Sunday was the deadline to submit ballots for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association postseason awards. This consists of All-District and All-America teams, as well as Player of the Year and Coach of the Year in each and a National Freshman of the Year. Every member votes for 10 players on each of the two teams, and separately votes for the individual awards.
Being based in metropolitan Boston means that my district is District 1, which consists of the New England states. With that in mind, here is a look at how I voted and what went into it, in keeping with the spirit of when I revealed how I voted in the CAA’s postseason awards last week.
Chaisson Allen, Sr. G, Northeastern
Marshon Brooks, Sr. G, Providence
Anthony Gurley, Sr. G, UMass
John Holland, Sr. F, Boston University
Reggie Jackson, Jr. G, Boston College
Delroy James, Sr. F, Rhode Island
Derek Needham, So. G, Fairfield
Joe Trapani, Sr. F, Boston College
Kemba Walker, Jr. G, Connecticut
Keith Wright, Jr. F, Harvard
Allen repeated on the All-CAA First Team and carried a young Northeastern team for much of the season while younger players tried to grow up fast. Brooks had a terrific senior season and will be the best player not in the NCAA Tournament. Gurley was third in the Atlantic 10 in scoring and carried UMass for much of the season. Holland was the America East Player of the Year and led Boston University, with a lot of youth and a key injury, to second place in the conference. Jackson and Trapani are a big reason that a Boston College team hardly loaded with talent could be in the NCAA Tournament. James is fifth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring and sixth in rebounding, leading Rhode Island to 18 wins and a sixth-place finish in the conference. Needham led Fairfield to a MAAC regular season title by following up his terrific freshman season with another good one. Walker has carried Connecticut all year as the Huskies have tried to develop a supporting cast around him, and he’s hit his share of clutch shots. Wright has finally been healthy all season for Harvard and has led the Crimson to at least a share of the Ivy League title.
Player of the Year: Marshon Brooks, Providence
Walker was the obvious choice for much of the season, but he didn’t play as well in the latter part of the season. Meanwhile, Brooks only got better and that was even at times when he played power forward as the Friars would go small. Reggie Jackson was considered as well, and isn’t a bad candidate, but Brooks had a tremendous season after showing the potential for it the prior two seasons. He’ll be hurt in a lot of All-America voting by the fact that his team finished 14th in the Big East.
Coach of the Year: Mike Lonergan, Vermont
Steve Donahue is also very worthy of this, and he should run away with ACC Coach of the Year for having Boston College even close to an NCAA Tournament bid and finishing in a three-way tie for fourth in the ACC. But Lonergan had a team without a true point guard and, by his own admission, a lot of weaknesses, yet won a regular season title in America East and 22 wins in the regular season. The ballot was submitted in before the Catamounts lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament, but that would not change this vote.
Jimmer Fredette, Sr. G, Brigham Young
Jordan Hamilton, So. F, Texas
Ben Hansbrough, Sr. G, Notre Dame
Charles Jenkins, Sr. G, Hofstra
JaJuan Johnson, Sr. C, Purdue
Nolan Smith, Sr. G, Duke
Jared Sullinger, Fr. F, Ohio State
Jordan Taylor, Jr. G, Wisconsin
Kemba Walker, Jr. G, Connecticut
Derrick Williams, So. F, Arizona
Fredette has had a tremendous season leading BYU to a regular season title in perhaps the best season in the Mountain West’s young history. Hamilton not only became the go-to guy for Texas, but has improved his decision-making to become a better player and not just one who puts up big scoring numbers. Hansbrough had a terrific season leading Notre Dame to a surprising second-place finish in the Big East, and was the leader of a team with a shot at landing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. To say Jenkins was the heart and soul of a Hofstra team that somehow won 20 games before the CAA Tournament would be greatly understating what he meant to this team and how much he carried them not just with phenomenal numbers, but leadership as well. Johnson finished a career that showed a great deal of growth from when he was a freshman by leading Purdue to contending for the Big Ten regular season title. Smith not only led Duke with so many big games and big plays, but he also assumed a lot of the point guard duties when Kyrie Irving went down and didn’t stop being the best player on the floor just about every night. Sullinger wasted little time making a big impact in leading Ohio State to a Big Ten regular season title. Taylor is symbolic of his team as one of the most underrated players in the country, and he had big games when the Badgers needed them. Walker carried Connecticut to an unexpectedly good season that had a lot of quality wins, making a number of clutch shots along the way. Williams is the biggest reason Arizona will be back in the NCAA Tournament this year.
National Player of the Year: Nolan Smith, Duke
When you think of the term “combo guard”, Smith should be who comes to mind. He has been something of a late bloomer in his college career, and turned into the best player. When Kyrie Irving went down, he was sure to assume more point guard duties, and it was anyone’s guess how much it would affect his scoring. Well, it didn’t, and he was every bit the great player he was prior to the injury to Irving. Smith not only put up the great numbers, but he made big and timely plays all season long and played like a seasoned veteran.
National Coach of the Year: Matt Painter, Purdue
There were plenty of candidates for this award, as is always the case. A very good case could be made for the likes of Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Steve Fisher (San Diego State), Chris Mack (Xavier), Sean Miller (Arizona), and Dave Rose (Brigham Young), among others. But Painter took a team that lost its best player before the season and put together a team that was in contention for the Big Ten regular season crown and might have a remote shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He still had some talent, but without a key player and one who plays well off the other two in his big three, no one figured this team would be where they are. Simply put, Matt Painter can flat-out coach, and he showed it once again this season.
National Freshman of the Year: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Sullinger made an immediate impact in leading Ohio State to the top of the Big Ten and for a time the national polls. He’s more than just a big body, as he’s shown a tremendous basketball I.Q. all season long. Most of all, he’s done something this year he’s done a lot of since he began his high school career: win. That’s what he does best.