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Monday, February 20, 2012
Top 10 Coach of the Year candidates

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

I recently had an interesting discussion at The Broken Egg down in Lakewood, Ranch, Florida. A fan told me he thought the race for Player of the Year in college basketball was basically a two-man race. He felt Anthony Davis of Kentucky and Kansas star Thomas Robinson were neck-and-neck, and I agreed.

I told him that I gave the slight edge to Davis because of his ability to change games on the defensive end.

Then the fan asked me about Coach of the Year.

Wow, that is interesting, baby!

You can really make a case for a number of candidates. I believe it could come down to the final week of the season to determine a winner. The debate could rage on until the votes are tabulated and a winner is announced.

Here is my list of leading contenders. My friends, you could probably go even deeper.

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse Orange
It is not easy to mesh a group of talented players together and keep them happy. This may be the best Syracuse team that Boeheim had had.

Mike Brey, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
When I saw the Irish play in Kansas City earlier in the season, it was ugly, baby! Notre Dame was blown out by Missouri and handed an L by Georgia. Now the Irish could get a double-bye in the Big East tournament. Last weekend's comeback win over Villanova, rallying from 20 points down, was special. They should reach the 20-win plateau as Brey has done a masterful job, all without injured star Tim Abromaitis.

John Calipari, Kentucky Wildcats
Look at the youth and the lack of depth and you have to give him a lot of credit. The Wildcats lost by one point at Indiana, or we would be talking about an undefeated team. He knows his Xs and Os and it a lot more than just an outstanding recruiter as he can flat-out coach.

Bruiser Flint, Drexel Dragons
The Dragons have been under the radar. A recent win over Cleveland State was a big one.

Steve Fisher, San Diego State Aztecs
He lost four starters from a Sweet 16 of a season ago. Fisher has done a sensational job as the Aztecs have been ranked most of the season. He has already loaded up with top-notch frontcourt talent for next season.

Frank Haith, Missouri Tigers
His Tigers have made noise in the Big 12. His first season in Columbia has been memorable. Haith doesn't have a lot of size in his lineup, but his guys have proven to be winners.

Tom Izzo, Michigan State Spartans
His Spartans have been on a major roll. He always gets the most out of his players.

Steve Prohm, Murray State Racers
It is his first year as a head coach and his team was picked third in the OVC preseason poll. The performance against St. Mary's was very impressive. Sure, it helps to have Isaiah Canaan, but he has created a buzz in a state that loves its basketball.

Dave Rice, UNLV Rebels
He returned to coach his alma mater and his Runnin Rebels sent a message early by beating the number one team in the nation, North Carolina.

Bill Self, Kansas Jayhawks
Think about the talent he lost from a year ago. The Morris Twins, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Josh Selby. The beat just kept on going for the Jayhawks and they are pushing for an eighth straight Big 12 title.

There are my top 10, all in the hunt for the honor. They deserve a lot of respect for a job well done. I know you could talk about a few others, as it has been a super season on the sidelines, baby!