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Monday, March 7, 2011
Updated: March 8, 10:02 AM ET
Fredette, Brey lead Vitale awards

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

Picking a national player of the year and coach of the year wasn't lock city, baby!

For a while this season, it looked like Connecticut's Kemba Walker would walk away with my player of the year honor. Nolan Smith of Duke and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger -- the nation's premier diaper dandy -- have been impressive as well. But despite these solid candidates, my pick is BYU's Jimmer Fredette. He can flat out shoot and he showed his other skills with nine assists in a big win at San Diego State.

Tabbing the Coach of the Year was a lot more difficult. Steve Fisher of San Diego State did a terrific job out in the Mountain West. Rick Pitino was successful at Louisville considering the injuries and players that left a season ago. And Steve Lavin has turned things around at St. John's, making the program relevant again. The Red Storm should be in the Big Dance for the first time since 2002. You also have to imagine where Purdue would be if Robbie Hummel was healthy. Matt Painter has done a terrific job with the Boilermakers.

All that said, my pick for the honor is Notre Dame's Mike Brey. The Irish entered the Big East tournament with a 25-5 record. They were not ranked in the preseason ESPN/USA Today top 25 poll, telling you that expectations were limited. Yet Brey's team showed a lot when they won at Connecticut in the regular-season finale. The Irish finished second in the Big East this year.

There you have it, my national player of the year and coach of the year choices, baby!

Check out my conference player and coach of the year for major conferences HERE and my All-Solid Gold teams below.