The inaugural American Athletic Conference postseason
awards will be released this week. On Tuesday, the all-conference teams and
all-rookie team will be released, and on Wednesday at a luncheon in Memphis,
the individual award-winners will be announced.
There will be two, five-man all-conference teams this
season, with no honorable mention selections. In the past in the Big East,
players who appeared on at least 50 percent of the coach’s ballots earned
honorable mention status. No players earned such recognition this season,
With all that in mind, here would be my all-AAC picks:
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Justin Jackson, Cincinnati
Sorry, I don’t see either Ryan Boatright or DeAndre
Daniels getting the nod. Not the way they’ve played the last couple of weeks.
Isaiah Sykes of UCF might be more deserving than Thomas, but Houston did better
in the league standing, so I gave the edge to Thomas.
As for the individual awards, here’s how my ballot would
look (and remember, the media doesn't vote for any of this, it's the league's SID's ... er, coaches who vote):
Player of the Year: Shabazz Napier, UConn
: This isn’t
homerism, it’s simply having a front-row seat to a terrific season. Other than Sean Kilpatrick, there’s not a single player more valuable to his team than Napier. Russ Smith is great, but without him, Louisville probably still finishes at least in
the top three of the conference. Without Napier? Shudder to think. Napier’s
overall stats are better than Kilpatrick’s (except for scoring), but if
Kilpatrick wins it, it’s no crime. Even if Smith wins it, I wouldn’t be
outraged. He was the preseason player of the year, which the coaches also vote
for, so that may give him an edge. But to me, it’s Shabazz.
Coach of the Year: Larry Brown, SMU
. Really a two-man
race between Brown and Cincy’s Mick Cronin. Cincinnati was picked to finish
fourth in the league and wound up co-champs. SMU was picked to finish sixth and
finished tied for third. So that’s kind of a wash. Cronin also had Kilpatrick,
while Brown didn’t have a true star (though you’ve got to love the way Nic Moore
plays – unless you’re a UConn fan). Personally, I think Brown did the better
job, resurrecting a program that was 15-17 overall a year ago and 5-11 in
Conference USA and getting them, almost certainly, into the Big Dance. But it could go
Rookie of the Year: Austin Nichols, Memphis.
In the Year of the Freshman nationally, no frosh really stood out this year in
the American. Nichols was the top rookie
scorer (9.5 per game) and led the entire league in field goal percentage
(63.9), so he’s my pick. Brimah deserves some consideration, and listening toRick Pitino talk, he may have his vote
Defensive Player of the Year: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati.
When you lead the league in blocked shots, you’ve got the inside track on the
award. When you’re also third in steals, that’s a rare combo, and you’ve pretty
much sealed the deal. Amida Brimah may win this someday, but this year, it’s
Sixth Man Award: Michael Dixon, Jr., Memphis
transfer with a controversial past wound up the Tigers’ second-leading scorer
in league play (13.3 ppg). Niels Giffey deserves a glance, but Dixon is the
Most Improved Player: Dalton Pepper, Temple
. Averaged 2.9
points per game off the bench in the A-10 a year ago. This year, finished third
in the AAC in scoring at 18.3 ppg.
Labels: Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Isaiah Sykes, Joe Jackson, Larry Brown, Mick Cronin, Montrezl Harrell, Nic Moore, Niels Giffey, Russ Smith, Ryan Boatright, Sean Kilpatrick, Shabazz Napier, Ta'Shawn Thomas