Critiquing the Preseason All-Big 12 Awards

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 10th, 2012

College basketball’s back, baby.

But how do we know when it’s actually back? The 24-Hour college hoops marathon? Please. Midnight Madness? Not a chance. You know the season’s here when the coaches do the pointless deed of releasing their preseason all-conference awards. Feel the excitement!

Are the coaches always spot-on with their picks? Lord no but they mean well… usually. There’s a lot of good here but it has its share of stuff to pick at. So I present to you a critique of the preseason all-Big 12 awards.

Pierre Jackson has rightfully earned the Big 12 preseason player of the year award. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Here, I find it easier to start off with the good stuff first. So let’s start at the top with Player of the Year, Baylor’s Pierre Jackson. Initial reaction is: nicely done, guys. A quick guard who took the league by storm blowing past defenders, shooting a cool 40% from three-point land, and squeezing in a highlight dunk or two. Scott Drew couldn’t be happier with his senior point guard’s emergence as a big-time player especially going into a season with three fewer NBA Draft picks than a year ago.

Much like the freshman of the year award, Newcomer of the Year is one of the hardest to choose. Last year the coaches masterfully selected Iowa State’s Royce White, who ended up being a first-round pick in June’s NBA Draft. This time around the coaches went with Oklahoma’s Amath M’Baye, a 6’9″ transfer from Wyoming. You may have never heard of the man before but after some help from YouTube, M’Baye could best be described as an athletic freak of nature. NBADraft.net has him going as a mid-second rounder in 2013. His numbers suggest that he’s not a natural scorer and has been horrid from three-point territory. Given his long frame, he seems to play like a guard stuck in a forward’s body.

So who would be my pick for newcomer of the year? I know it seems kind of unfair to go with another Cyclone (and maybe Big 12 coaches intentionally voted for a non-ISU player to not show favoritism) but my guy is Will Clyburn, a transfer from Utah. Clyburn had a higher scoring average (17.1 vs 12.0 PPG), was a more prolific rebounder (7.8 vs 5.7 RPG) and was a vastly better shooter (40% vs 16% from 3-point range) in his last season playing in the Mountain West Conference, just like M’Baye. But hey, the season’s still to come and who knows what kind of player M’Baye developed into after a year away from game competition. He could win the real award at the end of the year, but my pick right now is still Clyburn.

For the second straight season, the coaches went with another Oklahoma State Cowboy for Freshman of the Year. Guard Marcus Smart is the second five-star prospect to arrive in Stillwater joining fellow Dallas-area standout Le’Bryan Nash. Judging freshmen this early is never easy but to get a sense of how skilled Smart is, here’s what Gonzaga’s Mark Few said about him to CBSSports.com:

“He [Smart] was our leader from the point the players introduced themselves. He’s one of the best kids I’ve been around — and that includes all the Zags that I’ve coached.”

Um, wow. How about his own coach Travis Ford when he talked with Mike DeCourcy?

“He can be a great point guard. Marcus is all about winning, period. That’s his No.1 concern, No.1 goal — to try to figure out how to help his team win. He is one of the most unselfish people I’ve ever been around.”

Well if Smart is going to be what everyone says he will be, he’ll be thrust into point guard duties immediately with the departure of starter Cezar Guerrero to Fresno State. How about the All-Big 12 Team? Let’s see, Pierre Jackson, Rodney McGruder, Jeff Withey, Le’Bryan Nash — all good so far. Myck Kabongo, hmmm. I see where the coaches were going with this. He was a highly-touted player coming out and he made some tremendous strides towards the end of the season. But the one thing nagging me about him is his turnovers. Living in Texas last season allowed  me to see plenty of Longhorn basketball and plenty of turnovers. He had 102 total, 10 more than J’Covan Brown though Kabongo played five fewer minutes on average.

I think the last first team spot should go to Oklahoma’s Steven Pledger. OU got off to a solid start in non-conference play last season but ended Big 12 play losing eight of their last 10 games. Pledger was the guy who kept the Sooners in most games last year and he’s poised for a big senior campaign. Now with the aforementioned M’Baye, Romero Osby and others, they have the ability to be this year’s version of the Iowa State Cyclones and make the NCAAs with Pledger leading the way.

Overall I’d say the coaches did a solid job with their picks. What I’m waiting to see is who they vote for to win the league. Remember how they did last year? That was one big LOL.

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