Each year, many organizations hand out college basketball awards. Most of the attention will go to the official Big 12 awards, chosen by the head coaches and/or basketball SIDs of the league. Some attention will go to the awards that the AP puts out, which are selected by an esteemed group of cynical beat writers.
But to hell with all of those other awards. You are here for the BON Big 12 basketball awards, which are the best and most prestigious conference awards in the galaxy. So prestigious that this is our first (and possibly last) year of handing them out. Prestigious enough that three BON authors (Peter Bean, GoHornsGo90, and me) were able to send in their ballots by the Monday evening deadline.
Player of the Year: Buddy Hield
Buddy Hield was picked as the actual Big 12 Player of the Year, and he wins our
made up award as well. Simply put, at the end of his four year career that saw him named Big 12 Player of the Year twice, Hield goes down as one of the best players in the history of the league. Reflect on that for a little bit.
Before we leave this award, it is worth giving Perry Ellis a little consideration. Ellis is the best player on a team that beat the crap out of everyone over the last month and ran away with the league title. Ellis is not particularly flashy, but no one seems to be able to guard him at all. While everyone is rightly picking Hield for this award, the gap isn't as large between these two guys as what appears.
Coach of the Year: Bob Huggins
OK, first let's deal with a basic issue -- the Coach of the Year award is stupid. Player of the Year is much more straightforward, because all of the players are basically playing the same game. But the coaches aren't.
Obviously in a season like this you can make a case for Huggins (who won our award), Tubby Smith (who had my vote), Bill Self (who the AP selected), and plausibly even Shaka Smart. You can just say the guy with the best team should get it, in which case Bill Self is the Big 12 COY every year. Or do what the league did this year and pick the man who appears to be doing the most with the hardest job -- this is the case for Tubby Smith. Or maybe you split the difference, and pick Huggins, who's team both surprised people and finished second place in the league. That is what we went with.
How do you really go about deciding what this award is actually about? It is important to acknowledge that each of these coaches has a fundamentally different job, and should be judged accordingly. Smith is rebuilding an absolute mess of a program, and his rebuild seems ahead of schedule. Self is maximizing a historical juggernaut, playing the better hand he has been dealt almost perfectly. Huggins rocks a track suit on the sideline like no one else, and is winning plenty in the process.
These guys are all playing different games, and playing them fairly well.
Defensive Player of the Year: Prince Ibeh
We all agreed with the coaches, who picked Ibeh as the Defensive Player of the Year. (The AP writers don't select one.) It is a perfectly good choice for a player who at times takes over games defensively for Texas in a way that no other Big 12 player does:
Prince Ibeh was a deserving choice as the top defender in the league. During Big 12 play the Texas senior blocked 11 percent of opponent two point shots while on the floor, which was the highest rate in the conference.
I think it is worth giving some love to Jonathan Holton. Holton didn't even make the official Big 12 All-Defense team, which kind of surprised me. West Virginia was the only defense that allowed less than a point per possession during league play, and while it can be hard to sort out who is the most important player in the chaos created by the Mountaineer D, in my view it is Holton.
Holton is at the front of the press, jumping into passing lanes, and making life very difficult on opposing ball handlers. And then he is racing back to help protect the paint and control the defensive glass. He is all over the floor, deflecting balls and helping when the guys in front of him get beat. He doesn't beat out Ibeh, but he is a worthy second choice.
Newcomer of the Year: Deonte Burton
Honestly, I don't know who else we could pick. Why on earth is this even an award?
Sixth Man Award: Jaysean Paige
This is another dumb award. So let's talk a little bit about where Jaysean Paige is from.
Jaysean Paige played at Jamestown High School in Jamestown, NY, which is surely more significant to me than it is to all of you. For reasons that make little geographic sense, Jamestown was in the same league as my high school growing up, despite the fact that it was a 90 minute drive in good weather (which it never was in basketball season). In the snow it could take several hours to get there.
I have no idea how it is now, but back then Jamestown was a very difficult place for opposing teams to play. The long bus ride was a problem, the fact that Jamestown was usually pretty good was a problem, but the biggest problem was the officials. So far from Buffalo, Jamestown high school used local officials for all league games, which was... problematic.
Ever play in a game where the refs are barking at you during play more than the opposing team, and where grown men who are supposedly there to keep the peace get up in the face of 17-year-old kids and attempt to start altercations? That was the sort of thing that happened in Jamestown every time you played there.
It goes without saying that we weren't getting any calls.The most amazing thing in all of those years going down to Jamestown was that no one on our team ever punched an official -- although a few times it was probably close.
Oh yea, Jaysean Paige? He is pretty good. But screw him, because he is from Jamestown.
An Honorable Mention for Sixth Man Award goes to Curtis Shaw, coordinator of officials, for once again ably fulfilling the sixth man duties of the Kansas Jayhawks.
Freshman of the Year: Juwan Evans
Juwan Evens is our winner. I ended up going against the grain and voting Dean Wade simply because Evans got hurt midway through the year. Wade had a really good year, although my colleagues' choice of Evans is easy to defend. Honestly, I probably should have just gone with him myself.
When your Freshman of the Year missed half of the conference season with an injury, it reaffirms the view that it was a crummy season for Big 12 freshmen.
All-Big 12 Selections
First team: Buddy Hield*, Perry Ellis*, Georges Niang*, Isaiah Taylor**, Frank Mason**, Monte Morris**, Taurean Prince**
* unanimous selection.
** yea, we had a four-way tie. That is what happens when just three people are voting.
Second team: Devin Williams, Jaysean Paige, Jonathan Motley
With seven guys on the first team, there is no way I am putting seven on the second team (given that we had another four-way tie), so you are stuck with three. The world is cruel and unfair.
Others receiving votes: Zach Smith, Toddrick Gotcher, Isaiah Cousins, Rico Gathers
Hield, Ellis, and Niang are easy picks. But after that things get a little harder. Each of us put a different point guard on the first team, splitting between Taylor, Mason, and Morris. Like those three guards, Taurean Prince also received one first team nomination and two second team selections. As a result, we ended up with a four-way tie and seven guys on our All-Big 12 first team. Deal with it.
Devin Williams and Jaysean Paige each revived a first team vote, while Motley was on two second team ballots. Everyone else listed received a single second team vote.
You may laugh at Zach Smith and Toddrick Gotcher being included, but both had very good years. Isaiah Cousins was on one ballot, and was the last guy cut from mine.
While the Big 12 picks an All-Newcomer team, we desired to just do the freshman instead. It was a tricky exercise, because it wasn't a great year for Big 12 freshman, as many of the top incoming freshmen in the league didn't really get to play very much.
For our team, three unanimous choices -- Jawun Evans, Eric Davis, and Kerwin Roach -- are joined by Dean Wade and Barry Brown, who received two votes each. Esa Ahmad and Dante Buford were also named on ballots.
And finally, a note about the awards. The awards are tricky to claim, but I assure you that they are real. Each player can receive his award by showing up for the awards ceremony at Gordo's Pub, located at 4328 Montgomery Road Norwood, OH 45212, on Wednesday March 9 at 7 PM EST. Awards will not be sent through the mail; you have to show up in person to receive your trophy. Also, you will not receive your award unless you contact the author of this piece at least 24 hours in advance.