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2016 USBWA awards: one man’s vote

March 10, 2016 Columns No Comments

Last week, I shared how I voted for the CAA postseason awards, as I usually do. While I have been a voter there for 11 years now, I have been a USBWA member a bit longer and as such, always vote for their postseason awards as well. In the same spirit as the CAA awards, I will share my vote for the USBWA honors here.

The USBWA selects All-District teams of ten players each, as well as a Player of the Year and Coach of the Year in each district. In addition, writers select a team of ten All-Americans, a National Player of the Year (Oscar Robertson Trophy), a National Freshman of the Year (Wayman Tisdale Award) and a National Coach of the Year (Henry Iba Award).

At this point, the All-District teams have been announced, and Xavier’s Chris Mack has been announced as the Henry Iba Award winner. More is still to come, but the votes have been cast.

This year, the voting was a bit different in a couple of the awards, as the USBWA named 11 finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy to be rank-ordered, then named five finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award to be rank-ordered as well. We did not name five freshman All-Americans as in the past.

With all of that in mind, here is a look at how I voted and some thoughts on each.

All-District 1 Team
Ben Bentil, Providence
Cane Broome, Sacred Heart
Kris Dunn, Providence
Zena Edosomwan, Harvard
Eric Fanning, Boston University
Quincy Ford, Northeastern
Jarvis Garrett, Rhode Island
Daniel Hamilton, UConn
Justin Sears, Yale
David Walker, Northeastern

Bentil’s emergence was the biggest reason Providence at one time looked like they might give Villanova a real run for their money in the Big East. Broome led the Northeast Conference in scoring, making a big leap after a promising freshman season. Dunn will get plenty of national honors as the key to Providence. Edosomwan emerged when Harvard needed him to, becoming a big offensive threat to go with his presence inside. Fanning was a big part of BU’s quiet run to third place in the very competitive Patriot League. Ford missed a few games due to injury, and his absence showed how much he mattered to the Huskies as much as his solid play did when healthy. Garrett was arguably the biggest reason Rhode Island remained as competitive as they were after star guard E.C. Matthews went down with a torn ACL on opening night. Hamilton did it all for UConn as one of The American’s top rebounders and assist men in addition to scoring over 11 points per game. Sears led Yale to their first NCAA Tournament bid in 54 years to cap off a great career in New Haven. Walker had a big year for Northeastern, carrying the Huskies at times with a number of big games.

District 1 Player of the Year: Kris Dunn, Providence

While this was a pick seemingly pre-ordained before the season, in reality it wasn’t quite as easy a pick as I thought it would be. Ben Bentil was arguably more important to Providence and put up numbers that make a great case. But Dunn made this team go, and when he wasn’t well a couple of times, the level of play dropped. He had a lot to live up to coming into the season, and did just that, carrying them to a number of great wins along the way.

District 1 Coach of the Year: James Jones, Yale

The region had a down year of sorts in terms of candidates for this award, and that is not meant as a slight to Jones. It only notes that he gets my vote on this one pretty cleanly, although you can make a case for Boston University head coach Joe Jones (James’ brother), New Hampshire head coach Bill Herrion or Vermont head coach John Becker. Jones led Yale through a good non-league run, then lost only at Princeton in Ivy League play to lead Yale into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 54 years. The dean of Ivy League coaches has seen a lot in his time in New Haven, and now he can see his program in the NCAA Tournament.

All-America Team
Andrew Andrews, Washington
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Kris Dunn, Providence
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Brice Johnson, North Carolina
Nic Moore, SMU
Ben Simmons, LSU
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

The first name on this list might surprise you, not only because he’s not a big name but also because the Huskies struggled after January to barely reach .500 in the Pac-12. But Andrews did it all for the young Huskies, as he led the conference in scoring and free throw shooting, was in the top five in assists and top ten in steals. Brogdon has had a stellar career as a hidden star in Charlottesville, but this time he’s been very visible, leading the Cavaliers to another big year that came up just shy of another ACC regular season title. Dunn should be the Big East Player of the Year again after carrying Providence (along with Ben Bentil) for much of the season to a number of good wins. Hield had a tremendous season, improving greatly after a very good junior year and putting up unthinkable numbers, and should be the National Player of the Year. Johnson was a double-double machine for North Carolina and took over games at times in leading them to the ACC regular season title. Moore didn’t miss a beat despite SMU having a postseason ban, as he’s second in The American in scoring, leads in assists, and is in the top five in three-point percentage, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio. Simmons has been about as good as advertised, a double-double machine and the one consistent bright spot for an inconsistent LSU team. Ulis has had a terrific season as Kentucky’s leader and has been a big part of how the Wildcats have grown up as the season has gone along. Uthoff has carried Iowa at times and done a little of everything, and should be right there with Valentine for Big Ten Player of the Year. Valentine might have been the best player in November, and after an injury slowed him, he looked more like the player he was early on and will make Michigan State a dangerous team later this month.

Oscar Robertson Trophy: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

Early on, Denzel Valentine was the leader, and Kris Dunn was in the running, too. But Hield was also playing well, and then he sustained it while the others didn’t. Numbers tell a lot of the story in his case: he averaged 25.1 points per game, but did it on 49.5 percent shooting, including 47.3 percent from deep. He added 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. The memorable 46-point outing in the tough triple overtime loss at Kansas stands out, but was hardly it. What’s most surprising of all is that he didn’t win Big 12 Player of the Year unanimously – one coach besides Lon Kruger (coaches could not vote for their own players) didn’t vote for him.

Wayman Tisdale Award: Ben Simmons, LSU

This was a relatively easy pick, as Simmons put up great numbers all along and played within himself to get there, not forcing things and facilitating as well as scoring. Behind him were Brandon Ingram of Duke, who should easily win the ACC Rookie of the Year (although there is plenty of good freshman talent there); Jamal Murray of Kentucky, who teamed with Ulis in one of the best backcourts in the country when he’s on; Jaylen Brown of California, who made a big impact right away in helping the Golden Bears finish in the top four in the Pac-12; and Marquette’s Henry Ellenson, who made an instant impact to help the Golden Eagles improve from last season.

Henry Iba Award: Dana Altman, Oregon

While there are always a number of sensible contenders for this award, the three I came up with were ones I felt pretty comfortable with. I also considered Chris Mack of Xavier and Mark Schmidt of St. Bonaventure, the latter of who has done a very impressive job with the best of it being this season, as the Bonnies tied for a regular season Atlantic 10 title that no one outside of Olean saw coming. But Altman gets the nod overall, as he continues to show how good a coach he is. The Ducks lost the Pac-12 Player of the Year and more from last season’s team, but they were clearly the Pac-12’s best team and might have a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on a well-balanced team. Altman should win the Pac-12 Coach of the Year award easily for the second straight year, but he deserves more than that this time around.

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