It took filling out an All-Big 12 ballot for the Associated Press to realize that the conference might just be pretty good, even with all the talent lost in the NBA Draft and with such young rosters facing each other on a nightly basis.
The revelation came when having to leave a player off the first team in a year when six players have first-team credentials.
Obviously, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin deserved to be named the conference’s Big 12 Player of the Year. Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins also were easy choices.
The tough call came with the fifth spot. Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll or Oklahoma’s Willie Warren? Carroll had the better statistics and was the best player on the third-place team. But I went with Warren. To break the near tie, I asked myself which player I would rather have join the other four selections and couldn’t justify bypassing Warren, a phenomenal talent.
The AP and the coaches went with Carroll, instead of Warren, meaning players from Big 12 North teams made up 80 percent of the first team.
Interestingly, the North went 18-18 against the South this season, so the whine from years past emanating from the South regarding Kansas having an unfair advantage in the standings don’t apply.
The selections for Coach of the Year (Bill Self), Freshman of the Year (Warren) and Newcomer of the Year (Kansas State’s Denis Clemente) weren’t difficult ones, though cases could be made for Missouri’s Mike Anderson and Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel, in that order.
Filling out the All-America ballot involves more than cutting and pasting the preseason All-America ballot.
North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, who didn’t deserve to beat out Kansas State’s Michael Beasley a year ago for National Player of the Year honors, is having another big season for the Tar Heels. The thought of Hansbrough never again playing in the Dean Dome reduced his coach to tears Sunday. But Hansbrough doesn’t make the cut, and neither does Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody.
Oklahoma’s younger Griffin brother gets my vote for Player of the Year. Joining the nation’s leading rebounder up front is the nation’s second-leading shot-blocker, UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet. He blocks 4.5 shots per game, a number that would double if players from the best conference in the nation didn’t make their goal on every possession to get off a shot nowhere near the vicinity of Thabeet, who also averages 13.6 points and 10.8 rebounds.
Davidson’s Stephen Curry leads the nation with 28.9 points despite nightly facing defenses designed to stop him. He also averages 5.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 steals.
Arizona State’s James Harden has played all but six minutes in the team’s past eight games. He averages 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals.
Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks, a .408 three-point marksman, scored 54 points at Tennessee, 46 points at home against Appalachian State and 45 points at Arkansas.
Self’s chief competition for National Coach of the Year honors could come from Missouri’s Anderson, Oklahoma’s Capel, LSU’s Trent Johnson, Dino Gaudio of Wake Forest and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar.