ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- I don't know if I'm ripping the cover off some secret clandestine something, or exposing some horrible underbelly of The Business here. But one of the best things about Championship Fortnight is the media gifts. Yes, many conferences bestow presents upon us ink- and pixel-stained wags, presenting us with tokens of appreciation when we pick up our credentials. It's not like the Oscars or anything, we're not taken into a big room full of tables and goodie bags and asked which iPhone we want, but it's pretty darned close.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is great with gifts -- they give you stuff that you can use in your daily work, like the classy pen set from last year and the flash drive they gave us this past weekend (at 256MB, it could fit everything I've ever written about basketball 10 times over.) The Ohio Valley Conference takes a different approach, preferring to invade your casual, everyday life with its logo. The 2007 gift was a great big fleece blanket, which The Official Wife™ uses on the couch when I'm not home and the bed gets too big. This year's offering was a sleek, tall stainless-steel black travel mug that fits in every cup holder ever invented. I wonder what they'll give us when the conference wins its first NCAA game since 1989.
Then there's our beloved Atlantic 14, which has escalated the ante in recent years. Yesterday, they gave us all mini-mouses. I've tested it against the $50 wireless model I've been lugging around the last two seasons (which cuts out reception every eighth time I want to click on something), and it's vastly superior. I've got to say -- that's a high-major gift right there.
But we're not really here to talk about rewards, this is about a
wards. We're in the business of giving out some virtual hardware today. We've seen all the Player and Coach of the Year awards, given out by league coaches in secret ballots, and we respectfully disagree with a lot of their decisions. Here, then, on this second-to-last Boubacar of the year, are our picks. ("We" being the two-member panel of myself and Bally, who disagreed on only one pick. Can you guess which?) It's the first time we've done this, and we're still trying to figure out why that is.
And attn. sports information directors: if you're queasy about linking to a "blog" post about media swag, if that's too "informal," you can just go ahead and copy and paste the relevant sections into your releases. We don't need the extra bandwidth-hogging traffic this time of year anyway.America East (POY: Marqus Blakely, Vermont; COY: Randy Monroe, UMBC)Mid-Majority A-East Player of the Year: Marqus Blakely, Vermont.
Any way you slice it, MMBOW #16
was head, mohawk and shoulders above the rest of the league. The 6-5 sophomore scored 19 ppg, shot 55 percent, led the conference in rebounding with 11 per game, and earned 15 double-doubles.Mid-Majority A-East Coach of the Year: Dan Leibovitz, Hartford.
Leibovitz took a young team with virtually no size, turned it into the A-East's hottest-shooting offense, and earned more wins than the Hawks had ever had as a member of the America East (18). Now that's a coaching job.Atlantic Sun (POY: Thomas Sanders, Gardner-Webb; COY: Rick Byrd, Belmont)Mid-Majority A-Sun Player of the Year: Jonathan Rodriguez, Campbell.
The coaches picked a POY from the No. 6 seed, so we don't feel strange taking our from No. 8. The 6-5 sophomore led the league in scoring (20.9 ppg) and rebounds (10.1), and was likely passed over because of the team's season-ending eight-game losing streak. That wasn't his fault, he double-doubled four times and kept a lot of those games close.Mid-Majority A-Sun Coach of the Year: Rick Byrd, Belmont.
He lost the two best big men the program's ever seen, and had to play a deep and young rotation all year. Result? A school record for wins, a first outright regular-season title, and a third consecutive trip to the Dance.Big Sky (POY: Jeremiah Dominguez, Portland State; COY: ---)Mid-Majority Big Sky Player of the Year: Jeremiah Dominguez, Portland State.
One of the shortest players in college hoops at 5-6, the Vikings' point guard played big, leading the conference double-champs in points (14.3), assists (4.1) and free throw shooting (82.1 percent).Mid-Majority Big Sky Coach of the Year: Ken Bone, Portland State.
The Vikings won the 2005 regular-season title (and a tourney loss) with big senior leadership under Heath Schroyer, but he left for an assistant gig at Fresno State. In three seasons, former Washington assistant Bone has led the Vikes to the next level.Big South (POY: Arizona Reid, High Point; COY: Eddie Biedenbach, UNC Asheville)Mid-Majority Big South Player of the Year: Arizona Reid, High Point.
Our only two-time MMBOW this season (#10
and #17), Reid dominated the Big South leaderboards with 23.9 ppg and 11.0 rpg, double-doubling 20 times.Mid-Majority Big South Coach of the Year: Randy Peele, Winthrop.
Peele inherited a team from Wichita-bound Gregg Marshall with talent replacement issues from its 2007 Round of 32 squad, and had to deal with the sad and untimely death of point guard DeAndre Adams. Winthrop responded by playing the best defense it's played in a decade, beat two ACC teams, and won its fourth straight championship.Big West (POY: Alex Harris, UCSB/Scott Cutley, Cal State Fullerton; COY: Bobby Braswell, Cal State Northridge)Mid-Majority BWC Player of the Year: Tremaine Townsend, Cal State Northridge.
was an instant spark for the Matadors, as the 6-9 junior the conference in rebounds (9.5) and blocks (1.1). After coming in from a juco over the summer, his athleticism and size transformed a lot of games in a guard-heavy league.Mid-Majority BWC Coach of the Year: Bobby Braswell, Cal State Northridge.
The 11th year head coach led the Matadors to their first 20-win season since 2000-01, and improved the Matador D from a lackluster and porous one in 2006-07 into the league's best -- CSUN led the Big West in every defensive category.Colonial (POY: Eric Maynor, VCU; COY: Tony Shaver, William & Mary)Mid-Majority CAA Player of the Year: Will Thomas, George Mason.
In November, the 6-7 senior helped lead the Patriots to national-grade wins over then-prominent teams like Kansas State and Dayton, stayed consistent during Mason's struggles, and averaged a double-double with 15.7 ppg and 10.5 rpg. The rest of the league is happy that the league's most feared player will never play another CAA opponent.Mid-Majority CAA Coach of the Year: Tony Shaver, William & Mary.
Shaver has revived the Tribe after five years in the CAA cellar. He followed up a 15-15 record last year with 17 wins and a trip to the title game.Horizon League (POY: Mike Green, Butler; COY: Waters, Cle. St./Brownell, Wright State)Mid-Majority Horizon Player of the Year: Mike Green, Butler.
Green labored in fellow guard A.J. Graves' shadow during the Sweet 16 run last season, but he moved from subhead to headline in 2007-08. The 6-1 senior grabbed Butler's triple crown, leading the team in points (14.9), rebounds (6.6) and assists (5.1). Then, it was his 24 points and 13 rebounds that iced the tourney title in a 70-55 win over Cleveland State.Mid-Majority Horizon Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens, Butler.
When Todd Lickliter left for Iowa last summer, it was expected that Butler would take a step back, not forward. This year's Bulldogs did a lot of things the 2006-07 squad didn't, like win both Horizon titles. He also played the kids a lot, ensuring that when Green leaves, he won't be left with green players.IndependentsMid-Majority Indie Player of the Year: Ryan Toolson, Utah Valley State.
Indie kids can't earn championships or Dance cards, but this 6-4 junior sharpshooter found plenty to play for. scored 23.4 ppg, made over 95 percent of his free throws, and hit nearly 44 percent of his 3-point attempts.Mid-Majority Indie Coach of the Year: Tom Schuberth, Texas-Pan American.
Programs without conferences also have a lot of tough road to travel. UTPA, for instance, played only 10 of its 31 games at home, but still was able to manage a 18-13 record, its first mark better than .500 since 2001-02. Schuberth likes to keep his players motivated by playing in neutral-site tourneys where they have chances at earning some actual hardware.Ivy League (POY: Louis Dale, Cornell; COY: ---)Mid-Majority Ivy Player of the Year: Mark McAndrew, Brown.
Not a player from champion Cornell -- that's an egalitarian share-the-wealth system, a mini-Xavier of sorts. This 6-2 Bear senior was a consistent performer all year, scoring a conference-best 16.5 ppg, only dipping into single digits twice, and he converted 47 percent of his shots.Mid-Majority Ivy Coach of the Year: Steve Donahue, Cornell.
A 22-5 record, a 16-game winning streak and the school's first NCAA bid in 20 years? The coach has to be the COY. There's a rule about that.MEAC (POY: Jamar Smith, Morgan State; COY: Todd Bozeman, Morgan State)Mid-Majority MEAC Player of the Year: Boubacar Coly, Morgan State.
Sure, we're helplessly biased, but consider the numbers. Eleven rebounds per game, nine double-doubles, and 11 more games with double-digit boards. And 2.6 blocks per game too. The 6-9 junior was the defensive stopper who made Morgan's regular-season title happen on the court.Mid-Majority MEAC Coach of the Year: Todd Bozeman, Morgan State.
After spending a year in college basketball exile, it took Bozeman two years to build the long-suffering Bears back into a winner. Morgan was a perfect 13-0 at home, and is on the verge of its first-ever NCAA bid as regular-season MEAC champs.Metro Atlantic (POY: Jason Thompson, Rider; COY: Tommy Dempsey, Rider)Mid-Majority MAAC Player of the Year (and TMM National Baller of the Year): Jason Thompson, Rider.
Quite simply, the best player to come through the MAAC in a generation, and will have an chance to make as much of an impact in the NBA next year as Calvin Murphy or Rik Smits. The 6-11 senior scored 20.6 ppg, grabbed 11.9 rpg, and reached the 20-and-20 mark three times.Mid-Majority MAAC Coach of the Year: Fran McCaffery, Siena.
We can recall seeing him on the sidelines in 2005, watching the undisciplined streetball all-stars he'd inherited. In two short years, he's molded the program into a fast, athletic, disciplined team that's tough on D. And now the Saints are MAAC double-champions as well.Mid-American (POY: Al Fisher, Kent State; COY: Jim Christian, Kent State)Mid-Majority MAC Player of the Year: Haminn Quaintance, Kent State and Leon Williams, Ohio.
We couldn't decide. The 6-8 senior Kent Stater, known as "Q," is the Swiss Army knife of mid-major players, racking up sizeable stats in points, rebounds, assists, steals and several others that haven't been invented yet. And it's foolish to deny that 6-8 senior Williams was the most dominant player in the conference, the only one who was able to take games over in November as he was in March.Mid-Majority MAC Coach of the Year: Steve Hawkins, Western Michigan.
Lost in all the East Division Bias is the fact that WMU improved from .500 to seven games over, beat Davidson and Southern Illinois, and had stronger defensive numbers than any of the Ohio teams. That deserves some kudos.Missouri Valley (POY: Adam Emmenecker, Drake; COY: Keno Davis, Drake)Mid-Majority MVC Player of the Year: Adam Emmenecker, Drake.
Perhaps the first player ever to be a POY and MVP after averaging just 8.5 ppg, the 6-1 senior (and three-year walk-on) doesn't likely have a pro career ahead of him. He should, however, make a DVD for kids on how to play the game right, hard and fearlessly. He is, simply, a Human Floor Burn.Mid-Majority MVC Coach of the Year: Keno Davis, Drake.
He stepped in after his father's retirement, and uttered the following words to his players in their first practice: "I will pull you out of the game if you get a shot and you don't take it... but I will not pull you out if you take the shot and miss it." The rest is history.Northeast (POY: Tony Lee, Robert Morris; COY: Mike Rice, Robert Morris)Mid-Majority NEC Player of the Year: Tony Lee, Robert Morris.
The 6-0 senior is a mainstay in RMU's program, but he really flourished under first-year head coach Mike Rice's speedy system. Lee scored 13.7 ppg and 6.4 assists, and shot the gaps to grab a team-high 6.7 rpg. Did we mention he's only six feet tall?Mid-Majority NEC Coach of the Year: Milan Brown, Mount St. Mary's.
This pick is an easy one in light of The Mount's run to the NCAA's for the first time since 1999, but the level of new talent, improved skill and impeccable smarts his team had was evident even in December. And they're ready now: Brown took an underclassman-heavy team with only one senior to the title by winning two road games against higher seeds.Ohio Valley (POY: Lester Hudson, Tenn.-Martin; COY: Donnie Tyndall, Morehead State)Mid-Majority OVC Player of the Year: Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin.
Hudson, an under-the-radar juco transfer, not only lifted the Skyhawks out of the perpetual cellar, he raised the entire profile of the Ohio Valley Conference as well. His 25.7 ppg was fourth-best in the nation, and his steal average (2.8) was the fifth-highest in Division I. And he's got one more year.Mid-Majority OVC Coach of the Year: Dave Loos, Austin Peay.
After a heartbreaking loss to Eastern Kentucky in the 2007 title game, the Govs stayed focused for an entire year while waiting for its next chance, even during a long, late January road trip with two bad blowouts. They came back and claimed the title; credit the coach for a lot of that.Patriot League (POY: Greg Sprink, Navy; COY: Billy Lange, Navy)Mid-Majority Patriot Player of the Year: Greg Sprink, Navy.
The Midshipmen gave him the ball a lot, he shot it a lot, and it went in... enough. The 6-5 senior capped off a career full of 3-point shots with a 21.7 ppg campaign, and led the PL's second-place in rebounds with 6.3.Mid-Majority Patriot Coach of the Year: Jeff Jones, American.
The Eagles have been on the cusp of Patriot greatness for years now, but the eighth-year coach had his first 20-win season and best-ever conference record at 10-4. Should American win tomorrow, it'll be the first Big Dance appearance in school history.Southern (POY: Stephen Curry, Davidson; COY: Bob McKillop, Davidson)Mid-Majority SoCon Player of the Year: Stephen Curry, Davidson.
He matured in a big way as a sophomore and displayed a budding ability to take over any game, anywhere. Great players inspire a lot of "remember the time" stories. Like, "remember the time he dropped 41 on UNCG and pulled Davidson out of a 20-point deficit," or "remember the time they pronounced his name wrong at App State and he went off for 38."Mid-Majority SoCon Coach of the Year: Bob McKillop, Davidson.
He scheduled ambitiously (UNC, UCLA, Duke and N.C. State), then got his players focused on SoCon perfection when all four chances came up short. Now his team is one of the most dangerous small colleges in the NCAA Tournament, ready to take the school's red and white banner deep into the Dance.Southland (POY: Josh Alexander, Stephen F. Austin; COY: Danny Kaspar, Stephen F. Austin)Mid-Majority Southland Player of the Year: Josh Alexander, Stephen F. Austin.
The 6-4 junior has always been a strong scorer, now he's emerging as a Lumberjack leader. He led the co-regular season champions in points (16.5) and rebounds (5.8).Mid-Majority Southland Coach of the Year: Steve Roccaforte, Lamar.
The team lost moody 7-0 Chris Daniels to the "pros" last summer, but the second-year head coach transformed his team into hurry-up hell for Southland opponents. The Cardinals paired uptempo hoops with league-best efficiency, and ended up with as regular season co-champs with a 13-3 league record.Summit League (POY: George Hill, IUPUI; COY: Scott Sutton, Oral Roberts)Mid-Majority Badlands Player of the Year: George Hill, IUPUI.
The 6-2 junior came back from a foot injury that claimed the majority of his 2006-07 season, and re-established himself as the conference's best pure shooter. His 21.5 ppg came off 54 percent shooting, and he showed some rebounding prowess as well with a team-leading 6.8 rebounds.Mid-Majority Badlands Coach of the Year: Scott Sutton, Oral Roberts.
He's had to replace the two best players in school history (Caleb Green and Ken Tutt), but he's brought another generation of ORU heroes to a third straight league title. Consistent excellence despite changing personnel is one of the hardest things to do at this level, and the mark of a premier program.Mid-Majority Mascot Fight of the Year:
We'd heard rumors about this, but there was a very real fight between Jaws the (IUPUI) Jaguar and Oral Roberts' Eli the Eagle at the Badlands title game, and we have YouTube. Enjoy. Sun Belt (POY: Courtney Lee, W. Kentucky; COY: Ronnie Arrow, S. Alabama)Mid-Majority Sun Belt Player of the Year: Demetric Bennett, South Alabama.
Courtney Lee is the one with the NBA tools, but this 6-4 senior is the one who led his team to big nonconference wins. His 39 keyed a win against Mississippi State in December, and his 28 set down eventual WCC champs San Diego. (His 32 in the semifinal loss to MTSU were, as they say, not enough.) He averaged 20.1 ppg (23.1 per 40 minutes), hit 41 percent of his 3's, and is a big reason why a Sun Belt team is still on the bubble.Mid-Majority Sun Belt Coach of the Year: Darrin Horn, Western Kentucky.
Horn has always been the best recruiter and judge of talent in the Belt, but his recent teams have been all O and no D. That changed this year, as the Toppers soared to 27 wins with the conference's best field-goal defense and most forced turnovers. The team's points allowed dropped by seven points, and that's why they're the champs.SWAC (POY: Andrew Hayles, Alabama State; COY unannounced)Mid-Majority SWAC Player of the Year: Andrew Hayles, Alabama State.
Two years ago, as a freshman, then-SWAC FOY Hayles was ejected for throwing an elbow in the first round of the SWAC tournament (which led to the Hornets' exit), but in the ensuing pair of seasons he's matured a lot. This year, he led the team in scoring at 14.8 ppg, and ranked in the league's top 10 in six major offensive categories.Mid-Majority SWAC Coach of the Year: Lewis Jackson, Alabama State.
In his first two seasons, he struggled to recapture the same SWAC magic as former HC and two-time titlist Rob Spivery (now at Southern), but he has the chance to gain as many wins as his first two years combined (10 and 12) with a tourney title. He's stressed shot selection, ball control and under-the-basket defense, and the Hornets responded with a regular-season championship.West Coast (POY: Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga; COY: Mark Few, Gonzaga/Randy Bennett, SMC)Mid-Majority WCC Player of the Year: Diamon Simpson, Saint Mary's.
The limber, athletic 6-7 junior was the one who bailed the Gaels out when their potent transition game wasn't working, and gave them a dangerous added dimension when it was. His 13.6 ppg and 9.1 rpg served as the team's statistical backbone, and he served up 13 double-doubles. His 17-and-10 performance in the double-OT semifinal loss to San Diego was a profile in courage.Mid-Majority WCC Coach of the Year: Bill Grier, San Diego.
When Grier left the Gonzaga bench after 13 years, it was a strong signal that the Gonzaga monopoly would soon be over. When his Toreros capped a 13-3 record with a stunning upset of the Zags in the title game, it sealed the deal that WCC parity is very real.Western Athletic (POY: Jaycee Carroll, Utah State; COY: Greg Graham, Boise State)Mid-Majority WAC Player of the Year: Jaycee Carroll, Utah State.
A longtime magnet for the MMBOW award, the 6-2 senior capped his collegiate career with a 22.7 ppg, 53 percent FG year. It was also one of the best pure shooting seasons in the country, as his "true shooting percentage" (a mix of FG's, 3's and frees) was 69.2 percent. If the ball leaves his hands in any context, it's going in seven out of ten times.Mid-Majority WAC Coach of the Year (and TMM National Coach of the Year): Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State.
Menzies came to Las Cruces from Louisville's bench, and found a lot of off-court problems. The new sheriff responded by giving out suspensions like sidewalk flyers, putting the school's reputation above basketball wins and losses. We had our doubts that it would work, but things have calmed down considerably at NMSU. Oh yeah, they had 19 overall victories and have won eight of nine heading into the WAC tournament. Coach, you have our admiration and our respect.