Top 10 Men's College Basketball Coach of the Year Candidates of 2020-21

The Top Ten
1 Mark Few - Gonzaga

After coaching what may have been his most talented team ever last season, Few has returned with an even better squad and has run the tables in historic fashion. Entering the 2020-21 season as the number-one team in the nation, the Bulldogs ripped through their non-conference schedule without a single blemish, all the while collecting some of the best wins among any college basketball team - including over Kansas, Auburn, West Virginia, Iowa, and Virginia.

The WCC regular season has played out the exact same way, with the Bulldogs winning all of their conference games by double-digits and claiming the WCC Tournament Championship. So far, just one of Gonzaga's games has been decided by single digits, an 87-82 win over West Virginia back in December. The Bulldogs currently maintain the nation's highest points-per-game average with 93.4 and are holding teams to just 69.1 points, meaning they are outscoring teams by a striking margin of 24.3 points.

Few's squad owns the second-most efficient offense and the fourth-most efficient defense in the nation - as well as an offense that ranks first nationally in effective FG% (61.1%) and 2P% (64.5%), all the while playing the sixth-fastest tempo in college basketball. With Gonzaga's core group of Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs, Joey Ayayi, Andrew Nembhard, and the surging Anton Watson, they are a unit to be feared. Timme and Kispert are both among the top ten players in all of college basketball, and Suggs is one of the best freshmen. It is no surprise that the Zags are as good as they are.

They enter March with a spotless record and will look to chase history and join the elite group of teams to win the National Championship with an undefeated season, which has not been done since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers led by Bob Knight.

2 Scott Drew - Baylor

In many ways, Scott Drew and Baylor are in the same boat as Mark Few and Gonzaga. Drew is coming off a season where he coached arguably his best team ever at Baylor and was rewarded for it with a preseason number-two ranking nationally, and the Bears have cruised to a near-undefeated mark, winning the Big 12 for the first time since 1950.

With their four-guard lineup of Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague, and Mark Vital returning, Drew's insertion of Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Flo Thamba inside has paid off dividends. The Bears asserted themselves as the only consistent threat in overtaking Gonzaga's number-one spot. Baylor's resume this season is backed up by victories over a handful of nationally-ranked teams, including Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas, and Kansas.

Like Gonzaga, Baylor has been stifling on both ends of the floor, scoring a second-best 86.4 points per game while holding teams to just 63.3 - producing an average margin of defeat of 23.1 points. The Bears rank in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency nationally, while sitting first in both categories in the Big 12. They currently own the nation's best three-point shooting percentage at a blistering 43.2%, maintain the second-best mark in effective FG%, and are fifth in offensive rebounding percentage at 37.7%.

Ever since the Bears got back from a COVID-19 pause, however, they have slipped, losing to Kansas and getting knocked out of the Big 12 tournament by Cade Cunningham and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The biggest concern I have is can they get back to where they were earlier this season?

3 Brad Underwood - Illinois

Fresh off leading the Fighting Illini to their first 20-win season since 2013-14, Brad Underwood has turned Illinois into a national powerhouse this year, led by one of the scariest two-man tandems in all of college basketball. After spending his first two seasons with the Illini in the basement of the Big Ten, Underwood led Illinois to what would have been its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2012-13 and its first top-4 finish in the Big Ten since Bruce Weber's second-from-last season in 2010-11.

Finishing last season's campaign at 21-10 overall and 21st in the national polls, the Illini entered this year with a preseason ranking of 8th - their first top-ten spot in the poll since December 2012. There were some bumps in the road, but in the end, Underwood earned the Illini their first top-5 ranking in the AP Poll since the program's run to the national championship game in 2004-05. The trust he has in his guard/center tandem of Ayo Dosunmu - who has actually turned the once unanimous National Player of the Year race into a genuine argument - and Kofi Cockburn is a major reason why.

The pair are currently combining for 38.4 points, 16.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists - and that is not even mentioning the significance of players like Trent Frazier, Adam Miller, and Andre Curbelo, all of whom are averaging over seven points per game. In turn, Underwood's squad has maintained a top-15 defense and offense by way of efficiency, as well as ranking in the top 30 nationally in 3P% and 2P%. This team is arguably a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament, and they're a fun team to watch. This Illinois team may be a tough out. The only remaining question is will their consistency be an issue?

4 Isaac Brown - Wichita State

You might be wondering who he is since Wichita State has been a relative unknown to everyone, but honestly, there may not be a more impressive coaching job in the country than what Isaac Brown has done with the Wichita State Shockers in just his first season at the helm, as an interim coach, no less. Especially considering the circumstances he was put in, it was not that long ago that Wichita State was left for dead.

Gregg Marshall was accused of physical, verbal, and racial abuse and then resigned after 13 memorable seasons with the Shockers, where he built them into a solid basketball program. Additionally, Wichita State was riddled by players leaving the program, with as many as seven opting to transfer during the offseason. Subsequently, and quite understandably, the Shockers were picked to finish seventh in the AAC poll.

Brown and the Shockers have been on an unexpected tear throughout the AAC, winning 12 of 14 games since their December 12th loss to Oklahoma State. The two losses are respectable, coming on the road to Houston and Memphis, while their wins have included significant sweeps over Tulsa and UCF, a victory at Mississippi, and most notably a five-point triumph over nationally-ranked powerhouse Houston.

With what this program looked like say five months ago, it is impressive to consider how much they have rebounded. He did this as an interim coach and has rightfully earned the rights to be head coach without the interim tag.

5 Juwan Howard - Michigan

Michigan was not supposed to be this good this season. They were picked sixth in the Big Ten preseason poll, 25th in the national polls, and were coming off a season where they began unranked, skyrocketed to fourth in the AP Top 25, and fell back out within two months. Additionally, the Wolverines dropped three of their last four regular-season games, finishing ninth in the Big Ten. No one could have predicted what Howard's second season would entail.

With 46% of last season's production gone, the only certainty was the return of the double-digit trio of Eli Brooks, Franz Wagner, and Isaiah Livers. Things were not always perfect for the Wolverines. They needed overtime to get past an Oakland squad in their second game of the season, which pushed Michigan out of the top 25, and they did not return there until mid-December. Since then, however, the Wolverines have been on a tear through the Big Ten, with just two of their 12 conference games coming down to single digits, and with their lone loss coming at Minnesota in mid-January.

Michigan's resume includes stellar wins over Wisconsin, Purdue, and Ohio State among a handful of other potential NCAA Tournament teams. They are one of the lone teams to have at least six Quad 1 wins, and the Wolverines have been sitting comfortably in third in the national polls since the start of February. This is all without even mentioning that Michigan's most recent wins - Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Ohio State - come after the Michigan athletic department's nearly-month-long pause due to COVID-19.

The Wolverines have certainly established themselves in the upper echelon with Gonzaga and Baylor, and nobody saw this coming at all.

6 Leonard Hamilton - Florida State

It's astounding just how under-appreciated Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles have been, not just during this season, but throughout his tenure. There is no question that his group last year were national championship contenders, but his team this year may have a case in that argument as well.

Sure, they lack the history and tradition of a powerhouse like Duke or North Carolina, but to build a basketball team like this at what has historically been a football school is impressive. Florida State lost nearly 50% of the offensive production from last year's 26-5 team that won the ACC regular-season title and recorded the best season in school history. With Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams, and Trent Forrest off to the NBA Draft, the Seminoles were expected to take a bit of a step back, having been picked to finish third in the preseason poll.

They had some struggles and had a few layoffs due to COVID-19, but they have been able to rebound from that. Their success has been spearheaded by the three-man crew of M.J. Walker, RaiQuan Gray, and Scottie Barnes, all of whom are averaging over 10 points, two boards, and two assists per game, with all three maintaining shooting clips of over 45%. The Seminoles have been a terror on the offensive end, maintaining the ACC's most efficient offense - which also ranks first in PPG (80.4), FG% (49.7%), and 3P% (42.3%).

After being robbed of what could have been his best chance to reach his first-ever Final Four last season, Hamilton has his team in a position to claim a top-3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Expecting that to happen after losing so much from last season's crew may not have even been a thought, but it is very much a possibility. Hamilton deserves all the credit in the world for making that possible.

7 Chris Holtmann - Ohio State

There are not as many teams that have looked completely different from November and December to now, but the Buckeyes did just that, and the job that Chris Holtmann has done in leading that charge cannot be overstated.

After falling out of the polls about a month and a half ago, Holtmann has cemented his crew as a legitimate national title contender. The Buckeyes lost over half of their production from last season's squad that finished 21-10, climbed as high as number two in the national polls, and fell out less than a month later.

Understandably, there were reservations about Ohio State entering this season - they entered the year ranked 23rd in the national polls and were picked to finish seventh in the preseason Big Ten poll. For weeks, those concerns seemed reasonable - the Buckeyes scraped past UMass Lowell, Notre Dame, and Cleveland State, owned losses at Purdue, Northwestern, and Minnesota, and carried solid wins over UCLA and Rutgers. Their January 3rd loss at Minnesota - a 17-point defeat - sent Ohio State out of the polls.

Since then, however, the Buckeyes have been on a tear through the Big Ten. Ohio State's success can be traced to the development and flourishing of Duane Washington Jr. and E.J. Liddell, who - after averaging 11.5 and 6.7 points, respectively, last season - have taken the reins for the Buckeyes this season, recording averages of 15.6 and 15.9 points, respectively.

The Buckeyes have been fairly solid on the defensive end but have been carving teams up offensively. With the third-most efficient offense, the Buckeyes rank in the top 65 in 3P%, 2P%, and FT%, all the while sitting 11th in turnover percentage - turning the ball over on just 15.2% of their offensive possessions. Ohio State is averaging 1.02 points per possession this season - and that mark is up to 1.24 in the Buckeyes' five games this month. Additionally, Ohio State's eight Quad 1 wins are the most of any team this season.

This is a team I... more

8 Bob Huggins - West Virginia

There are not many coaches who have had to change their team's style of play midway through the season, but that is exactly what Bob Huggins was forced to do at the flip of the calendar year. Somehow, the Mountaineers are even better than anticipated because of that. West Virginia entered the season fresh off a 21-10 campaign last year, where they placed as high as 12th nationally before dropping six of their final nine games to close the season.

The return of the two-man post tandem of Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver, who are arguably the most highly touted frontcourt in college basketball, kept optimism high in Morgantown. The Mountaineers began the 2020-21 season third in the preseason Big 12 poll and 15th nationally. They appeared primed to be a national force, opening the year by winning the Crossover Classic, including victories over VCU and Western Kentucky, and dropping a five-point game to top-ranked Gonzaga. They are, to date, the only team to lose to the undefeated Bulldogs by single digits.

In what has been an illustrious career at West Virginia, this may arguably be Huggins' best coaching job yet, or at least alongside the Final Four run back in 2009-10. The Mountaineers own a top-ten efficient offense and rank in the top 50 in forcing turnovers (percentage), offensive rebounding percentage, and three-point percentage. If not for Baylor's Jared Butler, Huggins would most likely feature the Big 12's Player of the Year in Miles McBride.

9 Lon Kruger - Oklahoma

This is a bit of a stretch, but honestly, I don't think he gets enough recognition for the work he's done with OU.

Picked sixth in the Big 12's preseason poll and unranked in the AP Top 25 entering the season, the Sooners looked a bit unremarkable to begin the year. They scraped by TCU, got blown out by Xavier, and - in a streak of four games against ranked opponents in the Big 12 - went 1-3, edging West Virginia but falling to Texas Tech, Baylor, and Kansas.

At one point, the Sooners rallied for five straight wins, with their last three coming over then-top ten squads in Kansas, Texas, and Alabama. They were ranked as a top 10 team nationally. For a team that was not even a thought in the Big 12 or on the national level, the Sooners have been quite successful despite not necessarily maintaining the best statistical marks. They rank in the top 50 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiencies.

Have they overachieved? Sure, there's an argument to be made, but with guys like Austin Reaves and even Brady Manek, you can't deny that they have looked impressive, especially considering they weren't supposed to be that good.

10 Darian DeVries - Drake

You might be saying, Who? and I don't blame you. When you look at mid-major teams, there are not many mid-major conferences as thrilling as the Missouri Valley, which once boasted the likes of Creighton and Wichita State and now boasts teams like Northern Iowa, Loyola-Chicago, and Bradley. A fourth team has quietly become a power as well and has finally broken through to the national stage. That is the Drake Bulldogs, who have put together three consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins, all coming under DeVries, now in his third season at the helm.

Under DeVries, the Bulldogs have surpassed expectations and this season is no exception. After losing last year's leading scorer Liam Robbins to transfer, Drake earned the talents of sixth-year ShanQuan Hemphill, who paired with senior guard Roman Penn has led the Bulldogs to the national spotlight. They kicked off the season with a double-digit win at Kansas State, went 18-0 to start the season, becoming, at the time, one of the last three undefeated teams in the nation, and propelled the 25th spot in the AP Top 25.

What he's done at Drake has been beyond impressive. After losing nearly 40% of the offensive production from last year's team, DeVries has put together his best team yet. Time will tell how the Bulldogs operate without both Hemphill and Penn, but this team has proven that you do not mess around with them.

The Contenders
11 Kelvin Sampson - Houston
12 Patrick Ewing - Georgetown Patrick Aloysius Ewing (born August 5, 1962) is a Jamaican-American retired Hall of Fame basketball player and current head coach of the Georgetown University men's basketball team.
13 Shaka Smart - Texas
14 Nate Oats - Alabama
15 Chris Beard - Texas Tech
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