Who are the frontrunners for AAC awards at this point?
Instead, it went to Napier, even though UConn wound up finishing in fourth place in the regular season standings. Kilpatrick and coach Mick Cronin weren't too happy about it. Of course, both blew their chance to avenge the perceived snub when Kilpatrick blew a layup in the waning seconds of the AAC semifinals, allowing UConn to win and advance to the finals to face Louisville.
UConn has frontrunners in three categories: Player of the year (Ryan Boatright), rookie of the year (Daniel Hamilton) and defensive player of the year (Amida Brimah). You could make an argument that all three deserve to win. There is no way in heck they do, however, given UConn's disappointing record this season. In fact, it's doubtful the Huskies get more than one of the awards.
Here's how I see the awards panning out -- not necessarily who I think should win, but who I think will win. (All stats referred to are for conference play only):
Ryan Boatright, UConn
Nic Moore, SMU
Yanick Moreira, SMU
James Woodard, Tulsa
Will Cummings, Temple
Austin Nichols, Memphis
Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati
Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa
Jesse Morgan, Temple
Markus Kennedy, SMU
Daniel Hamilton, UConn
B.J. Taylor, UCF
Adonys Hernandez, UCF
B.J. Tyson, ECU
Gary Clark, Cincinnati
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Two-man race between Ryan Boatright and Nic Moore. Boatright leads the league in scoring and is fifth in assists. God knows where UConn would be without him. He was also preseason player of the year, which may give him a leg up in the minds of the voters -- the league's coaches. (Of course, Russ Smith was last year's preseason POY and that didn't help him win it). Moore is the best player on the league's best team. He leads the league in assists and is sixth in scoring. Usually, the award goes to a player on a first or second-place team (obviously, that didn't happen last year).
Pick: Moore. I think the coaches will give it to him, based on SMU's success, even though Boatright has been by far the more dynamic player. Boatright says he's not concerned with individual awards, anyway.
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Another two-man race between SMU's Larry Brown and Tulsa's Frank Haith. Brown has the best team and has dealt with the loss of several key players at different points of the season. Of course, the Mustangs were picked to finish second int he league. Haith, in his first year at the helm, inherited a team that won the Conference USA tourney last year and was picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. The Golden Hurricane is currently second in the league standings at 10-2.
Pick: Haith. This is subject to change, however, if Tulsa falters over the next few weeks -- which is entirely possible. Then, Brown will win it.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
There are a lot of good candidates. Obviously, Daniel Hamilton (the preseason pick) is a frontrunner. UCF's B.J. Taylor (12.8 ppg), ECU's B.J. Tyson (11.5), UCF's Adonys Hernandez (10.4) and Hamilton (9.8) are among the league's top scorers. Hamilton is second in rebounding, while Cincy's Gary Clark is seventh. Hamilton is also 10th in assists, the only frosh to be in all three categories.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tough one. Amida Brimah is the league's leading shot-blocker and is certainly the dominant defensive force. That's usually enough to win you the award, but I don't think it will this season. My guess is that it will go to either Will Cummings of Temple or Shaquille Harrison of Tulsa, who are 1-2 in the league in steals.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
SMU's Markus Kennedy has yet to start a game since returning to the team from academic suspension. If this is Larry Brown's way of making him earn his way back in the lineup, I'd say he has by now: he's 14th in the league in scoring (11.9), ninth in rebounding (6.2) 15th in blocked shots (0.9) and even 12th in steals (1.2). Unless the coaches don't want to vote for a guy who was suspended for the first semester, Kennedy's gotta be the one.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Injuries severely hampered Yanick Moreira last season, forcing him to miss four weeks in the middle of the season. This year, he's averaging 10.9 points and seven boards for the first-place Mustangs.
Sean Kilpatrick got this last season in what looked like a consolation prize for not winning player of the year. So, we'll go with either Moore or Boatright, whoever doesn't win POY this season.
Your guess is as good as mine, although now that they're scholarship players, either Pat Lenehan or Nnamdi Amilo are as qualified as anyone.
Labels: Amida Brimah, Austin Nichols, Daniel Hamilton, Frank Haith, Larry Brown, Markus Kennedy, Nic Moore, Nnamdi Amilo, Pat Lenehan, Ryan Boatright, Sean Kilpatrick, Shabazz Napier, Shaquille Harrison, Yanick Moreira