I read this piece yesterday. When I saw the headline (Ranking college basketball’s top 10 Coach of the Year candidates), I was stoked to read about the best coaches since I assumed Mick Cronin would be on the list. Well, I guess I found out what happens when you assume for the 1,437th time in my life, as the Cincinnati Bearcats’ head coach was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t entirely surprised. The national landscape doesn’t always give teams from outside the power conference enough attention, but I still found it odd that a coach of a team with a 20-2 record wasn’t even in the discussion.
After reading the article, I got to thinking. Why isn’t Cronin getting much support as a coach of the year candidate? I’m not even saying that Cronin should be the No. 1 contender. There’s no doubt that the other 10 coaches on the list are deserving of a great deal of credit. It just seems like Cronin should be included.
Let’s take a look at this year’s resume. The Bearcats are 20-2 like I said, and that includes a perfect 9-0 mark in American Athletic Conference play. They’ve won 13-straight games and rank No. 5 in the country according to KenPom. Cronin’s unit is also the second best defensive team in the country, according to KenPom’s metrics, sitting just three points below Virginia and Tony Bennett, who the article that birthed this post has pegged as the front-runner.
A lot of the coaches being listed above Cronin are coaches for teams that have surprised. Chris Holtmann at Ohio State. Chris Beard at Texas Tech. Rick Barnes at Tennessee. Brad Brownell at Clemson. So is it that Cronin hasn’t led a suddenly powerful team but one that is usually great? That can’t be since Villanova’s Jay Wright and Bennett are on this list and others like it. Not only that, those two are in the top five of the ranking that got this whole conversation going.
I would think if anything, after UC came back against Houston, Cronin would be given more credit. While the Bearcats clawed their way to within striking distance before halftime, the difference in play in the final 20 minutes was palpable. Obviously Jacob Evans, Kyle Washington and the rest of the roster caused the win, but Cronin clearly made better adjustments in the second half — while juggling a foul-hampered Gary Clark (his best player) — than his counterpart. That helped UC limit the Cougars to 35.3 percent shooting in that final frame and win the game by 10 points.
That is just one example of a time when Cronin has put forward a game plan which has led to a victory this season. In each of the Bearcats’ 20 wins, Cronin’s fingerprints are all over the place, as the defense has been better than ever, while he has clearly made adjustments to his offensive philosophy to match the roster he’s working with.
Projecting award winners, and awards themselves, are a largely meaningless exercise. If you ask any coach or player if they would rather be named the coach/player of the year or win a championship, 99 out of 100 times you will be told the latter. That is definitely true of Cronin, who has always been vocal about his indifference to rankings or accolades. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to be in the conversation.
Luckily there are still some people who know this.
National Coach of the Year Candidates:— Mark Adams (@EnthusiAdams) February 1, 2018
•Tony Bennett, Virginia
•Jay Wright, Villanova
•Matt Painter, Purdue
•Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
•Bruce Pearl, Auburn
Just not as many as there should be.