1. Steve Fisher, San Diego State: What Fisher done in San Diego is near miraculous, and until the Aztecs flounder down the stretch, he’s the clear National Coach of the Year. Most expect San Diego State to be NIT bound (at best) after losing Kwahi Leonard, D.J. Gay, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White and the 49 points and 24 rebounds per game that went with them. No one expected anything near last year's 34-3 record and run to the Sweet 16, yet, Fisher has the Aztecs at 18-2 overall and on top of the Mountain West again at 4-0.
2. Frank Haith, Missouri: Haith wasn’t the first choice of Missouri fans, but even the most strident skeptics can’t deny he’s had a great impact on the program. With only seven scholarship players available – and only two of them 6-8 or taller – Haith has the Tigers at 18-2 overall and 5-2 in the Big East and ranked second in the nation.
3. Steve Prohm, Murray State: Murray State was predicted to finish second in the Ohio Valley, but Prohm has led the Racers to only unbeaten mark in the nation through Jan. 26. And he’s done it after losing three starters from last year’s team. At 20-0, the first-year Murray State head coach has his team on the precipice of history.
4. Tom Crean, Indiana: Indiana was expected to make a huge leap forward after finishing last in the Big Ten in the past three years under Crean. But few expected the leap the Hoosiers have made. Under Crean’s direction, Indiana has knocked off No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State this season. The Hoosiers are ranked 17th in the nation and, at 16-4 overall, are on the verge of making their first NCAA Tournament since 2008.
5. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State: Of course, it helps that Royce White transferred from Minnesota, but the job The Mayor has done in his second season in Ames is undeniable. After a 16-16 mark in his first season, including 3-13 in the Big East, Hoiberg has the Cyclones at 14-6 overall and 4-3 in the Big 12. They have a great opportunity to make their first NCAA appearance since 2005.
6. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati: After home losses to Presbyterian and Marshall early in the season – then the brawl that got several Bearcats suspended – it looked like Cincinnati’s season was headed nowhere. Since the brawl, however, Cronin has guided Cincy to a 10-3 record and at 15-6 overall and 5-3 in the Big East, they’re back into the NCAA Tournament mix.
7. Ron Hunter, Georgia State: Hunter guided a fledgling IUPUI program to the NCAA Tournament in 2003. Now, he’s trying to do the same thing in Atlanta. The Panthers went 12-19 a year ago and the Panthers were predicted to finish ninth in the Colonial. Instead, Georgia State is 14-7 overall and 6-4 in the CAA under Hunter’s direction.
8. Bill Self, Kansas: Self probably won’t get the credit he deserves for merely keeping the Jayhawks on top of the Big 12 standings. But getting Kansas to the top of the league was a more difficult task than the last eight seasons. Despite returning on one starter and one valuable sub, the Jayhawks are ranked fifth in America at 17-3. At 7-0 in the conference, Kansas is vying for its ninth straight league crown under Self.
9. Tony Bennett, Virginia: Like Crean at Indiana, Bennett’s Cavaliers were expected to make a move in the right direction. And like the Hoosiers, Virginia has surpassed expectations. As of Jan. 26, the Cavs are 15-3 overall behind Bennett’s defensive philosophy. The 21st-ranked Cavaliers have allowed 60-plus points just one time this season, and that was in a victory.
10. John Thompson III, Georgetown: The way the Hoyas finished the past two seasons with blowout losses in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it was hard to know what to expect from Georgetown this season. With the losses of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Julian Vaughn, the Hoyas were expected to finish near the middle or back of the Big East pack. Instead, Thompson has No. 10 Georgetown at 16-3 overall and in second place in the conference at 6-2.
Others Worthy of Note: Larry Eustachy, Southern Miss; Bob Hoffman, Mercer; Steve Masiello, Manhattan; Scott Sutton, Oral Roberts; Tom Izzo, Michigan State; Gary Waters, Cleveland State; Dan Hurley, Wagner; Rick Majerus, Saint Louis; Derek Kellogg, UMass; Saul Phillips, North Dakota State; Kermit Davis, Middle Tennessee; David Carter, Nevada; Bruiser Flint, Drexel; Dan Monson, Long Beach State; Frank Martin, Kansas State; Kevin Willard, Seton Hall; Wayne Tinkle, Montana; Bryce Drew, Valparaiso; Mike Anderson, Arkansas.