The Award for the Most Valuable Player goes to: Kemba Walker, UConn
Do I really need to explain this to you? Yes? Ok, well the Huskies, who were picked 10 in the Big East, got 30.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, and 2.7 spg from Walker (who also shot an absurd 28-52 [53.8%] from the floor, 26-28 [92.9%] from the line, and 8-19 [42.5%] from three) en route to a Maui Invitational title, which included wins over top ten teams Michigan State and Kentucky. Good enough? For the record, we want to avoid making this a completely Husky-centric post, so consider them out of the running for any other award.
The Award for the Least Valuable Player goes to: JaMychal Green, Alabama
Green was a McDonald’s all-american coming out of high school. Many were hoping that he could be the guy that turned around the Crimson Tide’s struggling program. Things looked promising, as he averaged 14 points and 7 boards as a sophomore, but his junior year as started off anything but well. Alabama went 0-3 in the Paradise Jam, which included a 50-49 loss to a St. Peter’s team that was missing star Wesley Jenkins. Green averaged a paltry 11.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg (just two defensive rebounds in the three games), and had as many turnovers (8) as he did blocks, steals, and assists combined.
The Award for the Biggest Surprise goes to: Minnesota
There were a few people that were tooting the Gopher horn before the season started, but I doubt that any of them could have predicted this. Minnesota jumped out to a 6-0 start to the season, a stretch headlined by their title in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament. They knocked off Western Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia while getting stellar play out of transfer Trevor Mbakwe, who is finally playing after sitting out last season with legal issues. Now, just imagine their front line if Royce White was still around.
The Award for the Biggest Disappointment goes to: Temple
You’re right. This is an upset. UNC probably should have one this award, but since the committee (aka just me, baby!) is sick of hearing about the Tar Heels, they went another direction. The Owls headed into the Old Spice Classic with a top 20 ranking as the flag bearer of a somewhat underwhelming Atlantic 10 conference. When they left, the A-10 looked weaker than ever, as Temple sandwiched a mediocre win over Georgia with losses to Cal and Texas A&M. Temple could not get anything going offensively against Texas A&M, and looked disinterested in their opener against Cal. Juan Fernandez was particularly bad, averaging 8.7 ppg and 1.7 apg while shooting 7-32 from the floor, 2-16 from three, and committing 9 turnovers.
The Award for Most Impressive Team goes to: TIE — Notre Dame and UNLV
Notre Dame and UNLV won the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic, respectively. Notre Dame had the more impressive wins (Georgia, Cal, Wisconsin), but UNLV did it in more impressive fashion. There are a couple of reasons I really like this Irish team. For starters, they are playing as much defense as they ever have this year. They held Cal to five points in the first half on Friday, then used their defense to spur a game-clinching, 26-8 surge in the final seven minutes. The second reason is that with Carleton Scott, Scott Martin, Tim Abromaitis, Tyrone Nash, and Jack Cooley on their roster, the Irish are capable of throwing out a number of different looks. They closed out the Badgers with Scott at center and Martin at the four, essentially playing a five-out offense. Lastly, Eric Atkins looks like he will be an impact player as a freshman. That addition is going to allow Ben Hansbrough time playing off the ball.
For UNLV, I was more impressed with how this team looked than any other team in the country during Feast Week (well, save Duke and the UConn Kemba Walkers). They have a lot of really talented back court players that are strong, athletic, and love to defend. Their press is going to give a lot of team fits this season. I love Chace Stanback at the four. He creates a real mismatch problem for opponents, as he is essentially a 6’8″ two guard. The best part? They probably have only gotten 70-75% of the real Tre’Von Willis. There are a lot of interchangeable weapons on this team.
The Award for the Least Impressive Team goes to: Washington
Maybe this is because I am basing this off of the impression I got from this team in their 43 point win over Virginia, but I was dreadfully disappointed in the performance from the Huskies in Maui. They looked horrid offensively against Kentucky, as Isaiah Thomas choked down the stretch and their guards made bad decision after bad decision. Against Michigan State, it was more of the same. Washington, right now, has the talent to be a top 10 team, probably higher. They have the pieces. This team just doesn’t seem to understand how to play basketball and what Lorenzo Romar wants them to do. If you couldn’t figure it out, that is a bad thing.
The Award for the Best Game goes to: BYU 77, South Florida 75 2OT
The Bulls opened a lead as big as ten in the second half of this South Padre Island Invitational semifinal, but BYU battled back. They tied the game at 58, but with under a minute left USF’s Jowanza Poland hit a three for a 61-58 lead. At the other end, Charles Abouo answered with a three of his own to force overtime. In the first extra frame, Fredette missed a leaner at the buzzer, which forced a second overtime. In the second extra period, a three from Jimmer gave BYU a 75-72 lead, but a bucket by Gus Gilchrist, a USF stop, and a free throw from Toarlyn Fitzpatrick tied the game. It set up this final possession:
The Award for the Weirdest Finish goes to: Weber State 82, Drake 81
Drake freshman Rayvonte Rice scored a layup with 20 seconds left to give the Bulldogs an 81-80 lead. At the other end, Damian Lillard drove to the rim to try and win the game, but he was called for a charge. But Aaron Hawley of Drake was given a technical foul for spiking the ball in celebration. Lillard knocked down two free throws for an 82-81 lead, which capped a 13 point second half comeback, and Drake missed two shots in the final seconds.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.