This has been one of the most interesting and exciting college basketball seasons. There have been surprise teams, major upsets, new stars breaking through. Just look at what happened last weekend. Three teams with long win streaks -- Baylor, Gonzaga and San Diego State -- were defeated. I believe this will lead to one of the most interesting Selection Sundays and NCAA tournaments ever. The Big Ten and Big East have been the best conferences, but I believe 15 teams can get hot and win six games to get the gold trophy.
Recently I spoke to a few fans who asked me about my Player of the Year and Coach of the Year. These two races have been very competitive too. I looked at more than 10 candidates deserving of serious consideration in both races.
But time to go out on a limb. If I was voting today, here is how I would rank my "Super Six" for Player and Coach of the Year:
Player of the Year
Garza has been a force night in and night out. Scoring, rebounding, defending -- he can score from outside too. How about 12 straight games scoring 20 points or more! Garza is averaging just under a double-double each night -- 23.7 PPG and 9.6 RPG -- while shooting 55.8% from the floor. He is even better in Big Ten play, scoring 26.6 PPG. That conference is the best in America and will likely put at least nine teams in the Big Dance. Garza scored 44 and 34 against Michigan, and 34 vs. Penn State. He deserves the big prize, baby!
There have been times when Powell gets off to slow starts, and a few games earlier this season when he sat out injured, but looking at Powell overall, he is one of the most vital, dangerous scorers in America. He has posted 14 games with 20-plus points. Powell loves competition, scoring 37 vs. Michigan State and 32 against Oregon. I also love his ability to score on the road, with 34 at Georgetown, 29 at Butler and 27 at Providence. Powell did not shoot well vs. St. John's Sunday (2-of-11 on 3s), but his defense helped the Pirates rout the Red Storm.
The Flyers were happy when Toppin passed on the NBA draft. Dayton is well on its way to a school-record 29 wins, barring a collapse, and the Flyers' only two losses were in overtime against Kansas and Colorado. Remember, this is a team that received one point in the AP preseason poll. Toppin is averaging 19.7 PPG and 7.7 RPG while shooting 62.7% from the floor. He had 28 points in a recent win over Duquesne in a game Dayton trailed at half. He also hit 7 of 9 field goals in a win over Rhode Island.
In a fabulous performance where he would not let his team lose, Pritchard made big plays to spark the Ducks to a major road win over the talented Arizona Wildcats. He had 38 in the 73-72 win in a key Pac-12 contest. Pritchard makes his teammates better, with great passing ability to go with his scoring and rebounding skills. Pritchard scored 29 points and totaled six assists in a win over Arizona State. He had an all-around performance vs. Colorado, with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists in a win. There is no doubt he deserves more national press.
A scoring machine, Howard leads the nation at 27.1 PPG and has scored 35 or more points seven times. Howard doesn't have the same talent around him that he enjoyed last season, but Marquette has still been ranked as high as No. 18 in the country, and will be dancing again. I love Howard's shooting range and his ability to perform against a rugged schedule.
Bill Self was happy Dotson came back to school, and he has shined for a team that figures to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. After his 29 points against Iowa State, Dotson now has eight 20-point games this season and ranks among the Big 12 leaders in scoring (first at 18.2 PPG), steals (second at 2.1 per game), field goal percentage (third at 47.2), assists (sixth at 4.2) and assist-to-turnover ratio (fifth at 1.8). He has been a huge factor during KU's 12-game win streak.
Coach of the Year
1. Scott Drew, Baylor Bears
The Bears saw their 23-game win streak snapped by Kansas, but let's remember that Baylor was not even in the top 15 of the AP preseason poll. This has been a phenomenal season, and Drew has put together a solid defensive team that ranks third in the nation in scoring defense. The Bears beat Villanova, Arizona and Butler in nonconference play and also won on the road at Kansas, Florida, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. There are many legitimate candidates for this honor, but I give the nod to Drew.
2. Anthony Grant, Dayton Flyers
Grant has had great success before, such as when he went 28-7 as VCU's coach in 2007, and also won 25 games at Alabama in 2011. This time around, he has the Flyers battling for a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Dayton wasn't even the preseason favorite in the A-10, tabbed third behind VCU and Davidson. Grant has put together an exciting team that is averaging over 80 PPG. The lone losses were both in overtime, against Kansas and Colorado. This team can do damage in the tournament.
3. Brian Dutcher, San Diego State Aztecs
The Aztecs were the final Division I team to lose. You have to admire any team that can put together a 26-game win streak, even if it ended over the weekend when UNLV scored Shock City. Dutcher has a team that has several transfers who have blended together. The Aztecs were not the favorite in the Mountain West -- they were picked second behind Utah State. Wins over Creighton, Iowa and BYU in nonleague play stand out.
4. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles have spent time in the AP top 10 this season after being picked fifth in the ACC preseason poll. Hamilton has cultivated a deep roster that plays tenacious defense. With wins over Louisville, Florida, Tennessee, Purdue and Virginia, the Seminoles have an impressive résumé.
5. Pat Chambers, Penn State Nittany Lions
Chambers is about to take the Nittany Lions to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. His team has succeeded in the best conference in America -- the Big Ten. Every league game has been a challenge, as shown by the Nittany Lions in their loss to Indiana Sunday.
6. Tad Boyle, Colorado Buffaloes
I don't understand why Boyle doesn't get more respect. The Buffs lost to UCLA Saturday, but look at what he has accomplished. Expectations weren't that high, but Colorado has been ranked for much of the season and still has a shot to win the Pac-12 title