Picking conference awards winners, this year's FGCU and more mailbag
Jason Wenk (@Jwenk1): Who's your pick for Big 12 POY?
Liam Riley (@L_riley666): AAC POY after the win over Cincy and Kilpatrick's bad performance?
AJames (@Wrigley_Ivy): Chances a Cyclone earns Big 12 POY?
As you can see from this first batch of questions, we have reached the end-of-season awards parade. I'm happy to get in line. Here is a rundown of my Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year in the seven major conferences:
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
• POY: Shabazz Napier, UConn -- I gave him the nod over Russ Smith (Louisville) and Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati) partly because of how much his team depends on him, but I've got room for all three of those guys on my All-America team.
• FOY: Terry Rozier, Louisville -- There were not a lot of candidates, but Rozier stood out for his contributions the last month of the season.
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
• COY: Tony Bennett, Virginia -- Raise your hand if you picked the Cavs to win the conference title by two games? Yeah, me neither.
• FOY: Parker
• POY: Nik Stauskas, Michigan -- You can make strong cases for Michigan State's Gary Harris and Nebraska's Terran Petteway, but Stauskas ranks in the top 10 in the conference in points, assists, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio. He's the main reason the Wolverines won the league title despite losing Mitch McGary in December.
• COY: John Beilein, Michigan -- Bo Ryan and Tim Miles had great years, but nobody pulled off the unlikely feat that Beilein did, not only in losing McGary but also in having to replace a backcourt featuring two first-round NBA draft picks.
• POY: Melvin Ejim, Iowa State -- It's a close call between Ejim and his teammate, DeAndre Kane, but Ejim was the more dominant performer. Besides leading the league in points (18.4), Ejim ranks fourth in rebounds (8.3), second in field goal percentage (52.4) and sixth in free throw percentage (79.0).
• COY: Bill Self, Kansas -- How about coach of the decade? Self's 10 straight league titles, three of which came after he replaced his entire starting lineup, is one of the more remarkable achievements in all of sports.
• FOY: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas -- No, he can't walk on water, but he did get increasingly confident and aggressive as the season went on.
• COY: Jay Wright, Villanova -- The Wildcats were unranked in the preseason, but they pulled off a conference regular season title.
• POY: Kyle Anderson, UCLA -- Might be the most versatile player in the country. Led the league (and ranked fourth nationally) in assists while ranking fourth in both rebounds and steals. He was also the Bruins' second-leading scorer at 14.9 points per game.
• FOY: Aaron Gordon, Arizona -- People love to talk about what he's not (namely, a good outside shooter), but Gordon was still as effective at both ends as any player in the conference.
• POY: Scottie Wilbekin, Florida -- For most of the season, I thought this would go to Kentucky's Julius Randle, but Wilbekin was the most important player on what was by far the best team in the league.
• COY: Billy Donovan, Florida -- Donovan is one of the best in the business, but let's face it, this was not a stellar season for coaches in this conference.
• FOY: Julius Randle, Kentucky -- He was the most consistent player on a wildly inconsistent team.
Kyle Eden (@dragonlord741): Any hope for UK fixing what ails it, or has their goose been cooked for a tournament run?
Ah yes, there is nothing like the despair of a passionate fan base. The Big Blue Nation is especially prone to such mood swings, so let me do my best to cheer y'all up: Just as this team was never as good as it appeared at the start of the season, it is also not as bad as it looks right now.
First of all, I don't like the way people are attributing poor play to character defects. Just because the Harrison twins are sloppy with the ball doesn't mean they have bad attitudes. Unless you are in practices and in that locker room every day, it is impossible to know what is going on for sure, but from what I can tell, they are trying their best to win. They just don't know how.
The good news for Kentucky is that it still does two things as well as any team in the country -- hit the offensive glass and get to the free throw line. The Wildcats need to get back to making those things the heart of their identity. Their main problem lately has been shot selection, but they showed enough ability in this area this season to make us believe they can get back to that. And in Julius Randle, they still have one of the top 10 players in the country. Most teams would love to have an asset like that.
Finally, I realize that John Calipari is a polarizing figure, but there has never been doubt the man can coach. Having said that, his demeanor is not helping. He seems so exasperated with his players that he is in very real danger of losing his locker room. We know the fans are going to panic. It's up to the coach to keep his cool. If he can tone things down and guide this team to a more even keel, it can do some real damage in the NCAA tournament. I think.
Stanley (@Sutt36): Is Oklahoma State going to be the scariest low seed in the tourney?
This is an excellent point. Even after their current four-game win streak, the Cowboys are a game under .500 in the Big 12 heading into Saturday's showdown at Iowa State. Yes, that record is skewed by the three-game suspension served by Marcus Smart, but the team was playing poorly even before Smart went out. That experience could have destroyed the Cowboys, but instead it seems to have re-focused them to the task at hand.
The committee will take into account that Smart was gone for three of those losses, but Oklahoma State's overall resume still leaves much to be desired. Right now, they are probably hovering around a 9 or 10 seed, which means if they get by their first game, they will be in the Round of 32 against either a No. 1 or a No. 2. Considering they split their regular season series with a likely No. 1 seed, Kansas, the Cowboys are not the kind of team that any team is going to want to see so early in the tournament.
Timmer (@TylerTh3Creatr): Who would you want with the ball in the last seconds of a game? (Hint: the answer is Traevon Jackson)
Since you've answered your own question, let's amend it to where it asks for the top five players not named Traevon Jackson:
1. Doug McDermott, Creighton -- He can score from anywhere in any way against any defense.
3. Nik Stauskas, Michigan -- Like Ennis, he's from north of the border. Can stroke it with the best of them.
4. Shabazz Napier, UConn -- Nailed a game winner against Florida earlier this season. A shooter and a scorer.
Benny Ship (@benny_ship1): Who are some teams that could be this year's FGCU?
Herewith, my top five:
1. Harvard. The Crimson have struggled with injuries, but they enter the final week of the regular season with a two-game lead for first in the Ivy, and this team is at least as good as the one that upset New Mexico in the NCAA tournament last year.
2. Vermont. The team that came within a whisker of shocking Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium in December has romped through the America East Conference behind do-everything senior forward Brian Voelkel.
3. Green Bay. Won the Horizon League regular season by two games and beat Virginia at home in December.
4. Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks haven't lost a game since Nov. 23. Winning is a habit.