Auburn has broken straight through the low ceiling set for it this season, and the Tigers are sitting atop the SEC. Tennessee is right behind them. Now, the men responsible for their standout years are now up for the nation’s top honor.
Auburn’s Bruce Pearl and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes have been named as two of 10 semifinalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year, as announced by the Atlanta Tipoff Club on Friday.
The four finalists for the award will be announced on March 15 after the Naismith Awards master voting academy narrows the candidates. Then, the winner will be revealed during the Naismith Awards brunch on April 1 at Pearl Stable in San Antonio, Texas.
Fans will be responsible for five percent of the final tally and can vote by visiting naismithtrophy.com/vote between March 19-30 to cast their ballot.
Here’s a look at the full list of candidates, listed in alphabetical order:
Rick Barnes (Tennessee)
Chris Beard (Texas Tech)
Tony Bennett (Virginia)
Brad Brownell (Clemson)
Mick Cronin (Cincinnati)
Chris Holtmann (Ohio State)
Chris Mack (Xavier)
Matt Painter (Purdue)
Bruce Pearl (Auburn)
Jay Wright (Villanova)
In Pearl’s fourth season, Auburn is 24-4 and 12-3 in SEC play. Those 24 wins are tied for the second-most victories in program history.
Pearl, who won the award in 2006, has had Auburn ranked for seven straight weeks and as high as No. 8 in the AP Top 25 Poll after not appearing in those rankings at all previously since 2003.
Under Barnes, the Vols are 20-7 and 10-5 in conference play. Tennessee has been ranked for 12 consecutive weeks after not appearing in the rankings since 2010.
In ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest projection, Auburn is a No. 2 seed in the South Region while Tennessee is a No. 4 seed in the East Region.