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Mid-Season Awards

January 21, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Second-Annual Mid-Season Awards

by Bill Thayer

We’re halfway through the season, so what a better time to reflect back and take a look at the players and teams I think deserve recognition. So, without delay, here are my Second Annual Half-Year Awards!

1st Team All-Americans

G: Hollis Price, Oklahoma

I tossed back and forth between a pair of Big 12 guards, then I thought back to Monday’s Oklahoma/Texas Tech game in which Price stepped up at the end of regulation and hit a basket at the buzzer to send the game into overtime … after already leaving once with a swollen eye. There is no tougher player in the nation than the 6’1″ senior. Price does it all for Oklahoma at both ends of the court. He leads the team in scoring, is second in assists and steals and is sixth in the nation in free throw percentage. He’s the type of player who every coach loves to have late in the game, especially in March, where the impact of four years of experience is truely felt.

G: Jason Gardner, Arizona

Gardner’s numbers won’t blow you away, but to see his full impact on the top team in the nation, look a bit closer. 21 points in the win at Oregon, including a three with 2:13 to go to give Arizona the lead for good. 13 points against Texas, six coming in the final two minutes against Texas, a game in which he dealt out seven assists with only one turnover. 16 points against LSU as well as a key steal late in the game which gave Arizona the chance to win. With player after player leaving the program over the past few years, Gardner has been the one who Lute Olson could count on and will be the guy he looks to as the season progresses.

G: Dwyane Wade, Marquette

I went with three guards last year (Williams, Dixon, Logan) and halfway through the year I will have to do the same. Wade is the sole reason Marquette is in the top 20. Wade is in the top ten nationally in scoring (23.2 ppg) and is efficient at doing it, hitting over 55 % of his shots. Wade is a tough defender, leading the Golden Eagles with 27 steals but is good as shutting down his opponent; he held Kirk Penney to seven points on 3-10 shooting, and many of Henry Domercant’s 27 points against Marquette came when Wade was on the bench in foul trouble. Wade is one of the few players that gets me to tune in no matter who he is playing against. I’m reminded of Heisman propaganda Indiana used to sent out for Antwaan Randle El, claiming he was “College Football’s Most Exciting Player.” I think Marquette can dub Wade “College Basketball’s Most Exciting Player” for 2003.

F: Kyle Korver, Creighton

As pointed out earlier, a good way to gague a player’s contributions to a team is to look at their biggest games. Korver fits that bill just fine. In their win over Notre Dame, Korver scored 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and hit of 7-11 three pointers. Against then-undefeated BYU, Korver had 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assits. Against Xavier, Korver scored a career high 32 points, 26 of them in the second half. Then, this past weekend, in a showdown against Southern Illinois, Korver led the way for the Bluejays with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Korver leads the 16-1 Bluejays in scoring, rebounding, free throw percentage (over 90 %), and steals. He’s second on the team in field goal percentage and assists. THAT’S a leader.

F: Mike Sweetney, Georgetown

Sweetney was flying quietly under the radar in the nation’s capital until coach Craig Esherick blew up following Georgetown’s win over West Virginia, in a game in which Sweetney scored 35 points to go with an amazing 19 rebounds, one of his six double-doubles this year. He is among the top 20 in the nation in both scoring and rebounding and is battling with Troy Bell and Carmelo Anthony for the Big East scoring crown.

2nd Team All-Americans

Jameer Nelson, Saint Joseph’s
TJ Ford, Texas
Josh Howard, Wake Forest
Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse
Nick Collison, Kansas

3rd Team All-Americans

Maurice Williams, Alabama
Reece Gaines, Louisville
Chris Thomas, Notre Dame
Antonio Gates, Kent State
Emeka Okafor, Connecticut

National Player of the Half-Year: Kyle Korver, Creighton

National Freshman of the Half-Year: Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse

Everybody thought Anthony was going to be good, but very few people could know he was going to be this good. Anthony’s in the top 15 in the nation in scoring (22.8 ppg), scoring in a variety of ways from both the inside and outside. In his 12 collegiate games, Anthony has nine double-doubles. He has the talent to single-handedly carry Syracuse to the tournament.

Runners Up: Rashad McCants (North Carolina), Bracey Wright (Indiana), Daniel Horton (Michigan)

National Coach of the Half-Year: Eddie Sutton, Oklahoma State

While the Big 12 has struggled a bit, the Cowboys have surged despite losing Fredrik Jonzen and Maurice Baker to graduation. The backcourt of Victor Williams and Tony Allen have stepped up. But another top 20 team proves that Sutton can win with any five players he’s given.

Runners Up: Bill Self (Illinois), Tommy Amaker (Michigan)

Game of the Half-Year: Indiana/Maryland, Big Ten/ACC Challenge

It was one of those games that had you calling your friends by the second half. In the rematch of the national championship, Indiana avenged their loss and toppled the Terrapins in a not-so-neutral court in Indianapolis. Tom Coverdale led Indiana with 30, including a furious rally to send the game to overtime … which almost didn’t happen as Steve Blake connected on a prayer from half-court which he released less than a second too late.

Runners up: Miami/UConn (from Monday, the Darius Rice game), Akron/Ball State (4 OT thriller)

5 Players to Watch:

1. Kent Williams, Southern Illinois

Williams shooting could help the Salukis sneak into the tournament again this year. With Creighton off to their hot start, it has become easy to forget that So Ill was the team who reached the Sweet 16 a year ago, in large part to Williams. They still have at least one more game against the Bluejays, with a third potential meeting in the MVC Championship. If Southern Illinois knocks off the Bluejays there, the MVC could send two teams to the dance which would knock out a team from one of the majors.

2. Marvin Stone, Louisville

Rick Pitino walked into a program that had a dangerous player on the outside (Reece Gaines) and brought in the big man that he needed in Stone. His impact can already be seen on the court as he has been a steadying influence on the glass. Now, if Gaines is off, Stone gives the Cardinals a second option. He’s physical enough that teams will have trouble guarding him in the early rounds of the tournament as there are very few players as big and strong as he.

3. Todd Billet, Virginia

The ACC is wide open this year with teams struggling to win on the road. The title can be won by any of a number of teams, but as of now its looking like it will come down to a race between Wake Forest, Maryland and Duke with each team holding a win and loss against the others. North Carolina and Georgia Tech are on the outside looking in, along with the Cavaliers. Billet is the type of seasoned veteran and cold blooded shooter that can help them separate themselves and move into the upper crust.

4. Amit Tamir, California

Tamir is another inside-outside combo big man who can attract a bigger player away from the hoop or take a smaller player inside. After Arizona the rest of the Pac Ten is wide open, but Tamir gives the Bears a player who can match up with Luke Walton and give the Bears the opportunity to contend for the conference’s automatic bid.

5. Derrick Tarver, Akron

Tarver is an explosive scorer who can shake up the MAC. In a seven day span, Tarver had three 30 plus point games (against Ball State, Ohio and BUffalo). If he’s able to do that in the conference tournament, he could help take out league favorite Kent State.

5 Biggest Questions For The Rest of the Year:

1. Can Kansas continue to succeed with so little depth?

They are starting to get into a rhythm, but what happens if Nick Collison gets into foul trouble. A lesser concern will be the legs of the starting five when the rigors of March hits.

2. Will Connecticut put together 40 solid minutes in one game?

They overcame a 34-9 second half deficit to defeat Massachusetts. They fell behind by 20 against Oklahoma, only to storm back and bridge the gap to five. They trailed Virginia Tech in the first half by double digits before winning by 20. They spotted North Carolina a 23-4 lead, in Chapel Hill, and took the lead late before losing. They fell behind by 14 against Miami but came back to win…until giving it away in the final seconds. There is ample talent but the Huskies are still young and need to learn how to play a complete game or they will get burned in March.

3. How will the tournament committee react to Creighton?

A year ago Gonzaga was a top ten team according to the coaches and AP polls but got a six seed due to their (lack of) strength of schedule. Will Creighton get killed for playing in the Missouri Valley Conference? They beat Notre Dame and Nebraska and lost to Xavier but it may not be enough to get higher than a four seed.

4. With the SEC prevent itself from earning a number one seed?

Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Georgia all have the talent to be a top seed but they all have to play each other (not to mention Auburn and LSU). Potentially seven teams could earn bids into the tournament but they may have too many losses to garner a top seed.

5. Who will survive in the Big Ten?

Indiana and Illinois looked to be the class of the conference entering conference play, but a look at the standings shows Iowa and Michigan both undefeated. The Wolverines have been a major surprise, led by freshman Daniel Horton. Iowa never earned the success thought possible a year ago, but a run in the Big Ten tournament proved to the younger players how to win tight contests. They both could prove to be dangerous, especially for teams like Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, who could be sweating out Selection Sunday.


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