Coach of the Year awards are weird in the sense that people vote in different ways. For some, it amounts to an award given to the coach who overachieves most relative to preseason expectations and/or the job he holds, which is how Tubby Smith won Big 12 Coach of the Year honors last season with a Texas Tech team that finished seventh in the league with a 9-9 record. And that's fine. But I've never been too fond of a system that penalizes men who are consistently great at great programs.
For instance, Bill Self has won 12 straight Big 12 titles but only been Big 12 Coach of the Year four times. That's dumb. Mike Krzyzewski has made 12 Final Fours but only been ACC Coach of the Year five times. That's stupid. Billy Donovan won two national titles before he won his first SEC Coach of the Year award. That's silly.
My opinion: It should be some combination of the two -- a mix of coaches who are overachieving with others who are running top-shelf programs that should be great and are exceptional. With that in mind, here's my list of college basketball's top Coach of the Year candidates at this moment:
1. Scott Drew (Baylor)
Baylor is 16-1 and ranked sixth in the AP poll despite not getting a single Top 25 vote in the preseason, and Drew is doing this without any consensus top-50 national recruits or sure-bet future NBA players. The Bears have eight top-55 KenPom wins -- among them victories over Louisville, Oregon and Iowa State. They're on their way to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in six years.
Villanova lost its captain (Ryan Arcidiacono), center (Daniel Ochefu) and top recruit (Omari Spellman) but hasn't slipped in the slightest. The Wildcats are 18-1 (with four top-25 KenPom wins) and ranked No. 1 in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one). Odds are, they're about to be Big East champs for the fourth straight season.
3. Steve Alford (UCLA)
UCLA was 16th in the preseason AP poll but is now second in the Top 25 (and one) with an 18-1 record featuring a win at Kentucky. Alford's Bruins are running a historically great offense with an effective field goal percentage of 61.7. He's taken a program that finished 15-17 last season and turned it into a national title contender.
4. Bill Self (Kansas)
Yes, Kansas is doing what it always does -- i.e., stacking wins and positioning itself for another Big 12 championship. But Self deserves credit for that. Two of his top-three scorers (Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham) were mostly unheralded prospects. So don't ever think he's doing this by simply out-recruiting the league.
5. Mike Brey (Notre Dame)
Notre Dame was unranked in the preseason and only appeared on three AP Top 25 ballots. Now the Irish are 10th in the Top 25 (and one) and 15th in the AP poll with a 16-2 record featuring a win over Louisville and road victories at Miami, Virginia Tech and Pitt. Notre Dame has a top-1o offensive-efficiency rating and a team on its way to its seventh NCAA Tournament in an eight-year span.
6. Chris Holtmann (Butler)
Holtmann has a team that was unranked in the preseason and picked sixth in the Big East now ranked ninth in the Top 25 (and one) and 13th in the latest AP poll, and he's doing it without any obvious future NBA players. The Bulldogs have six top-50 KenPom wins and are the only team to beat Villanova. Not bad for a guy who started this run as Butler's interim coach and was only given that opportunity because Brandon Miller resigned.
7. Greg McDermott (Creighton)
It's hard to overstate how difficult it can be for a Missouri Valley Conference program to transition into a league like the Big East, but McDermott has helped Creighton do it successfully. He used the transfer market to upgrade the roster, and now Creighton is 18-1 and ranked eighth in the Top 25 (and one) in its fourth season in its new league. The Bluejays' lone loss was to Villanova.
8. Mark Few (Gonzaga)
The Zags are the nation's only remaining undefeated team and in possession of four top-25 KenPom wins. And did you realize this? Their top four scorers are two first-year transfers ( Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews), a freshman (Zach Collins) and a guy who only played six games last season (Przemek Karnowski). So Few is doing this with an entirely new cast of characters, and Gonzaga really might enter Selection Sunday undefeated.
9. Bob Huggins (West Virginia)
Huggins has created and used the nation's most disruptive defense to guide West Virginia to a 15-2 record that features four top-25 KenPom wins, including a 66-57 victory at Virginia. The Mountaineers are forcing turnovers on 32.7 percent of their opponents' possessions, which ranks first nationally. They're good enough to take Huggins to his third Final Four.
10. Sean Miller (Arizona)
Miller still has talent, sure. But it's impressive that he's managed to guide the Wildcats to a 16-2 record despite the fact that he A) lost Terrance Ferguson in the offseason, B) lost Ray Smith in the preseason, and C) hasn't had Allonzo Trier for a single minute this season. That's three possible starters Miller thought he'd have in June that he didn't have in November. Regardless, Arizona is in a position to win at least a share of the Pac-12 title for the third time in four years.
THE NEXT FIFTEEN (in alphabetical order): Tony Bennett (Virginia), John Calipari (Kentucky), Chris Collins (Northwestern) Mick Cronin (Cincinnati), Jamie Dixon (TCU), Andy Enfield (USC), Greg Gard (Wisconsin), Leonard Hamilton (Florida State), Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington), Frank Martin (South Carolina), Dan Muller (Illinois State), Rick Pitino (Louisville), Mark Turgeon (Maryland), Michael White (Florida), Roy Williams (North Carolina).