PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Trey Burke, Michigan
We wrote about this on Thursday, so I’m not going to go into too much detail about this again. The bottom-line? Burke is averaging 19.1 points and 6.9 assists while posting one of the best individual seasons in the history of the efficiency era. He’s playing on a top ten team that is just as young as Kentucky’s team was when they won the 2012 National Title, and he does everything for them. Oh, and if this shot had fallen to the right instead of to the left, the Wolverines would be co-Big Ten champions.
Otto Porter is phenomenal, but you cannot forget about the way he played early in the season. Victor Oladipo has been great, but he’s a glorified role player (that’s a compliment) on arguably the best team in the country. Burke’s carried one of the youngest teams in the country.
Co-COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Larranaga, Miami, and Jim Crews, St. Louis
I was glad when our voting ended with Larranaga and Crews tied, because I think that it’s impossible to differentiate between these two.
What Larranaga did at Miami this year was amazing. He took a team that no one expected much out of at a program that’s an afterthought at their own school, let alone in the ACC, and took them to an outright regular season title. He turned Shane Larkin from a kid that was going to DePaul to an ACC Player of the Year candidate as a sophomore. And he did it with the guys that he had; he didn’t need to bring in a dozen McDonald’s All-American and JuCo transfers.
He kept a team together after the coach that recruited all of them left the team in the offseason and passed away on Dec. 1st. Read this story. And now think about the fact that the Billikens are the outright winners of the Atlantic 10 despite playing the first month of the season without their starting point guard, Kwamain Mitchell. What he’s done on the court is incredible. What he’s done with this group off it is probably even more special. He deserves the recognition.
Despite losing two key players at the start of the season to injury, the Cowboys surprised much of the country and finished third in the Big 12. The biggest reason for that? Marcus Smart. Yes, Markel Brown turned himself into an excellent and dangerous perimeter scorer and LeBryan Nash took over his fair share of games, but it was Smart’s intangibles — the leadership, the winning attitude, the numerous big plays late in games — to go along with his 15.1 points, 5.7 boards, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals that made the difference.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
This was easy. Olynyk went from a seldom-used sophomore to a first-team all-american as a redshirt junior. His emergence is the reason that the Zags went from being a good team to the No. 1 team in the country. Any argument to the contrary is foolish.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jeff Withey, Kansas
Withey’s shot-blocking ability is well-known at this point. He’s sixth-nationally in block percentage, anchoring the defense of a team that is sixth in the country (according to Kenpom), while leading the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage and defensive two-point FG%. And while he didn’t finished the season as the nation’s leading shot-blocker, the biggest reason for that is the way that teams game-planned around him.