By any measure, the Big 12 was unquestionably the nation's best conference this season. Two different teams have occupied the top-ranked spot in the polls, three others have been ranked in the top ten and in total, six teams have been ranked at one point or another this season. The conference also has 70% of its membership projected to make the NCAA Tournament, according to the most recent Bracketology from ESPN's, Joe Lunardi.
As the accolades start rolling in with the conclusion of the regular season, the Big 12 is sure to represented well on the national level with multiple players in the running for all-American status and even the national player of the year. The conference will have to prove itself in March, however, where it faltered in embarrassing fashion a season ago.
With the conference tournament tipping off this week, we at WRNL polled our contributors for the end-of-season awards. Here are our results:
*All stats conference only
*Buddy Hield - Oklahoma - 24.9 PPG, 5.5 REB, 48.3 FG%, 44.6 3PT%, 88.5 FT%
Hield very well might end up being the national player of the year. The sharp-shooting senior has cooled of late, but still has been arguably the most unstoppable player in the country for the better part of this season. Hield terrified opponents every time he touched the ball and possesses what seems like limitless range. Hield will likely be a unanimous selection for the conference's player of the year and there is certainly no argument among WRNL's panel if that comes to pass.
*Perry Ellis - Kansas - 17.7 PPG, 5.8 REB, 52.1 FG%, 79.1 FT%
A four-time conference champion, Ellis is the heart and soul of the Jayhawks and turned in his best performance as a senior. In any other year, Ellis would have an excellent case for being named the top player in the conference and given Kansas' dominance, maybe he still should.
*Georges Niang - Iowa State - 20.0 PPG, 5.8 REB, 3.28 ASST, 54.6 FG%
The conference's second-leading scorer, Niang has also been the Big 12's most versatile offensive threat for the last few years. There's not a more unique player in all of college basketball and while the Cyclones didn't produce the team success that they had hoped for, Niang will likely end up as an all-American.
Monte Morris - Iowa State - 14.6 PPG, 6.56 ASST, 49.7 FG%, 1.44 STLS
Morris has been the Big 12's iron man, averaging a league-high, 39.89 minutes per game. He also led the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio for a third straight year. Morris wasn't a unanimous selection and there was some debate about his inclusion on the first team, considering Iowa State finished in 6th place in the league. Morris did, however, receive 8/10 first place votes from the voting panel.
Taurean Prince - Baylor - 15.6 PPG, 6.1 REB, 45 FG%, 36.8 3PT%, 73.7 FT%
The fifth and final spot on the first team was probably the most difficult for the panel. Hield, Ellis and Niang were no-brainers and Morris was safely a first-team selection, but Prince's inclusion wasn't as conclusive. The Big 12 is full of great players, but Prince ultimately proved to be a little better than the remaining lot. Truth be told, he might actually be the best pro prospect on the first team given his combination of size and offensive versatility. Prince is also a capable defender and plus athlete.
*Denotes unanimous selection
Devin Williams - West Virginia
Frank Mason III - Kansas
Jaysean Paige - West Virginia
Isaiah Taylor - Texas
Rico Gathers - Baylor
Coach of the Year
Tubby Smith - Texas Tech
In what proved to feature the least consensus among the panel, Smith edged out Bill Self and Bob Huggins as the Big 12's Coach of the Year. Five different coaches received votes, but Smith managed to secure the most and it's hard to argue with the results.
Picked to finish 9th in the pre-season poll, Texas Tech didn't crack the top half of the final league standings, but nobody saw a .500 finish in Big 12 play coming out of Lubbock. A 6-2 stretch in February, including three straight wins over ranked teams, proved to be the pivotal stretch that will likely send the Red Raiders to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007.
Newcomer of the Year
*Deonte Burton - Iowa State
It wasn't exactly a bumper crop of newcomers in the league this year, but Burton was nonetheless impressive. The junior averaged 10.0 points per game while also grabbing 3.9 rebounds as he played an undersized forward role for the Cyclones. Burton proved to be especially efficient, knocking down 53.8% of his field goal attempts and 46.9% of his long-range attempts.
Game of the Year
Oklahoma at Kansas (3OT)
What a contest. What a freaking contest. This wasn't only just the best game of the year in the league, it may also have been the best regular season game in the history of the conference. I'll just shut up and post the highlights:
Freshman of the Year
Not worthy of consideration
Seriously, what a bizarre year for the league's freshmen. This is the same league that produced talents like Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Marcus Smart and a host of studs from Kansas, yet there wasn't one frosh across the league that really stood out.
Defensive Player of the Year
Tie - Jevon Carter, West Virginia & Taurean Prince, Baylor
The voting was all over the board in this category, but Carter and Prince tied for the top honor. The Kansas back court duo of Devonte Graham and Frank Mason III also received votes, as did Prince Ibeh from Texas. If you can believe, Georges Niang also received a vote from WRNL's managing editor (though it was in jest...or was it?).
Most Hated Player
Jonathan Motley - Baylor
If you can believe it, Ryan Spangler didn't receive a single vote. Trust me, I'm just as shocked as your guys are, but Motley seemingly ran away with this category, which is unsurprising given how he abused the Cyclones this year.
In two games against Iowa State, Motley averaged 27 points and 11.5 rebounds against Iowa State. For the year, Motley averaged 11 points and 5.2 rebounds. Yeah, good luck shaking those nightmares of Motley scoring at will against an overmatched Iowa State front court anytime soon.
In the sake of transparency, Nathan Adrian of West Virginia, Rico Gathers of Baylor and Isaiah Cousins of Oklahoma also received votes. The most creative submission, however, was that of the entirety of the "Oklahoma floor slappers".
Alright, so there it is. Go ahead and get pissed off. Tell us where we're wrong.