On Sunday, the Big 12 announced the award winners for the 2015-16 men’s basketball season. The nation’s best conference certainly didn’t disappoint over the two-month gauntlet, providing thrilling games and featuring terrific players all year. With seven Big 12 teams projected to make the NCAA tournament, you could make a case for a dozen players to get one of the five First Team spots.
The Kansas Jayhawks, for the 12th straight season, won at least a share of the Big 12 title. For the third straight year, Bill Self’s squad took home the outright crown, but that didn’t appear likely to happen just weeks before the season concluded. After Kansas’ loss to Iowa State on January 25, KenPom gave the Jayhawks just a 10% of winning a share of the conference crown, and just a 3% of winning the league outright. Kansas was a game behind Oklahoma and West Virginia nearing the halfway point of league play, and it was clear that to win the league, the Jayhawks would have to surge in the second half of league play.
In all, Kansas won its last 10 conference games to take the league by two games at 15-3. Don’t let the two-game gap in the final standings fool you, though. This is the most competitive league in college basketball, and the balance of schools represented in these awards shows that.
Without further to do, here are your 2016 Rock Chalk Blog Big 12 awards, and how they compare with the awards handed out by the conference itself earlier on Sunday.
All-Big 12 First Team:
Perry Ellis, Kansas (17.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 52% FG, 44% from three)
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (24.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 48% FG, 45% from three)
Frank Mason III, Kansas (13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.0 steals)
Monte Morris, Iowa State (14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.4 steals)
Georges Niang, Iowa State (20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 55% FG)
Ellis, Hield, and Niang were locks; these seniors have distinguished themselves as the best three players in the Big 12. We also think that Monte Morris, owner of an amazing 4.2 A/TO ratio, is the best point guard in the league, so that was an easy pick.
The fifth spot is the most difficult. Ultimately, we chose Mason over the rest because of how important he is to the league’s best team. Mason struggled in the first half of conference play, yet he was arguably the best player in the conference in the last 10 games:
First eight games: 13.5 PPG, 36% from the floor, 27 assists to 25 turnovers, KU was 5-3.
Last 10 games: 13.6 PPG, 51% from the floor, 43 assists to 14 turnovers, KU was 10-0.
Mason is the reason that Kansas ultimately surged past all contenders to win the conference. To us, that’s definitely worthy of a spot on the First Team.
Actual All-Big 12 First Team: Perry Ellis, Buddy Hield, Georges Niang, Taurean Prince, Isaiah Taylor.
All-Big 12 Second Team:
Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma (12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 40% from three)
Jaysean Paige, West Virginia (16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 43% FG)
Taurean Prince, Baylor (15.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 45% FG, 37% from three)
Isaiah Taylor, Texas (15.2 points, 4.9 assists, 41% FG)
Devin Williams, West Virginia (10.9 points, 8.8 rebounds)
Paige was originally in our first team, but we bumped him out for Mason at the last minute. West Virginia’s sophomore guard was the biggest reason that it finished in second place in the league. He’s a natural scorer who showed he has the ability to take over close games.
Cousins and Taylor, two upperclassmen point guards, both had great campaigns to lead their teams to top-five Big 12 finishes. Prince and Williams, meanwhile, are versatile players who in addition to being great rebounders and good finishers at the rim, can step outside and knock down jump shots.
Actual All-Big 12 Second Team: Frank Mason, Monte Morris, Jaysean Paige, Wayne Selden, Devin Williams.
Player of the Year: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Other contenders: Perry Ellis, Kansas; Georges Niang, Iowa State
Ellis and Niang are both terrific players, but Buddy Hield’s dominance at the college level is something this conference hasn’t seen since Kevin Durant. Hield’s 25 points per game is incredible, but just two weeks ago, he was shooting 50% from the floor, 50% from three, and 90% from the free throw line. Niang was second in the Big 12 with 20 points per contest, and Hield beat that by nearly five whole points. Hield led the conference in free throw rate, three-point percentage, and made threes per game. He was also second in minutes per game.
The numbers dipped a bit as Hield carried a tired team through the second half of conference play, and Oklahoma did have a disappointing ending to its regular season, but Hield is undoubtedly the best player in the league, if not all of college basketball.
Actual Player of the Year: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Last year’s RCB Player of the Year: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Defensive Player of the Year: Prince Ibeh, Texas
Other contenders: Rico Gathers, Baylor; Frank Mason III, Kansas; Taurean Prince, Baylor; the entire West Virginia team
It’s a good thing that this isn’t the “best free throw shooter” award, because then Prince would not be a contender. But when it comes to being a great defensive player, he has the stats that warrant winning this award. His 44 blocks led the Big 12 throughout conference play. He averaged 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, which certainly make him worthy of defensive player of the year honors.
West Virginia’s entire team could be listed here, particularly Jevon Carter and Jaysean Paige, for leading the defense that forces the most turnovers per game in the country. We also considered the conference’s best defensive rebounder, Rico Gathers, and the stingiest defensive point guard, Frank Mason.
Actual Defensive Player of the Year: Prince Ibeh, Texas
Last Year’s RCB Defensive Player of the Year: Rico Gathers, Baylor
Freshman of the Year: Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Other contenders: Dean Wade, Kansas State
This was the weakest year for conference freshmen in recent memory. Evans ultimately wins the prize, but he didn’t even play in half of Oklahoma State’s 18 Big 12 contests.
In the nine games he did play, Evans was spectacular, averaging 15.7 points, 5.6 assists, and 4.4 rebounds. He shot 49% from the floor, 50% from three, and 83% from the free throw line. Prior to his injury, he was in the process of becoming a beast of a point guard, and he’s surely going to be on everyone’s radar next season.
Kansas State’s Dean Wade finishes as the runner-up for this award. His 480 minutes in conference play (26.7 per game) led the Big 12, and his game averages of 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 54% on two-point baskets will only increase next year.
Actual Freshman of the Year: Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Last Year’s RCB Freshman of the Year: Kelly Oubre, Kansas
Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
Other contenders: Bob Huggins, West Virginia; Tubby Smith, Texas Tech
It’s the biggest debate in Big 12 play every year: should Bill Self win the coach of the year award after winning yet another league title, or should it go to the coach who surpassed preseason expectations the most?
This year, I think it’s a no-brainer. Self’s team continued its Big 12 streak despite the fact that the league was arguably the best top-to-bottom conference in NCAA history. People were outraged at how he little he used his five-star freshmen, but the players he opted to play turned into vital pieces for the #1 team in the country. Not only should Self win Big 12 coach of the year, but he should also be considered a front-runner for national coach of the year.
Tubby Smith has a very strong case for this award as well. His Texas Tech Red Raiders, picked to finish last in the league, went 9-9 and seem to have an NCAA tournament bid secured. Huggins was also considered, as nobody thought the Mountaineers would win 13 league games and finish second in the conference.
Actual Coach of the Year: Tubby Smith, Texas Tech
Last Year’s RCB Defensive Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
Newcomer of the Year: Deonte Burton, Iowa State
Other contenders: None.
This is pretty straightforward. The Cyclones didn’t have the Big 12 season many thought they could have, losing eight games, mainly because of a thin bench. Where would they be without the Marquette transfer Burton?
Burton averaged 10.0 points and nearly four rebounds per conference game in 19.8 minutes. Considering how depleted and worn-down Iowa State looked at the end of the year, it would have been much worse without Burton’s valuable contributions.
Best Game: #1 Kansas 109, #2 Oklahoma 106, triple overtime, January 4
Other contenders: January 18 – Iowa State 82, Oklahoma 77; February 8 – Oklahoma 63, Texas 60; February 16 – Baylor 100, Iowa State 91
This one is a no-brainer. The epic, triple-overtime clash of No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma was one of the greatest college basketball games of the decade. Buddy Hield’s incredible efforts weren’t enough to lift the Sooners to a win, but they were plenty enough to win the game this award.
The Big 12 had several other memorable games this year, including Iowa State taking down No. 1 Oklahoma in mid January, Buddy Hield’s comeback to beat Texas, and the highest-scoring game of the Big 12 season between Iowa State and Baylor in Waco.
Last Year’s RCB Game of the Year: Kansas 76, West Virginia 69, overtime.
Best Individual Performance: Buddy Hield 46 points (13/23 FG, 8/15 from three), eight rebounds, and seven assists vs. Kansas, January 4
Other contenders: A bunch of other Buddy Hield performances; Wayne Selden’s 33 points vs. Kentucky; Johnathan Motley’s 27 points (13/15 FG) and 13 rebounds to beat Iowa State on the road
Another no-brainer. Hield tied the Allen Fieldhouse record for most points by a visiting player in this game, and it’s probable that this performance would win him national performance of the year, not just Big 12.
Selden’s takeover in the Kansas/Kentucky barnburner was special, and Johnathan Motley’s near-perfect line at Hilton Coliseum was terrific, but Hield turned in one of the greatest performances in Big 12 history against the No. 1 team in the country.
Last Year’s Best Individual Performance: Rico Gathers 25 points, 28 rebounds vs. Huston-Tillotson
You can’t go wrong with any of these. They were all terrific. Dunks are the best.
Last Year’s RCB Dunk of the Year: Cliff Alexander’s jam against Oklahoma State
Scott Drew Boob of the Year: Scott Drew, Baylor
Other contenders: Travis Ford, Oklahoma State; Steve Prohm, Iowa State
Scott Drew’s team played up to its talent on the road, going 6-3 away from the Ferrell Center in league games. That’s tremendously impressive. Had it just held serve at home, the Bears would surely be one of the 10 best teams in the country entering the tournament.
In true Scott Drew fashion, the Bears had a losing record in league play at home, going 4-5 to ultimately finish in fifth place. Only Scott Drew can win at Iowa State but lose at home to Texas Tech.
Both Travis Ford (3-15 in league play) and Steve Prohm (10 losses?!) underperformed this year, but nobody will ever out-Scott Drew Scott Drew.
Last Year’s RCB Scott Drew Boob of the Year: Rick Barnes, Texas
Bonus for Inside the Paint listeners:
Worst Daniel Prediction of the Year: “If Cheick Diallo does not play more minutes per game than Jamari Traylor, I will burn all of the Kansas memorabilia that I have.
Other contenders: Too many to list.
Uh oh, Daniel. It sounds like a future episode of Inside the Paint is going to be very interesting. You may see a video linked to it at some point.
Last Year’s Worst Daniel Prediction of the Year: Perry Ellis will not make All-Big 12 First Team
For 2015’s edition of the Rock Chalk Blog Big 12 awards, click here.