With conference play winding down and the regular season championship wrapped up, it’s time to hand out the individual Big 12 awards.
Player of the Year – Devonte’ Graham, Kansas
There is no wrong answer between Devonte’ Graham and Trae Young for this award, but in a year where the conference is this good, the award should go to the best player on the best team. Graham’s greatest skill this year has been his durability. The senior guard leads the league in total minutes played by a wide margin and played 40 minutes in 13 conference games, including a stretch where he played every minute in 10 straight games. Graham’s leadership was on display at various times this year, most notably in a comeback win against West Virginia and in a conference title-clinching win at Texas Tech on Saturday. From start to finish, Graham has been the Big 12’s best player.
Coach of the Year – Bill Self, Kansas
There’s a case to be made here for Texas Tech’s Chris Beard, as the Red Raiders went from 6-12 last season in conference play to nearly winning it this year. However, the choice has to be Bill Self. He won a record-breaking 14th straight conference title in what might be his most impressive coaching performance of the streak. The Jayhawks were severely undermanned and forced to play small ball all year long, a rare thing for any Self-led team. He was also willing to make lineup changes to send a message to his players and ended up winning the best conference in the nation outright.
Defensive Player of the Year – Jevon Carter, West Virginia
Jevon Carter won this award in 2017 and should win it again this year. The senior was the best defensive guard in the conference, leading all players in steals by a wide margin. He also led the league in defensive win shares and was fourth in the league in defensive rating. Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba could also be considered for this award, as he led the league in blocks and defensive rebounds. In the end, the bulldog reputation Carter has established over the last four years and his matching play put him over the top.
Newcomer of the Year – Dylan Osetkowski, Texas
This award came down to Dylan Osetkowski from Texas, Malik Newman from Kansas, and Kendall Smith from Oklahoma State, with Osetkowski getting the edge in the end. The big man transferred from Tulane and immediately became an impact player for the Longhorns, starting every game and leading the team in points per game. He was also Texas’ most reliable player all year long, finishing the season in the top 10 in the conference in total minutes played.
Freshman of the Year – Trae Young, Oklahoma
This was the easiest award to hand out. Oklahoma’s spectacular freshman did something that has never been done before, leading the country in both points and assists. Young was one of, if not the best player in the country all year and led OU to a number four ranking in mid January. Although many fans soured on him after several poor performances in conference play and a late season slide by OU, what he did this season is truly special and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Sixth Man Award – Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech
Zhaire Smith only started 15 of the Red Raider’s 30 games this year, so we’re going to count him for this award. Texas Tech was one of the Big 12’s biggest surprises this year and Smith was a big part of that. The freshman averaged 11 points and five rebounds a game. He was also one of the best defensive players in the conference, ranking in the top six in defensive rating and defensive win shares. Whether he came off the bench or was starting, Smith was a spark plug and will be a key factor if Tech hopes to go deep into March.