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Roy's our boy

UNC's Williams receives The 'Bag's Coach of the Year

Posted: Friday March 10, 2006 8:11PM; Updated: Thursday March 16, 2006 10:36AM
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Roy Williams lost his top seven scorers from last season's team, but the Tar Heels still finished second in the ACC.
Roy Williams lost his top seven scorers from last season's team, but the Tar Heels still finished second in the ACC.
Bob Rosato/SI
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We just filed our big NCAA tournament preview story for SI mag, so we're taking a spot in front of the TV with a cold one (just water, folks!) and Musburger and Lav are working the Big Ten tournament. What could be better on a Friday afternoon? An installment of the 'Bag, you say? Let's get it started...

Where's the love for Ohio State's Thad Matta for Coach of the Year?
-- Nick Cleveland, Ohio

We've waited until now to give you our Top 10 coaching jobs of the year. The envelopes, please:

1. Roy Williams, North Carolina
You can't say it enough: The Tar Heels lost their top seven players and now find themselves as a trendy Final Four pick. Simply amazing. Dick (Gimli) Friedman, one of our longtime readers from Central Jersey, came up with an intriguing question: Has Williams done a better coaching job this season or last season?

"It depends on what you look at," Ol' Roy told me. "I think most of the time it's harder to have a team that is supposed to be good and then really be good. But this year ... I've had inexperienced players before, but never to this extent. And so because of that it makes us sort of feel like we've done an even better job this year."

2. Thad Matta, Ohio State
Coach of the Year votes often tend to be a "What have you overcome?" contest, and Matta had more hurdles than most, including low expectations and an ongoing NCAA investigation. All the Buckeyes did was win the Big Ten title.

3. Bruce Pearl, Tennessee
Yes, the Vols have cooled off, but Pearl's toughness infusion has turned an underperforming bunch into a highly entertaining (and successful) team.

4. Jay Wright, Villanova
Wright's Wildcats shared the Big East crown despite being forced to play a crazy four-guard offense after the season-ending injury to Curtis Sumpter. Ask Indiana's Mike Davis how hard it is to win after losing a top player (D.J. White).

5. Bill Self, Kansas
The young Jayhawks were left for dead after a feeble start, but Self turned them into the nation's most efficient defensive team and now they share the Big 12 crown with Texas.

6. Ben Howland, UCLA
The 'Bag predicted before the season that the Bruins would win the Pac-10, but we had no idea they'd do it despite a raft of injuries to key players.

7. John Calipari, Memphis
Kudos to Cal for meshing a young team and being smart enough to put some fearsome teams on his non-conference schedule.

8. Billy Donovan, Florida
Much of the Gators' remarkable chemistry is a credit to the players, but the coach has a lot to do with that, too.

9. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
The Panthers coach got lots of production from youngsters and the amazing maturation of big man Aaron Gray.

10. Karl Hobbs, George Washington
The former UConn assistant has made GW matter, and that in itself is an accomplishment. His murky response to New York Times and Washington Post reports about his players' academic prep work has knocked him down a few spots, however.

In every even-numbered year beginning with 1990 (and only in even-numbered years), at least one No. 1 seed has lost in the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Which of this year's No. 1 seeds do you see as most likely to go home early?
-- Deron Overpeck, Los Angeles

Cool factoid, Deron. At this point I'd say the most likely No. 1 seeds will be Villanova, UConn, Duke and Memphis. On the face of things, Memphis would appear to be the most vulnerable of the four. While John Calipari's crew has had a terrific season, exceeding all preseason expectations, the Tigers' players have almost no NCAA tournament experience and they've had even less competition than expected in Conference-USA. Put that up against the other three likely No. 1 seeds, and there's not much of an argument here.