I complained about it last year, so I'll spare everyone the rant on how the Big East pretty much puts everyone on their All-Big East squads. Seriously? 11 players on the 1st team, 10 on the 2nd team, and there was still a need for 5 more on "honorable mention?
Fine. Here's my All-Big East team with an eye to a real team:
- A.J. Price, Guard, UConn
- Kyle McAlarney, Guard, Notre Dame
- Roy Hibbert, Center, Georgetown
- David Padgett, Forward, Louisville
- Luke Harangody, Forward, Notre Dame
I feel somewhat guilty for not having a small forward on the squad, so what the heck, let's add a 6th:
- Sam Young, Forward, Pitt
As for an All-Big East rookie squad, again it isn't too hard to limit it to just five:
- DeJuan Blair, C-F, Pitt
- Donte' Green, F, Syracuse
- Austin Freeman, F, Georgetown
- Dominique Jones, G, South Florida
- Jonny Flynn, G, Syracuse
The Big East individual awards had little that surprised. And little to disagree -- though I do on "Coach of the Year." The awards below are my views on it, with a couple other awards added.
Player of the Year:
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
This was a no-brainer, and no one even came close for this. Harangody became an incredible force this season. Not only did he average a double-double for the year (21.0 points, 10.3 rebounds), but he was actually better in conference play (23.3, 11.3).
Most Valuable Player:
David Padgett, Louisville
Others considered: A.J. Price, UConn; Roy Hibbert, Georgetown; Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
The difference between a Louisville team with Padgett in the rotation versus their performance without him is stark. Without him, they lost to Dayton and struggled to squeak past teams like Miami (Ohio) and New Mexico St. Beyond that, the team looked lost and unsure on the court. With him out there, there was noticeably increased intensity and execution.
Coach of the Year:
Jim Calhoun, UConn
Others considered: Rick Pitino, Louisville; Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Brey won the official award, and I understand. I just think part of it was that for several years prior his team kept failing to match expectations. Now, that expectations were lowered, he looks like he's overachieving.
What Calhoun has done -- albeit with some tremendous talent -- has been more impressive to me. You look at the same players from last year to this year. They are better on both sides of the ball. They have a better attitude, and most importantly they have a better sense of playing as a team. That's a credit to Calhoun the coach reaching and teaching the players.
Tim Welsh, Providence
Close consideration: Jerry Wainwright, DePaul; Norm Roberts, St. John's
Ten years at Providence and little to show for it. You look at the Providence team, and there are individual players that have pro potential or are players other teams would like to have -- Geoff McDermott, Jeff Xavier, Weyinmi Efejuku, Brian McKenzie -- but they are a lousy team. No defense, and just soft overall. Considering that's been a hallmark of Providence teams in the past few years, that is on the coach.
Defensive Player of the Year:
His rebounding, shot blocking, and general shot-altering presence changes the game plan for every team that wants to go inside.
Most Improved Player:
Sam Young, Pitt
Others Considered: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame; Arinze Onuaku, Syracuse
Pitt fans may grumble about his effort on defense, but Pitt has needed his offense. He went from being a bench player to the primary offensive weapon for Pitt. He has shown new-found range, being able to shoot 3s at over 40% accuracy, while still going for over 53% from the rest of the field. His ppg and rebounds more than doubled.
Least Improved Player:
Derrick Caracter, Louisville
Want to make Louisville fans gulp uncomfortably? Ask them how they feel about Caracter manning the inside without Padgett and Palacios around to start. Caracter has multi-million dollar talent and an attitude that is questionable at best. It is more than the initials D.C. that reminds people of Derrick Coleman, but at least Coleman produced in college.
Like last year, he was suspended from the team because of his attitude and actions. His numbers look very similar. He barely increased his minutes/game
Rookie of the Year:
DeJuan Blair, Pitt
Dominique James, USF; Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall; Donte' Green, Syracuse; Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
The Big East gave it to both Blair and Flynn. Blair gets the slight edge here. He averaged over 12 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Blair also led Pitt in steals with 55. He stepped in to fill the gap left by Aaron Gray. Helping Pitt to once more get into the NCAA Tournament.
Flynn was tremendous for Syracuse, as he was forced to play almost without breaks due to all the injuries to Orange guards. He averaged 39.2 minutes/game in Big East games. The excessive minutes and responsibility of running the team took a toll on his shooting. That and taking a lot more 3-point shots (43 attempts in 13 non-con games versus 102 in 18 conference games).