It has been an exciting college basketball season. A month away from Selection Sunday, this is one of the most wide-open fields heading to the Big Dance.
How wide open is it? I have come up with a list of Coach of the Year candidates. It is like playing blackjack, as I have 21 viable names. Yes, there are a few favorites, but look at how many deserve respect.
Steve Alford, Nevada Wolf Pack
Despite losing several key players to the transfer portal, led by Grant Sheffield to Oklahoma, and being picked ninth in the preseason poll, Alford has a competitive team in the Mountain West.
Rick Barnes, Tennessee Volunteers
He has one of the premier defensive teams in America. They are battling in a tough SEC.
Randy Bennett, Saint Mary's Gaels
The Gaels lead the WCC by two games over favored Gonzaga. Bennett also recently earned his 500th career win.
Brad Brownell, Clemson Tigers
The Tigers were picked 11th in the ACC preseason poll. Now, they are battling for the regular-season title.
Jeff Capel, Pittsburgh Panthers
Pitt was 11-21 last season. This season, the Panthers are pushing for their first NCAA berth since 2016.
Chris Collins, Northwestern Wildcats
The Wildcats have been in the upper echelon of the Big Ten most of the season. Lost talent to the portal, but have still been impressive.
Ed Cooley, Providence Friars
Although the Friars lost so much talent from last season's impressive team, they are still in the hunt for the Big East top seed.
Dennis Gates, Missouri Tigers
The Tigers were 12-21 last season. They've won 18 games so far. Gates has turned things around in his first year in Columbia.
Pat Kelsey, Charleston Cougars
Charleston made a lot of noise before its loss to Hofstra. This is the team to beat in the CAA.
Tommy Lloyd, Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats are battling for the top spot in the Pac-12 in Lloyd's second season as head coach.
Dusty May, Florida Atlantic Owls
The Owls had a 20-game winning streak earlier. Picked fifth in the C-USA preseason poll, they have dominated the league with defense and great bench scoring, a credit to May.
Sean Miller, Xavier Musketeers
His first year back at Xavier has been impressive as the Musketeers contend for the Big East crown.
Nate Oats, Alabama Crimson Tide
The Tide were picked fifth in the SEC preseason poll. Yet, they are a legit national title contender.
TJ Otzelberger, Iowa State Cyclones
The Big 12 has been a gantlet, but the Cyclones are in still contention, with help from the transfer portal.
Matt Painter, Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue last made the Final Four in 1980. Painter has them in the mix 43 years later.
Steve Pikiell, Rutgers Scarlet Knights
He has the Scarlet Knights ranked among the Big Ten's best.
Richard Pitino, New Mexico Lobos
The Lobos were 13-19 last season, and they were picked fifth in the 2022-23 Mountain West preseason poll. They're 19-5 with seven games to go.
Kelvin Sampson, Houston Cougars
The Cougars have been among the sport's elite teams all season.
Shaka Smart, Marquette Golden Eagles
The Golden Eagles were picked ninth in the Big East preseason poll. They are now half a game back of Xavier and competing for the league's regular-season title.
Jerome Tang, Kansas State Wildcats
Tang's first season in Manhattan has been special: Kansas State is in the hunt in the best conference in America.
Rodney Terry, Texas Longhorns
Taking over from Chris Beard in the middle of the season was a challenge. He has done a great job with the Longhorns, who are at the top of the Big 12.