O26 Superlatives, Part II: CAA, C-USA, MAC, MEAC, MVC, SoCon, Summit & WCC…Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 10th, 2014
In Part II of our three-part series, we pass out 2013-14 superlatives to the best teams, performers and performances from eight different O26 conferences: CAA, Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, SoCon, Summit and WCC. In alphabetical order:
Colonial Athletic Association
- Team of the Year – Delaware (22-9, 14-2). Not even early– and late-season suspensions of two of Delaware’s best players could stop the Blue Hens’ run to a CAA regular season title. Monte Ross’ up-tempo club raced off to an 11-0 start in conference play, amassing a large enough lead that preseason favorite Towson was never able to catch up.
- Player of the Year – Jerelle Benimon – Towson. You want beastly numbers? How about these: In 32 games, the 6’8’’ Benimon averaged 18.9 points, 11.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, recorded an NCAA-best 20 double-doubles and reached the free throw line 258 times, good for sixth in the country.
- Coach of the Year – Monté Ross – Delaware. Ross found a way to keep things together, to keep winning after guard Devon Saddler – the team’s leading scorer – missed seven games due to suspension early in the season and Jarvis Threatt – the team’s third-leading scorer – was suspended for the entire month of February.
- Upset of the Year – Northeastern over Georgetown, 63-56. In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, miles from Boston or Washington D.C., Scott Eatherton and the Huskies pounded Georgetown in the paint and pulled off an unexpected upset. Alas, it was another full month before Bill Coen’s bunch wound up back in the win column.
- Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Johnathan Burroughs-Cook – College of Charleston. Burroughs-Cook cares not that you are D-II school or that he is playing in a preseason game—he will still annihilate your attempt to draw a charge.
- Team of the Year – Louisiana Tech (25-6. 13-3). Four teams finished tied atop the C-USA standings, so there were a number of options here. But Louisiana Tech beat Oklahoma on the road in non-conference play, and probably would have claimed the outright league title if Raheem Appleby, perhaps the team’s best player, had not missed two months with an ankle injury. He’s now back and things are looking up for the Bulldogs.
- Player of the Year – Shawn Jones – Middle Tennessee State. Jones is one of only two guys in the league to rank in the top 10 in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and blocked shots. He also falls within the top-100 players nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, his prowess made evident by a 20-rebound performance (including eight offensive) he put on earlier this season.
- Coach of the Year – Tim Floyd – UTEP. Danny Manning, Kermit Davis, Donnie Tyndall – any one of these guys is probably worthy of the award – but Floyd’s ability to overcome the dismissal of multiple players and lead UTEP to a 12-4 conference record is just too impressive to overlook.
- Upset of the Year – Charlotte over Michigan, 63-61. Talk about divergent paths. Charlotte pulled off this upset in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off thanks to an “Oh no… OH YES!” moment by Terrence Williams, but went on to play sub-.500 basketball the rest of the season. Michigan, on the other hand, shook off the loss and won the outright Big Ten title. Wacky stuff happens in November, folks.
- Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Michael Craig – Southern Miss. For your own safety, please step to the side when Michael Craig comes barreling down the lane.
- Team of the Year – Toledo (26-5, 14-4). Ineligible for postseason play a year ago, Toledo jumped out to a 12-0 start this season and ultimately finished with a school-record 26 wins. The Rockets score with ease and share the wealth – all five starters average between nine and 15 points per game – and could go dancing for the first time since 1980, depending on how the MAC Tournament shakes out.
- Player of the Year – Javon McCrea – Buffalo. The 6’7’’ McCrea capped off his remarkable career with a tremendous senior season, averaging 18.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 1.6 steals per game. He also ripped off 15 double-doubles, set the school’s career scoring record, and led his team to a MAC East title. Hard to top that.
- Coach of the Year – Mark Montgomery – Northern Illinois. Sure, the Huskies are sub-.500 this season, but at 8-10 in conference play and 14-16 overall, it’s a dramatic turnaround from a year ago — in 2012-13, Northern Illinois went 4-25 against D-I opponents and was simply one of the worst teams in college hoops. These days, Montgomery’s guys are playing some of the best defense in the MAC.
- Upset of the Year – Northern Illinois over Toledo, 74-66. This was not really the biggest upset of the year, especially considering it was played in DeKalb. But for Northern Illinois – a recently-dreadful program – to knock off the conference’s top dog in convincing fashion… that warrants praise.
- Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Glenn Bryant – Eastern Michigan. You can put as much body into Glenn Bryant as you wish, but he’s still going to slam over you.
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
- Team of the Year – North Carolina Central (25-5, 15-1). The Eagles beat North Carolina State on the road in November and then dominated the MEAC, winning its final 15 conference games (and 17 games overall) en route to the league title. They are ranked in the KenPom top 100 and might have enough talent and experience to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.
- Player of the Year – Jeremy Ingram – North Carolina Central. Ingram, who averages 20 points per game, dropped 37 against Wichita State on the road earlier in the season. That should tell you a lot about the senior guard’s ability. He also scored 27 and 29 points against Cincinnati and North Carolina State, respectively.
- Coach of the Year – LeVelle Moton – North Carolina Central. Like Duke, NCCU is also located in Durham, so it’s pretty cool listening to Mike Krzyzewski talk about the Eagles’ head man. You can sense genuine respect there, which is probably warranted after Moton’s special season.
- Upset of the Year – North Carolina Central over North Carolina State, 82-72 (OT). Unafraid of its in-state brethren, NCCU – on the road and facing a 19 percent win probability – delivered punch after punch and eventually knocked off the Wolfpack in overtime. The Eagles finished a remarkable 41-of-45 from the free throw line.
- Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Du’Vaughn Maxwell – Hampton. This is one long, athletic dude.
- Team of the Year – Wichita State (31-0, 18-0). Does this really need explaining? Not only are the Shockers the Team of the Year in the Missouri Valley, they are the Team of the Year in all of college basketball. Depending on how they fare in the NCAA Tournament, ‘Team of the Decade’ could be next.
- Player of the Year – Cleanthony Early – Wichita State. Fred VanVleet took the MVC’s award for Player of the Year – no argument there – but we’ll go with Early. He paced the Shockers in scoring and rebounding, notching 15.8 points and 5.9 boards per contest in the regular season and shooting 85 percent from the stripe — tied with Ron Baker for best on the team.
- Coach of the Year – Gregg Marshall – Wichita State. Marshall’s night-in-and-night-out approach has resulted in perfection, and he’ll likely win a slew of national awards because of it. The confident, sometimes brash head coach could be considered among the all-time greats a few years down the line.
- Upset of the Year – Northern Iowa over Virginia Commonwealth, 77-68. What resembled an old BracketBusters showdown was actually a somewhat-surprising upset: despite turning the ball over 16 times, the usually three-happy Panthers shredded VCU from inside the arc and won by nine at home.
- Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Tekele Cotton – Wichita State. I doubt any Wichita State or Illinois State fans will ever forget the night Tekele Cotton redefined the verb “to posterize.” I certainly won’t.
- Team of the Year – Davidson (19-11, 15-1). Hampered by an injury to De’Mon Brooks and a brutal non-conference schedule early in the season – they played Duke, UNC, Virginia and Wichita State, among others – the Wildcats shored things up after the new year and dominated the SoCon. Bob McKillop’s crew ended the season on a 12-game winning streak before Western Carolina upset them in the conference tournament on Sunday night. The NIT will have to do in 2013-14.
- Player of the Year – De’Mon Brooks – Davidson. Brooks ranked third in the conference in scoring, third in field goal percentage, sixth in rebounding and was the lifeblood of the league’s best team. He’s also a self-made ambidextrous shooter.
- Coach of the Year – Bob McKillop – Davidson. Hard to go with anyone else for this award, considering what the stately head coach and his team accomplished this season. The Wildcats were 4-10 on New Year’s Day and perhaps lacking confidence— credit McKillop for kicking his team into gear.
- Upset of the Year – Davidson over Georgia, 94-82. The SoCon failed to deliver many (any?) upsets this year, so we’ll go with Davidson’s thorough handling of Georgia in the Charleston Classic. This one is mild, to say the least, but remember: Rhe Bulldogs went 12-6 in the SEC this season. Then again, maybe that’s an indictment of the SEC…
- Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Stephen Croone – Furman. Croone is maybe six feet tall, so this emphatic baseline jam over The Citadel is just absurd.
- Team of the Year – North Dakota State (23-6, 12-2). The Bison grabbed wins over Western Michigan, Notre Dame and Delaware in the non-conference before cruising to their first Summit League title since 2009. Like that squad – led by the great Ben Woodside – this year’s group is cohesive, experienced and hyper-efficient on the offensive end.
- Player of the Year – Taylor Braun – North Dakota State. Part of the reason NDSU is so offensively efficient as a team is because its best player, Braun, is incredibly efficient as an individual. The 6’7’’ senior ranks 11th nationally in offensive rating for players who use at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions.
- Coach of the Year – Tony Jasick – IPFW. Jasick’s Mastadons have improved in each of his three seasons at the helm, this year taking an especially notable leap forward — IPFW won 20 games (22 and counting) for the first time since becoming a D-I program in 2001, enough to finish tied for second in the Summit.
- Upset of the Year – North Dakota State over Notre Dame, 73-69. This would not be considered an upset now, but when these teams met up back in December – in South Bend – the Irish still had their best player, Jerian Grant. Marshall Bjorklund was the star for NDSU, scoring 26 points and prompting his coach to deliver the line, “His resting pulse down the stretch wasn’t any different than the middle of the day when he’s out slopping pigs.”
- Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – TrayVonn Wright – North Dakota State. As if Braun and Bjorklund weren’t enough, the Bison also have the supremely athletic, angry-dunking Wright at their disposal.
West Coast Conference
- Team of the Year – Gonzaga (25-6, 15-3). Funny how the Zags can win 25 games, coast to another conference title and still feel like a reluctant choice for Team of the Year. It’s a testament to just how dominant Mark Few’s program has been in the WCC over the past 15 years.
- Player of the Year – Tyler Haws – BYU. As crazy efficient as Gonzaga’s Sam Dower has been this season, Haws is the pick. The offensive machine ranks sixth in the country in scoring at 23.4 per outing, beefed up by a five-game stretch in late January/early February during which poured in 169 combined points (33.8 PPG).
- Coach of the Year – Rex Walters – San Francisco. Point guard and team leader Cody Doolin left the school on November 19 following an altercation with another player, yet Walters still led the Dons to 20 wins and a second-place tie in the WCC. And while a recent report has clouded the image of both coach and program, there’s no denying the results.
- Upset of the Year – Portland over Gonzaga, 82-73. This may or may not have been the conference’s biggest upset of the year, but the fact that Portland had not beaten the Zags since 2003 – and hadn’t won at home against the Bulldogs since 1996 – means it was probably the most special.
- Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Mark Tollefsen – San Francisco. The 6’9’’ Tollefsen is pretty good at handling long alley-oop passes, eh?