Commentary: WBB SEC Coach of the Year

Up to six teams have a legitimate shot to win this week's SEC Tournament. Just as many coaches have a legitimate reason to win SEC Coach of the Year. Who should win the SEC COY? SEC Champion coach Matthew Mitchell? Tennessee coach Pat Summitt who has overcome all odds? Is there a darkhorse to win the award? I believe so.

The SEC will announce its annual postseason awards prior to the start of Thursday's SEC Tournament. SEC Champion Kentucky guard A'dia Mathies will likely win Play of the Year honors after an excellent 2011-12 campaign. However, Coach of the Year should be up for grabs.

Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell very well could end up winning the award after leading the Wildcats to the SEC regular season championship and the number one seed in the SEC Tournament. However, with Mathies returning, the Wildcats were supposed to finish high in the SEC. Being picked to finish third in the preseason, the Wildcats were able to overcome a three-game losing streak to win the season championship.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt will likely earn some votes after overcoming her battle with early dementia to have the Vols in contention to win the SEC late in the season, however, home losses to South Carolina and Arkansas will hinder her chances of winning the award.

Georgia coach Andy Landers could earn some votes after taking a team with little depth to third in the final standings, and LSU first-year coach Nikki Caldwell could earn some votes despite returning five seniors and 10 letterwinners from last season.

It should only be a two-horse race between South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and Arkansas coach Tom Collen.

Collen's Razorbacks faced the toughest opening SEC schedule of any teams with road games at then-#17 Georgia, then-#11 Kentucky, a home game with then-#6 Tennessee, and a road game at Mississippi. The Razorbacks would lose all four of those games before going on a tear. Arkansas would win eight straight, including 20+ point victories against Auburn, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and at LSU. Collen also led Arkansas to their first win ever in Knoxville last week and finished SEC play at 10-6 after that 0-4 start.

Dawn Staley took a team predicted to finish eighth in the conference to a thrilling SEC season. The Gamecocks won their first three conference games, including a victory over Vanderbilt and at Florida. The Gamecocks went on a tough three game losing streak, but had opportunities to win all three games at LSU and Auburn and a home contest with Kentucky. The Gamecocks ended the streak with a win at Vanderbilt, which was the Commodores' first home loss of the season in their 13th home game. Staley would also lead the Gamecocks to their biggest win in school history, a 64-60 victory at Tennessee. It was the first win against the Vols since 1980, the first win in school history in Knoxville, and snapped a 28-game home conference win streak for the Vols. The 10 conference wins tied a school record for SEC wins in a season.

Though there are four teams that will be seeded higher than fifth-seeded Arkansas and sixth-seeded South Carolina in this week's SEC Tournament, there are no coaches more worthy of the award than Tom Collen or Dawn Staley.

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