and a seventh that is very close in freshman Drew Timme who is averaging 9.6 per game.