Coach of the Year contenders for every Division I men's college basketball conference

ByMyron Medcalf ESPN logo
Wednesday, February 16, 2022

If you talk to college basketball coaches, they'll tell you that there has never been a more difficult time to be in this profession. They've had to navigate the pandemic and the impact it has had on their players and staffers. The transfer portal has made the term "free agency" a trend, and immediate eligibility has changed how teams are assembled.

The pressure to win hasn't changed, though. Just ask the coaches who were fired despite challenges related to COVID-19 last season.

But the following coaches have done a remarkable job in their respective leagues and deserve recognition for it.

Here's our list of the current Coach of the Year front-runners, and their top rivals, in each league.

Navigate to each league:

American | America East | ACC | Atlantic Sun | A-10|Big 12 | Big East | Big Sky | Big South | Big Ten | Big West | CAA | C-USA | Horizon | Ivy|MAAC | MAC | MEAC | MVC | MW | NEC | OVC | Pac-12 | Patriot | SEC | SoCon | Southland | SWAC | Summit | Sun Belt | WCC | WAC

American Athletic Conference

Kelvin Sampson, Houston Cougars

In December, Sampson received news that would have rocked most teams and perhaps ended their hopes of competing for a league championship: Both Tramon Mark, a key contributor, and Marcus Sasser, the team's leading scorer, had suffered season-ending injuries.

Houston, however, entered this week tied for first place in the AAC after a two-game slide. This team doesn't boast the talent that carried the Cougars to the Final Four a season ago. But Sampson has turned to a collection of players, including Josh Carlton and Kyler Edwards, to anchor his short-handed group as it continues to pursue the AAC regular-season championship.

In the running: Tim Jankovich, SMU Mustangs

His SMU squad entered the week tied with Houston for first place in the AAC after losing a chunk of its rotation from last season and relying on Kendric Davis, a potential AAC Player of the Year.

America East Conference

John Becker, Vermont Catamounts

Despite a one-point loss to Hartford on Valentine's Day, Vermont clinched a share of the America East regular-season championship with a 12-1 record. Becker's squad also includes three athletes -- Ben Shungu, Ryan Davis and Isaiah Powell -- who could all win the league's Player of the Year award. Yeah, Becker's crew is good.

Locking up the conference crown with two-plus weeks to go in the regular season, though? That's impressive.

What a career, thus far, for a veteran leader who started out as a basketball and tennis coach at Washington, D.C.'s Gallaudet University, "the only university in the world where students live and learn using American Sign Language (ASL) and English," in the mid-1990s.

In the running: Jim Ferry, UMBC Retrievers

In his first season, Ferry has UMBC locked into a tie for second place in the conference standings, a year after Ryan Odom bolted for Utah State and took the team's top two scorers, Brandon Horvath and RJ Eytle-Rock, with him.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Steve Forbes, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

When he left East Tennessee State two years ago for the Wake Forest gig, Forbes knew he had his hands full with a program that had reached the NCAA tournament just one time since 2010. After winning only six games last season then losing seven players to the transfer portal, Forbes launched a turnaround that has propelled this team into the NCAA tournament conversation with ACC title aspirations. He also has helped Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams (19.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game) mature into a contender for ACC Player of the Year and All-American status. Forbes & Co. have already won 20 games -- 14 more than last season's record of 6-16 -- via an elite interior defense. (Opposing ACC squads have connected on just 44.5% of their shots inside the arc.)

In the running: Mike Brey, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Brey's squad entered the week tied for first place in the ACC with Duke, after losing just two games since Dec. 18.

Atlantic Sun Conference

Jordan Mincy, Jacksonville Dolphins

In the Atlantic Sun's coaches and media poll, Jacksonville was picked to finish the season 10th. That projection made sense. The program had a lot of moving parts, and the Dolphins' incoming coach was a 35-year-old who had just spent six seasons as an assistant at Florida.

But Mincy has taken all of those variables and positioned his squad to compete for the Atlantic Sun's East title in his first year on the job. How? The Dolphins are the league's top offensive rebounding unit, and they're in the top 50 nationally too. On top of that, the Dolphins on Saturday snapped Liberty's four-game winning streak with a 73-69 victory over the top team in their division.

In the running: Scott Davenport, Bellarmine Knights

Bellarmine lost three of its top four scorers from a team that finished second in the ASUN in its first year of Division I eligibility last season. But Davenport's squad is back in the mix after entering the week in first place in the league's West division.

Atlantic 10 Conference

Bob McKillop, Davidson Wildcats

Nobody told McKillop that when you lose your best player -- Kellan Grady (17.1 PPG, 38% from the 3-point line) -- to Kentucky via the transfer portal, you're not supposed to enter the crucial mid-February stretch atop the conference standings. But that's exactly where this Davidson team has started the week. In the league's preseason poll, Davidson was projected to finish sixth. But the 71-year-old coach has been doubted before, and it didn't affect his approach to previous seasons, either. The man who coachedStephen Curryin college has taken a squad that lost its star and turned it into a group that is ranked 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom.

In the running: Anthony Grant, Dayton Flyers

After securing nonconference wins over Miami, Virginia Tech and Kansas, Grant's squad has taken that momentum into league play, where it's battling Davidson for the A-10 crown.

Big East Conference

Ed Cooley, Providence Friars

Cooley has always been recognized among his peers as an elite coach. But every coach in the Big East leads within the shadows of Villanova's Jay Wright.

This season, however, Cooley is getting the respect he deserves. He entered the week with a Providence team that is in first place in the Big East -- and controlling the race. According to Joe Lunardi's Bracketology, Providence is in position to secure a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament while also looking for its first Big East championship. This crew has connected on 37% of its 3-point attempts in league play and has maintained a top-three mark in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. This season could have a special ending for Cooley.

In the running: Shaka Smart, Marquette Golden Eagles

Few teams suffered the turnover Marquette endured last summer. But Smart has led this squad to a top-half status in the Big East and a likely NCAA tournament berth.

Big Sky Conference

Travis DeCuire, Montana Grizzlies

If you look around the collegiate landscape, you'll find a number of former players who've struggled in their efforts to restore their alma maters. But DeCuire, who starred for Montana in the 1990s, has captured a pair of Big Sky tournament titles and has won 63% of his games as head coach. Last season's 7-9 finish in league play was an anomaly, and DeCuire has proved as much with this season's team, which finds itself in the Big Sky's top tier despite not receiving one first-place vote in the league's preseason coaches and media polls. This disciplined squad is also in the top 30 in turnover rate, per KenPom.

In the running: Danny Sprinkle, Montana State Bobcats

Sprinkle has put last season's 2-6 finish in league play behind it, starting 2021-22 6-0 and now entering this week in first place in the league standings.

Big South Conference

Griff Aldrich, Longwood Lancers

Longwood has an 18-6 tally overall and a 10-1 start in the Big South after adding multiple Division I transfers in the offseason. A season after finishing seventh in offensive efficiency in league play, Aldrich's crew is first right now, per KenPom's metrics. It's a positive development for a program seeking its first Division I NCAA tournament appearance, which would be a great moment for a team that also will move into a new arena next year. Aldrich, who was a lawyer before he became a coach, has a chance to make history.

In the running: Tim Craft, Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs

Craft's squad is 11-3 in its past 14 games and competing for a slice of the conference title after last season's .500 finish in league play.

Big 12 Conference

Mark Adams, Texas Tech Red Raiders

When Chris Beard led Texas Tech to the national championship game in 2019, Adams was the assistant behind the scenes designing the defense that anchored that team's run. When he took over as head coach following Beard's departure for Austin, a lot of the buzz around the program simmered, especially after multiple key players, includingKyler Edwards and Micah Peavy, transferred.

But Adams' squad has started this week a game ahead of Beard and Texas in the standings, elevating Texas Tech into the top tier of the Big 12 standings -- this despite top player Terrence Shannon Jr. (11.6 PPG) having missed 11 games this season due to injury.

In the running: Scott Drew, Baylor Bears

After losing the nucleus of last season's national championship squad, Drew has led Arizona transfer James Akinjo & Co. into a battle with Kansas and others for the league's crown.

Big Ten Conference

Greg Gard, Wisconsin Badgers

In one preseason media poll, Wisconsin was projected to finish 10th in the Big Ten. The program had imploded in the offseason. A summer report about a contentious team meeting with Gard suggested his future was bleak. But Gard vowed to make changes as he moved forward with a younger team that lost four seniors from the 2020-21 squad. This season, Wisconsin -- a team that entered the week one game behind first-place Illinois -- has launched one of the most impressive turnarounds in the entire country. Johnny Davis (20.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG) is a Wooden Award hopeful, and the Badgers appear to be a program that could make a run to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

In the running: Brad Underwood, Illinois Fighting Illini

Underwood has weathered injuries to key players all season but has still managed to enter this week No. 1 in the gauntlet known as the Big Ten.

Big West Conference

Dan Monson, Long Beach State Beach

Monson seems to enjoy being the underdog. The veteran coach who led Gonzaga to the Elite Eight in 1999 entered this season with a team projected to respectively finish eighth and seventh in the coaches and media preseason polls for the Big West.

It's understandable. He had lost his top three scorers from last season.

But Monson thrives in this spot. Long Beach State started the week in first place, and it is enjoying a two-game lead ahead of second-place Hawai'i and Cal-State Fullerton. Joel Murray (15.9 PPG) is a Big West Player of the Year contender under Monson, who could lead the Beach to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.

In the running: Eran Ganot, Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors

Ganot's Rainbow Warriors are still in contention for a Big West title, despite losing more than 30 points per game of production from last season's squad.

Colonial Athletic Association

Takayo Siddle, UNC Wilmington Seahawks

A year ago, Siddle landed his first head-coaching opportunity in the middle of a pandemic, a difficult transition for any coach in that position. Lengthy pauses due to issues related to COVID-19 created challenges for the 35-year-old, whose squad finished 1-6 in CAA action and in last place. This season, however, Siddle could complete the rare last-to-first turnaround for a Seahawks squad that started the week in first place in the conference. Anchored by Jaylen Sims (14.8 PPG), a strong CAA Player of the Year contender, the team have lost just two games since Dec. 11.

In the running: Pat Skerry, Towson Tigers

Last season, Skerry's squad lost nine of its final 10 games. But Towson entered this week in contention for a CAA crown.

Conference USA

Nick McDevitt, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

McDevitt's crew finished 3-13 in 2020-21 league play and ended that season on a seven-game losing streak. And with limited experience in a deep league -- seven players in the current rotation are underclassmen -- it made sense that Middle Tennessee would receive the fewest votes in the league's preseason poll. Well, McDevitt's squad has entered this week in first place in CUSA's East division. The Blue Raiders have orchestrated this turnaround with a strong defense: Per KenPom, they have forced turnovers on more than one-fifth of their league opponents' possessions, the top mark in the league.

In the running: Grant McCasland, North Texas Mean Green

McCasland entered the week in first place in CUSA's West division via his team's 3-point barrage. (Some 42% of the team's shots are 3s, and it has connected on 38% of those attempts.)

Horizon League

Dennis Gates, Cleveland State Vikings

Gates has not succumbed to the hype that has surrounded him since he arrived at Cleveland State. Last season, he secured his second consecutive Horizon League Coach of the Year honor, after leading Cleveland State to the NCAA tournament. The momentum has continued this season for a Vikings squad that started the week in first place after shooting 55.6% from inside the arc, the top mark in the league. His team also leads the league by forcing turnovers on nearly 23% of its Horizon League opponents' possessions, per KenPom.

In the running: Greg Kampe, Oakland Golden Grizzlies

Projected to finish sixth in the league's preseason poll, Kampe's squad entered the week second only to Cleveland State.

Ivy League

Steve Donahue, Pennsylvania Quakers

After the Ivy League canceled its previous season and collectively decided against competing because of COVID-19, every team had to regroup. Penn has regained its rhythm more quickly than some of its peers in the conference. It helps that Jordan Dingle (20.1 PPG) is one of the top players in the league. Donahue also has had the ability to coach his team through adversity, however. With 6-foot-10 center Michael Wang on the court this season, Penn has shot 55% inside the arc and 38% from 3, per But Wang hasn't played since Dec. 11 due to an undisclosed personal issue. Still, the Quakers entered the week second in the Ivy League standings.

In the running: James Jones, Yale Bulldogs

Jones' squad has won six games in a row to put itself atop the Ivy League standings entering the week.


Rick Pitino, Iona Gaels

Rick Pitino has lived a few lives. The most polarizing coach in college basketball has been attached to scandals at Hawai'i as a young coach, and at Louisville, which had to consequently vacate its 2013 national title. Pitino's attempts to coach at the next level were largely unsuccessful. Through all the chaos, he is back in college basketball leading an Iona squad that has been energized during his tenure. Entering the week in first place with a two-game lead in the race, Pitino's Iona squad won its first 11 MAAC games, and it could secure the school's sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and its second appearance under Pitino. He has led five schools (Boston University, Providence, Kentucky, Louisville and Iona) to the NCAA tournament -- a club that only includes Pitino, Tubby Smith and Lon Kruger.

In the running: Carm Maciariello, Siena Saints

Despite losing North Carolina transfer Andrew Platek to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in December, Siena has managed to exceed its middle-of-the-pack preseason expectations and surge into second place in the league standings.


Jeff Boals, Ohio Bobcats

A year ago, former Ohio starJason Prestonbecame a national story with a wild journey: After having started out playing in rec leagues in the University of Central Florida's gyms, he blossomed into a collegiate star, led Ohio to the second round of last season's NCAA tournament and became a second-round pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Boals' guidance of Mark Sears (20.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 4.0 APG) into Preston's point guard role this season has been vital. This Ohio team entered the week tied for first in the MAC standings largely because Sears has made a seamless transition into that capacity.

In the running: John Groce, Akron Zips

Groce's squad started the season with a one-point loss to Ohio State, but it continued to build on that effort, and now, Akron is competing for the MAC regular-season title.


LeVelle Moton, North Carolina Central Eagles

After coronavirus-related issues torpedoed his team's 2020-21 campaign, Moton's squad was compromised by the pandemic once again this season. From Dec. 22 to Jan. 22, North Carolina Central did not play a game, and Moton didn't have a lot of time to get his team ready to compete after it was cleared. But NCCU has risen to second place in the league standings after a 77-74 win at Coppin State on Monday.

That would be impressive based on the team's turbulence alone. But North Carolina Central also lost six of its top seven scorers after last season. The rise can largely be attributed to the team forcing turnovers on more than one-fourth of its MEAC opponents' possessions, per KenPom.

In the running: Robert Jones, Norfolk State Spartans

With a road win over Delaware State on Monday night, Jones' squad preserved its first-place spot in the MEAC standings, and Jones picked up his 100th conference win.

Missouri Valley Conference

Drew Valentine, Loyola Chicago Ramblers

Valentine was born the same year that Michael Jordan won his first NBA championship in 1991. Many of Valentine's peers in the league are older than the NBA legend. That generation gap, however, hasn't prevented the 30-year-old from guiding Loyola Chicago to the top of a competitive Missouri Valley Conference. Sure, there were already high hopes for this program entering the season. But it wouldn't have been surprising if the first-year coach, who got the job when he was 29, stumbled through his head-coaching debut after Porter Moser left for Oklahoma.

Valentine, however, was clearly ready for this. His squad entered the week in first place in the MVC, and it has the juice to win a game or a two if it gets to the NCAA tournament.

In the running: Brian Wardle, Bradley Braves

His top four scorers from last season are either gone or hurt, but Wardle's squad is still in the MVC race after entering the week on a 7-1 streak over its past eight games.

Mountain West Conference

Jeff Linder, Wyoming Cowboys

In the Mountain West, the competition is always deep. Since 1999-2000, the conference has been a multi-bid league in the NCAA tournament all but three times. Through that challenging field this season, Wyoming has surged to the top under second-year coach Linder. Entering the week, the Cowboys were in first place, despite being picked to finish eighth -- they were tied with New Mexico in votes -- in the league's preseason poll. Linder's squad has a Mountain West Player of the Year hopeful in Graham Ike (20.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG), and the team is ranked in the top 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom.

In the running: Niko Medved, Colorado State Rams

Medved's squad is in the top 15 in offensive turnover rate on KenPom and riding a four-game winning streak.

Northeast Conference

Bashir Mason, Wagner Seahawks

Mason had to learn on the job as a 20-something head coach nearly a decade ago. But his toughest times helped him grow into the coach he is today. Prior to Saturday's 80-65 loss in overtime to Merrimack, Mason's team had amassed the nation's longest winning streak at 14. Things have become more complicated since for this team, which has likely lost Elijah Ford (11.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG) to a season-ending knee injury.

But Mason has never feared adversity. Two years ago, his Wagner squad finished 8-21 in a challenging season. Now, however, Mason is coaching the best team in the NEC thus far -- one that could reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign.

In the running: Jared Grasso, Bryant Bulldogs

Grasso's squad plays at the fastest tempo in the NEC (nearly 74 possessions per game), and it also is the league's most efficient offensive team.

Ohio Valley Conference

Matt McMahon, Murray State Racers

McMahon's squad entered the week with a NET ranking in the mid-20s as it pursues its first NCAA tournament appearance sinceMemphis Grizzlies star Ja Morantled the program to the second round in 2019. Murray State is not only the best team in the Ohio Valley Conference -- ranking first in offensive and defensive efficiency in league play and undefeated through 14 conference games -- the Racers also are one of the top programs in America. They were picked to finish third in the league's preseason poll. But now, the Racers look like a dangerous mid-major that could pull off an upset or two in the Big Dance. Under McMahon's leadership, Murray State has just one loss -- to Auburn -- since Nov. 22.

In the running: Casey Alexander, Belmont Bruins

This season, Alexander's squad has made nearly 61% of its shots inside the arc, the No. 2 mark in the country.

Pac-12 Conference

Tommy Lloyd, Arizona Wildcats

When Lloyd accepted the job following a lengthy stint as Mark Few's top assistant at Gonzaga, he had the power to change everything around an Arizona program that had hoped to move forward after Sean Miller's turbulent final years. Lloyd decided to maintain some continuity by retaining assistants Jack Murphy and Jason Terry, a bold move for any new coach in a world where many in Lloyd's position would crave familiarity.

The move worked. Arizona is pursuing a Pac-12 championship -- the first-place Wildcats entered the week with a three-game lead in the race -- and a top seed in the NCAA tournament. Lloyd has assembled a legit national title contender in his first year on the job and produced three players with Pac-12 Player of the Year potential.

In the running: Andy Enfield, USC Trojans

Despite the departure ofEvan Mobley, who is now an NBA Rookie of the Year contender, Enfield has coached this team into Pac-12 champion contention.

Patriot League

Matt Langel, Colgate Raiders

Sometimes, schools make premature moves on coaches and fail to benefit on any future growth. That could have happened with Langel, who finished with a sub-.500 record in conference play in four of his first six seasons. Since 2017-18, however, Langel has led the Raiders to a pair of regular-season Patriot League crowns, a brace of conference tournament championships and two NCAA tournament appearances. This season, his squad could extend that chapter of success after entering the week as winners of 11 of its past 12 games and atop the league's standings.

In the running: Ed DeChellis, Navy Midshipmen

The former Penn State coach is in contention for his second consecutive Patriot League regular-season title via the most efficient defensive unit in conference play.


Bruce Pearl, Auburn Tigers

Sure, Pearl's team had potential entering the season. He had transfers Walker Kessler and Wendell Green Jr.He had Jabari Smith, a five-star recruit and an NBA prospect. The players were there for a strong season. But Pearl's squad would have to navigate an SEC landscape that included Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky -- four teams that seemed equipped to pass the Tigers in the league's race.

Pearl has exceeded expectations. His team started the week in first place in the SEC standings. (It owns a win over second-place Kentucky in their only meeting of the regular season.) Auburn also is a top seed in Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology, after enjoying a stretch as the No. 1 team in America. And Pearl might be the front-runner for national Coach of the Year.

In the running: John Calipari, Kentucky Wildcats

Blending young stars and transfers is not an easy feat, but Calipari has a team that could win him his second national title trophy in the same location (New Orleans) where he won his first in 2012.

Southern Conference

Lamont Paris, Chattanooga Mocs

In his fifth year on the job, the former Wisconsin assistant's squad is in command of the Southern Conference title hunt. A nonconference road win over VCU in November set the stage for what was ahead for Paris and his program, which could capture the school's first conference tournament championship and accompanying NCAA tourney appearance since 2016. Malachi Smith (20.4 PPG) is a SoCon Player of the Year hopeful. Paris also helped restore the career of Kansas transfer Silvio De Sousa, who averaged 11.5 PPG and 6.9 RPG before he was sidelined with an abdominal injury. Chattanooga has won four in a row without De Sousa.

In the running: Dan Earl, VMI Keydets

Earl's squad entered the week third in the Southern Conference, after it was projected to finish seventh in the league's preseason poll.

Southland Conference

Mark Slessinger, New Orleans Privateers

The 47-year-old coach has taken a throwback approach to the 2021-22 campaign, which has been a turnaround for a team coming off back-to-back sub-.500 seasons (19-36 overall). No team in America shoots fewer 3s -- relative to their overall shot attempts -- than New Orleans, which is ranked 358th on KenPom for a 22.7% clip from beyond the arc. In an era that has been redefined by Steph Curry and other sharpshooters who've made 3s vital for most teams, Slessinger has not embraced the trend, and his team still leads the Southland Conference race and has won 11 of its past 12 games.

In the running: Austin Claunch, Nicholls Colonels

Claunch's squad is one game back in the Southland Conference race after winning five in a row without the injured Caleb Huffman (6.7 PPG) during that stretch.

Summit League

Eric Henderson, South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Coaches in Henderson's position are sometimes overlooked in Coach of the Year conversations. His squad was picked to finish first in the league's preseason poll. Henderson's team is currently in first. But the Jackrabbits have gone on one of the most dominant runs in the country. They entered the week with a 14-0 record in league play, three games ahead of second-place Oral Roberts. They have scored 80 or more points in 13 of their conference games. They have won nine conference games by double digits with the help of one-two punch Douglas Wilson and Baylor Scheierman, and the Jackrabbits are projected to win their last four Summit League games on KenPom.

In the running: Paul Mills, Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

The whole country knows it has to corral Max Abmas (22.8 PPG) to beat Oral Roberts, but Mills continues to find ways to let the brilliant player excel on a team that will be dangerous in the conference tournament.

Sun Belt Conference

T.J. Johnson, Texas State Bobcats

The Sun Belt's top team entering the week has been successful from beyond the arc, connecting on 38% of its 3-point attempts in league play. In his second season with the program, Johnson -- formerly an assistant under Danny Kaspar, who resigned from Texas State two years ago amid accusations of making racist remarks to players -- has a team that is in the nation's top 50 in 3-point shooting. Texas State was picked to finish third in the league's preseason poll and didn't receive any first-place votes. It is now on a five-game winning streak, even though backup center Nighael Ceaser (8.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG) has missed the past two contests. Johnson could feasibly win his second consecutive Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year award.

In the running: Scott Cross, Troy Trojans

Two of Troy's top-five scorers are dealing with injuries, but a squad projected to finish ninth in the conference's preseason poll is a serious contender to win the league's regular-season crown.


Landon Bussie, Alcorn State Braves

Bussie has had an interesting journey to his current post as a Division I head coach. He was an assistant at Xavier (Louisiana), his alma mater, before working as an assistant for the women's and men's teams, in separate stints, at Prairie View A&M. He then was hired to be Alcorn State's coach in 2020. Prior to this season, his team was picked to finish seventh in the SWAC race in the preseason poll. But nonconference matchups against Gonzaga, Houston, Baylor and Oklahoma prepared this team for what was ahead. Now, Bussie's squad is one game out of first place in the league standings.

In the running: Sean Woods, Southern Jaguars

The former Kentucky star's squad is in first place in the league's standings and is chasing its first conference crown since 2013-14.


Chris Victor, Seattle U Redhawks

What a ride for Seattle, which is on one of the best runs in school history after a wild start to the season. Victor became the interim head coach after former head coach Jim Hayford resigned in November, following a report that he had used a racial slur. Victor's staff at the time included Al Grigsby, the father of star guardRiley Grigsby (12.7 PPG) who had left a pharmaceutical job to become an assistant on his son's team. Thrown unexpectedly into this role, Victor is leading a team that entered the week in first place -- despite being projected to finish sixth in the league's preseason poll, before Hayford abruptly resigned.

In the running: Chris Jans, New Mexico State Aggies

A year after spending a chunk of the 2020-21 campaign at a resort in Phoenix, Jans' squad is back home, aiming to finish strong and snatch the league title from Seattle.

West Coast Conference

Mark Few, Gonzaga Bulldogs

We're often blinded by consistency in Coach of the Year discussions. And Few is one of the coaches who is often graded for, well, being good every season. Does that mean he deserves to be named Coach of the Year?

Things were supposed to be more competitive for Gonzaga, the conference's best offensive and defensive team. Even with Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren--a potential No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA draft -- it seemed as if the Bulldogs might have a more difficult stretch in league play. The reality? Gonzaga is undefeated in conference play and has scored 100 points or more in four league games. It has two wins over BYU, a bubble team, by a combined 59 points. And it has yet to play a game decided by single digits in league play. So, yeah, Few deserves that award.

In the running: Todd Golden, San Francisco Dons

Golden's team could pick up an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament via a defensive unit that's ranked within the top 25 in adjusted efficiency on KenPom.

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