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Coach Of The Year: Tony Bennett, Virginia

Notre Dame v Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - MARCH 3: Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers claps in the second half during a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at John Paul Jones Arena on March 3, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Virginia defeated Notre Dame 62-57. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

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As we head into the start of conference tournament play, with less than a week left before Selection Sunday, Virginia is the consensus No. 1 team in the AP Poll.

They are also the consensus No. 1 team in the Coaches Poll.

And regardless of what happens over the course of the next five days, they are going to be the No. 1 overall seed with the bracket is released on Sunday evening.

All this from a team that wasn’t even ranked in the preseason, which is to say that no one -- literally no one -- can legitimately say that they saw this coming from Virginia.

To put it another way, in a year where there are a half-dozen coaches that, in a normal season, would be shoe-ins for the National Coach of the Year award, Tony Bennett is the clear choice.

That should not take away from what Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes did this season in leading Auburn and Tennessee to shares of the SEC title. And it shouldn’t put a damper on the year that Chris Holtmann had at Ohio State, or the job that Matt Painter and John Beilein did to turn Purdue and Michigan into legitimate threats to get to the Final Four. Brad Brownell saved his job at Clemson. Chris Beard might have won the Big 12 regular season title outright if his star point guard hadn’t gotten injured with three weeks left in the regular season. Hell, even Bill Self deserves a mention here for what he was able to do with a Kansas team that has more flaws than the ending to LOST.

But Bennett is the pick.

Because this is the best season that Bennett has had at Virginia to date despite the fact that this is far from his best roster.

I’ll tell you this much: Never again am I going to enter a season without putting Virginia in my top 25.

Never again.