Will USF's Heath be Big East Coach of Year?
Four games remain for USF men's basketball in the regular season, but with the progress the Bulls have made, sitting fourth in the Big East standings with the league tournament less than two weeks away, is Stan Heath the conference's Coach of the Year?
If you look at two of the most common criteria used to quantify coaching success -- success compared to preseason expectations and success compared to the previous year -- Heath and USF has easily the best improvement in the Big East this season.
Success compared to preseason expectations? USF was picked by league coaches to finish 14th in the league, and with the Bulls sitting in fourth place, they're 10 spots higher than expected. The next closest improvement from expected finish is Notre Dame, which was picked ninth and sits in second, for a plus-7; Seton Hall and Georgetown are both at plus-5 from their expected finish.
Success compared to last year? USF already has seven more conference wins than they finished the 2010-11 season with, which we've mentioned is the best improvement in the "Power Six" conferences. Again, no other Big East team comes close in terms of improving from last year -- Syracuse and Marquette both have two more league wins than they finished last season with, but that's five less than USF.
The fact that USF's wins have come against teams below them in the Big East standings might mitigate the raw numbers of the Bulls' success this season, but Heath remains a compelling candidate. Notre Dame's Mike Brey, having the league's second-best conference record after being picked to finish ninth, is a viable challenger, as is Seton Hall's Kevin Willard, who has two wins against top-10 opponents from a team picked to finish 13th, just one spot ahead of USF, so if the Pirates were to move closer to USF in the conference standings, Willard could get the award as well.
The league announces its postseason honors during the Big East tournament in New York, so we'll find out then whether Heath is recognized with the conference nod or not -- it's an honor few USF coaches have earned in the Bulls' seven years in the league.