Handing Out Hardware: Big 12 Season Superlatives

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2014

From the Andrew Wiggins hype (and exchanges of backlash) to the rise, fall and rise again of Oklahoma State and everywhere in between, it’s been a dramatic season in the Big 12. The conference has been and always will be an exciting one to follow, but it’s tough to remember a year with as many storylines as there have been throughout this season. As we get ready for what figures to be an incredibly competitive conference tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, it’s time for the Big 12 microsite writers to remember the good, look back, and hand out some season accolades.

All-Big 12 First Team

For the sake of transparency, we’ve included each of the four Microwriters’ selections below, with asterisks denoting our picks for Big 12 Player Of The Year:

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Player Of The Year

Melvin EjimDeAndre Kane and Andrew Wiggins are your consensus All-Big 12 First Team members, with other votes going to a variety of players who were fantastic as well. There were legitimate cases for a handful of honorees this season, but in the end, the freshman Wiggins took the honors. Taylor Erickson explains why:

Among a stable of worthy candidates, Andrew Wiggins emerged to take RTC Big 12 POY honors.(AP/Andrew Ferguson)

Among a stable of worthy candidates, Andrew Wiggins emerged to take RTC Big 12 POY honors.(AP/Andrew Ferguson)

“Wiggins didn’t put up the type of scoring numbers that others like Melvin Ejim of Iowa State and Juwan Staten of West Virginia did, but he was the best player on the team that won the conference with room to spare. Some will be quick to claim that the freshman from Canada has failed to live up to the expectations bestowed upon him before the season began, but those expectations were unrealistic. Consider the fact that Wiggins failed to score at least 14 points in a conference game just three times, and in some ways, his individual statistics are a victim of Kansas’ depth and ability to score from so many different positions on the floor — whether down low with Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis, or in the backcourt with Wayne Selden and Naadir Tharpe. As good as Wiggins has been on the offensive end, his impact on the defensive end of the floor may be even greater given the significant difference in the number of points per possession Bill Self’s squad surrenders with him in the lineup. You can go ahead and make a case for several other players in this league, and there’s a plethora of good ones, but for me, I’ll take Andrew Wiggins every time.”

Other Selections Of Note

Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown had another great season, upping his numbers across the board to the tune of 17.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game to go along with a 38.1 percent mark from distance and a very good 78 percent clip from the charity stripe. Apparently that wasn’t enough for the Big 12 coaches, which named the senior Brown to merely their second team. Nate Kotisso not only called shenanigans, but named Brown to his first team in place of Wiggins:

“I know what this may look like, KU fans. You’re probably saying, ‘This schmohawk doesn’t think Andrew Wiggins is any good.’ Not true, Wiggins is an amazing talent in his own right. However, Brown was a more efficient scorer inside and outside the three-point line this season, and proved to be a capable passer as well (3.0 APG). Both Wiggins and Brown averaged around six boards a game and possess elite athleticism, but I believe the difference came down to efficiency. Brown has that.”

Meanwhile, Brian Goodman was the only contributor who didn’t include West Virginia guard Juwan Staten among his top five players, so we asked him why the dynamic scorer didn’t crack his list. Here is his response:

“Staten is one of the most fun and possibly underrated players in the conference, but as great a scorer as he is and how many quality minutes he’s delivered for Bob Huggins, he just wasn’t versatile enough over the course of the regular season for me to include him. The Big 12 coaches named Staten to their all-defensive team, so maybe they saw something I didn’t. But while defensive stats aren’t everything, it’s telling when you average 37.6 minutes per game and your team still has only the ninth-best defense in the conference.”

West Virginia's Tournament prospects are bleak, but it's frightening to think about where the Mountaineers would be without Juwan Staten. (AP/Garrett Fisbeck)

West Virginia’s Tournament prospects are bleak, but it’s frightening to think about where the Mountaineers would be without Juwan Staten. (AP/Garrett Fisbeck)

Coach Of The Year

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The Big 12 coaches tabbed Rick Barnes as Coach Of The Year for resurrecting the Texas program with a 22-9 season when he was facing considerable pressure to turn the program around after two seasons of March failure. Nate agreed, and he tossed another name into the hat as well:

“In my mind, the COY race came down to three guys: Rick Barnes, Bruce Weber and Lon Kruger. Then we realized K-State couldn’t win a meaningful game outside of its state borders, so it was whittled down to Barnes and Kruger. Texas and Oklahoma surprised us all by finishing in the top three of the toughest conference in college basketball. After researching which coach had the most roster turnover to work with this season, it turned out that Barnes (72.1 percent of his team’s scoring was gone from 2012-13) barely edged out Kruger (68.2 percent). But I didn’t feel like that was a fair reason to pick one over the other. So I decided to pick them both.”

However, there are others who believe that Barnes isn’t as deserving of such high marks, as even though Texas appears to be headed back to the Big Dance after a one-year absence, a head coach at Texas should never be in that position to begin with and thus the award should go to someone who did more than exceed preseason expectations. Kory Carpenter explains his vote for Bill Self below:

“Rick Barnes was the coaches’ choice for Big 12 COY, and he wasn’t a bad selection. But the argument many people had for Barnes over Self was that Barnes exceeded expectations. He most certainly did, but there should be more to the award than simply exceeding the expectations of the media back in October. Barnes did a heck of a job this season, but Bill Self lost all five starters, fielded one of the youngest teams in the country, played the toughest schedule in the country, and projects to get no worse than a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament after winning the regular season by two games. People take for granted Self’s dominance in the Big 12 (much like Phil Jackson winning just one Coach of the Year award during his entire professional career), and instead look for a wildcard each year. Sometimes the answer is more obvious.”

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