John Thompson III has done a magnificent job with the Georgetown team he has this season. His Hoyas were picked to finish fifth in the conference to begin the year, overcame the loss of second-leading scorer Greg Whittington mid-season, and still pulled together to finish with a share of the Big East title. For that, he was awarded the conference’s Coach of the Year award Tuesday, the league announced.
Not to discredit what Thompson III has done, but there is someone that the Big East overlooked this year, a 40-year-old Texan who roams the sidelines in Wisconsin, Marquette coach Buzz Williams.
It was a close race, but NBCSports.com chose Williams and thinks he deserved the award, if by only a hair, in 2012-13.
Consider what Williams and Marquette lost from last season to this one. Gone is the dynamic duo of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, who accounted for nearly 50 percent of the team’s offensive output last season. On the staff are three new assistants, Brad Autry, Isaac Chew, and Jerry Wainwright. The team’s leading returning scorer was big man Davante Gardner, who averaged 9.5 points in 19.1 minutes per game last season.
Williams himself had to serve a one game suspension and sit out the Big East opener as part of a self-imposed response to an NCAA violation.
Through all of that, the team picked to finish seventh in the Big East in the preseason snagged a share of the conference title with a buzzer-beating layup in overtime in the season finale, and now moves on in hopes of winning a Big East tournament title.
That was done without a true superstar, like one on the level of Georgetown’s Otto Porter, and based more on steady upward growth from players like Gardner, Junior Cadougan, and Jamil Wilson, as well as the willingness of Vander Blue to take on a leading role. Adding in Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett didn’t hurt, either.
We said it before. It was a close race for Big East Coach of the Year. Both ought to be in the conversation for National Coach of the Year. But if everything works out, perhaps we could settle it on the court if Thompson III and Williams face off in the conference championship game Saturday.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_