Big 12 awards One True Coach of the Year—and it’s Huggins

West Virginia’s Bob Huggins made due without Juwan Staten and Gary Browne for the final three games of the regular season, but the Mountaineers easily handled Oklahoma State and nearly shocked Kansas on the road.

 

IRVING, Texas — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, whose team overcame a series of injuries to finish the regular season with a 23-8 record, was named Big 12 coach of the year Sunday by his peers.

It was the first such honor for Huggins since earning three straight awards in Conference USA from 1998-2000.

Point guard Juwan Staten was a first-team All-Big 12 selection for the second consecutive season despite missing the final three games with a knee injury.

Freshman guard Jevon Carter, third in the league in steals, earned a spot on the All-Defensive team.

Let’s dig in on the awards:

Buddy Hield, Player of the Year
Even with coaches doing the selecting, scoring typically carries the most weight in these awards, and Hield’s 17.4 average topped the conference. The junior certainly went out with a bang Saturday, tipping in the game-winner as Oklahoma beat Kansas.

His 3-point shooting becomes a priority for every defense, but Hield also rebounds, as the Jayhawks learned yesterday. His 5.5 boards per game rank 15th in the league, ahead of even the 6-foot-8 Georges Niang, who was my third choice for the award.

The runner-up, at least from my perspective? Baylor beast Rico Gathers, who ruled the lane with rebounding and defense and was the only Big 12 player to average a double-double (11.6 points, 11.7 rebounds).

Bob Huggins over Scott Drew?
These were the frontrunners, as I wrote two weeks ago, and they finished with identical records (23-8 overall 11-7 in the league). Drew seemingly had the edge considering he had to replace more talent from last year’s team and, oh yeah, Baylor crushed West Virginia twice head-to-head.

I can’t help but think that an inspiring near-win at Kansas on Tuesday night, and a comfortable victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday—both transpiring as West Virginia lacked its starting backcourt—gave Huggs the late bump.

And just as Press Virginia had a cumulative effect throughout the second halves of games, so did the preparation headaches it gave opposing coaches throughout the season.

Any outcries from Waco over Drew being snubbed are justified in a sense. Ultimately, there were two deserving coaches and only one true award.

Staten over Monte Morris/Le’Bryan Nash on first team?
West Virginia’s point guard had a claim to player of the year last season but the Mountaineers didn’t win enough. This year, the wins were there but injuries kept Staten out of four league games, and by design, his minutes were curbed as Huggins everyone in uniform almost every night.

By checking the full voting below, you’ll note that Nash—the league’s No. 2 scorer—was relegated to second-team status. Is he one of the best five players in the league? Probably. But it’s still a guard’s game and the coaches had to put a point guard in the first team (the second unit contained three). So, in my opinion, it boiled down to one predicament: Staten or Morris?

Staten led in scoring (14.5 to 11.5), while Morris had the statistical edge in most other categories of note—assists (5.4 to 4.6), assists-to-turnovers (4.6 to 2.3), field-goal percentage (51 to 42.3), rebounds (3.5 to 2.8) and steals (1.7 to 1.1). But assists require other players to make shots, and who knows what Staten’s numbers would have looked like were he pitching passes to Cyclones shooters instead of his own.

Plus, stats don’t shape the entire narrative. The end-to-end play Staten made against Kansas—hitting a spinning go-ahead shot and then racing 94 feet to harass Perry Ellis’ last-second layup—might be the unofficial Big 12 play of the year.

Why not Jameel McKay for top newcomer?
He’s the most athletic kid in the conference and McKay re-energized Iowa State after being inserted into the lineup midseason, but the junior wasn’t eligible for the first nine games after a convoluted transfer from juco to Marquette to Ames. Meanwhile TaShawn Thomas started all 30 games for Oklahoma after arriving from Houston as a graduate transfer.

Their stats are strikingly similar: McKay averages 11.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and shoots 59 perfcent from the floor, while Thomas’ line goes 11.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 51 percent. McKay’s a scarier matchup for teams going forward, but Thomas is a solid player. And as for another similarity: both teams finished 12-6 in league play.

Any Mountaineers snubbed?
Nothing blatant, though Devin Williams probably deserved a third-team nod over either of the Texas kids. Isaiah Taylor missed 10 games with an injury, and Myles Turner, though he’s a future lottery pick, wasn’t quite as productive as Williams.

The complete teams:

All-Big 12 First-team
Rico Gathers, Baylor
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Perry Ellis, Kansas
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Juwan Staten, West Virginia
All-Big 12 Second-team  
Kenny Chery, Baylor
Taurean Prince, Baylor
Monté Morris, Iowa State
Frank Mason III, Kansas
Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
All-Big 12 Third-team
Jameel McKay, Iowa State
TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma
Phil Forte, Oklahoma State
Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Myles Turner, Texas
All-Big 12 Honorable mention     
Dustin Hogue (Iowa State), Kelly Oubre (Kansas), Wayne Selden (Kansas), Marcus Foster (Kansas State), Thomas Gipson (Kansas State), Nino Williams (Kansas State), Isaiah Cousins (Oklahoma), Ryan Spangler (Oklahoma), Kyan Anderson (TCU), Jonathan Holmes (Texas), Devin Williams (West Virginia)
Big 12 All-Defensive Team   
Rico Gathers, Baylor
Jameel McKay, Iowa State
Michael Cobbins, Oklahoma State
Anthony Hickey, Oklahoma State
Myles Turner, Texas
Jevon Carter, West Virginia
Big 12 All-Newcomer Team
Jameel McKay, Iowa State
Kelly Oubre, Kansas
TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma
Anthony Hickey, Oklahoma State
Myles Turner, Texas




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