As the American Athletic Conference season winds down this week, it's time to take a look at who could/should be hauling in some hardware at the league tournament next week in Orlando.
A lot of tough choices this season, really. In fact, looking back at the preseason all-conference teams, we've got just two players picked for the first team making either first or second team all-AAC. Of course, we could be very wrong.
Here's how we see it:
Nic Moore, Sr. G, SMU
Quenton DeCosey, Sr. G, Temple
Shaq Goodwin, Sr. F, Memphis
James Woodard, Sr. G, Tulsa
Gary Clark, Soph. F, Cincinnati
Damyean Dotson, Jr. G, Houston
Troy Caupain, Jr. G, Cincinnati
Shonn Miller, Gr. F, UConn
Jordan Tolbert, Sr. F, SMU
Shaq Harrison, Sr. G, Tulsa
Daniel Hamilton, Soph. F, UConn
Dedric Lawson, Fr. F, Memphis
Pat Birt, Jr. F, Tulsa
Louis Dabney, Sr. G, Tulane
Jalen Adams, G, UConn
Jahmal McMurray, G, USF
Dedric Lawson, F, Memphis
Shake Milton, G, SMU
Kentrell Barkley, F, ECU
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Candidates: Nic Moore, SMU; Quenton DeCosey, Temple
Winner: Nic Moore, SMU
Moore won the award last season (beating out UConn's Ryan Boatright), and was the preseason pick this year, which certainly gave him the leg up on the competition from the start. Sometimes, guys have trouble living up to the expectations (see: Dunn, Kris), but not in Moore's case. He's third in the league in scoring at 16.7 ppg, third in assists and fourth in steals. It's a shame his NCAA tourney career will be defined by the following: snubbed as a sophomore, first-round loss on controversial goaltending call as a junior, postseason ban as a senior.
As recently as a few weeks ago, I thought Daniel Hamilton had a chance to unseat Moore for the honor. But he struggled so badly for the whole month of January, and UConn has fallen so short of expectations, that it's worth wondering whether Hamilton will even earn all-AAC honors.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Candidates: Dedric Lawson, Memphis; Jahmal McMurray, USF; Shake Milton, SMU
Winner: Dedric Lawson, Memphis
Despite a pair of atrocious performances this season against UConn, Lawson -- a heralded McDonald's All-American coming in -- is the choice. He leads the AAC in rebounding at 9.5 per game (barely edging out Hamilton) while also scoring at a 15.6 ppg clip. McMurray leads the league in scoring, but he's too one-dimensional on a bad team. Jalen Adams was the preseason pick, but while he's really made strides in recent weeks, he's not going to win this one.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Candidates: Fran Dunphy, Temple; Kelvin Sampson, Houston; Larry Brown, SMU
Winner: Kelvin Sampson, Houston
This is a really tough one that could go to either Dunphy or Sampson. Temple was picked to finish sixth and is 12-4 with a chance to finish first. Houston was picked to finish seventh and is 10-6, fresh off a win at UConn. I was really impressed with the job Sampson did in Sunday's win in Storrs, and even more impressed with his postgame press conference. Dunphy won it last year, so maybe there's a tendency to go with someone new. Either that or Dunphy becomes the Mike Brey of the AAC: the de facto coach of the year.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Candidates: Tacko Fall, UCF; Gary Clark, Cincinnati; Shaq Goodwin, Memphis; Shaq Harrison, Tulsa; Amida Brimah, UConn
Winner: Gary Clark, Cincinnati
This usually goes to a shot-blocker, so that eliminates Harrison. Fall, a freshman, leads the league in blocks (2.1 per game). Brimah would be second at 2.0 per game, but he's only played in nine league contests and will end up only playing 11. He is the reigning league DPOY, but is 11 games enough to merit a repeat? I say it goes to Clark, the top shot-blocker (1.8) on the league's most consistently excellent defensive team.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
Candidates: Markus Kennedy, SMU; Rodney Purvis, UConn; Rob Gray, Jr., Houston
Winner: Rodney Purvis, UConn
This is another real tough one. Kennedy won it last year, but he's been bothered by a knee injury for much of this season and is only averaging 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in league play. Not bad, but not what was expected from a preseason first team all-league pick. Gray leads the league in scoring in overall games (17.1 ppg) but doesn't rank in conference play because he's only played in 12 (starting seven of them) due to a balky ankle. He scored just two points Sunday against UConn. Is it fair to give the league's Sixth Man Award to a player who's only come off the bench in five league games?
Unless I'm missing someone else, Purvis seems to be the best fit. We all know his limitations, but he's come off the bench in 12 of 16 league games and averaged 10.9 points.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
I'll go with Temple's Obi Enechionyia, unless anyone can come up with someone else.
UConn's Pat Lenehan won it last year, so could Nnamdi Amilo and his 4.0 GPA make it two Huskies in as many years? Doubtful, since Amilo is not a scholarship athlete this season.
This is not meant to be a sarcastic putdown of the players in the AAC, but I don't have a great guess who's deserving of the award. Sometimes it goes to a real good player who got edged out in another award, so maybe Quenton DeCosey or a James Woodard wins it. If we could give an award to the UConn player who's most amenable to the media (I know that doesn't exactly equate to sportsmanship) then Purvis would be a front-runner.
Labels: Amida Brimah, Daniel Hamilton, Gary Clark, Jalen Adams, James Woodard, Larry Brown, Nic Moore, Quenton DeCosey, Rodney Purvis, Ryan Boatright, Shaq Goodwin, Shonn Miller