Thursday, February 22, 2007

The best of Tony Bennett

The title refers to the Washington State University basketball coach, not the timeless Anthony Benedetto. It just sounds jazzier than asking "Who's the coach of the year?" Sorry, music fans.

In his first season as head coach, Tony Bennett has a 22-5 record (11-4 in the Pac-10, good for second place behind UCLA). Earlier this week he was named one of 15 finalists for Coach of the Year, which is awarded during Final Four weekend.

Many worthy choices on that list, but the Cougars coach stands out for the same reasons that most Coaches of the Year stand out:

1. He coaches a team in one of the 6 major conferences. While Nevada, Butler, Winthrop, and Southern Illinois are having terrific seasons, many believe the other teams in their respective conferences aren't much competition. But no one questions the strength of the Pac-10, especially this year.

2. He's brought national attention to a program that traditionally sucks. The coaches at Texas A&M, UCLA, Florida, and Memphis were successful last year. Fairly or not, that makes them old news now. WSU, on the other hand, should have their best record in over 25 years unless they Coug It.

3. He's not overshadowed by his players. For a comparison, see Ohio State and Wisconsin. Obviously, I did a little research on Wazzu, and I still couldn't tell you the names of any players.

No mass exodus with this week's seeds. Out: Butler. In: Louisville.

San Jose Regional
1. UCLA: The Bruins have a healthy two-game lead in Pac-10.
2. Texas A&M: In Big 12, they and Kansas look inseparable.
3. Nevada: Too bad their BracketBusters matchup wasn't better.
4. BYU: Cushy lead comes in handy for remaining MWC schedule.

St. Louis Regional
1. Ohio State: Technically, Wisconsin game still a 1-2 matchup.
2. Kansas: In Big 12, they and Texas A&M look inseparable.
3. Southern Illinois: Looking like the nation's best mid-major.
4. Louisville: Road warriors can make some postseason noise.

East Rutherford Regional
1. Georgetown: Can take Big East lead at home vs. Pitt.
2. Florida: Understandable stumble, but I still had to drop 'em.
3. North Carolina: Will any ACC team make the Elite 8?
4. Winthrop: I saw no reason to remove them.

San Antonio Regional
1. Memphis: Win at Gonzaga makes a nice nonconference statement.
2. Wisconsin: May need to sweep Buckeyes for that top seed.
3. Pittsburgh: Gray matters? He sits out Georgetown game.
4. Washington State: Despite Oregon losses, I gotta keep 'em in.

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