The calendar has flipped and we're in a new year. 2013 has came and went, and so too has the first half of the college basketball season.
Conference play officially tips off tomorrow night for the MAC Men's Basketball teams, with all 12 squaring off at 7 p.m.. Yes, we know, it's an awful scheduling mistake. With the MAC switching to an 18-game conference slate it means more hardwood #MACtion than ever before. But, it also means that the non-conference means more now than ever before. With less opportunities to impress voters and pad resumes outside of conference play, strong performances are more valuable now than ever before. So, without further adieu it's time to name our MAC Men's Basketball Mid-Season award winners.
Player of the Year: Javon McCrea, Buffalo senior forward
Say what you want about his team's performance, but McCrea is the best player in the MAC, and his play backs it up. Yes, his team isn't leading the MAC, but the level of talent around him isn't even close to the talent level on some other teams. You plug McCrea in on other MAC teams, like say EMU, and you instantly have a contender. He's ferocious, a dynamic scorer and can take over a game.
The biggest knock on McCrea in previous seasons has been that despite his stats, it didn't translate into wins. Well, if you watched the Bulls road game vs. Drexel on Dec. 29, that argument doesn't hold up. McCrea was spectacular, and had his best single-handily won Buffalo the game. He's currently second in the MAC in both scoring and rebounding with 17.7 and 9.6 a game respectively. Oh, he's also No. 3 in blocked shots and No. 5 in field goal percentage. I'm not even including advanced statistics. McCrea is going to terrorize the MAC in this second half. Don't expect him to slow down.
Defensive Player of the Year: Richaun Holmes, Bowling Green junior forward
The Falcons' big-man has been nothing short of dominant on the defensive glass this season. He's averaging 5.5 defensive boards a game, 7.5 overall (good enough for fifth and seventh in the conference respectively). But, the real reason he gets this is his eye-popping 3.1 blocks-per-game. That's correct. He's averaging over 3 blocked shots a contest. That's good enough for 18th in the country.
He's not a giant, at 6-foot-8, which makes it all that much more impressive. Unlike EMU's Da'Shonte Riley, a 7-footer, Holmes is undersized. Even better, this shot-swatting forward isn't one-dimensional. He's adding 14.2 points per game to compliment his impressive defensive statistics.
Sixth Man of the Year: Quincy Diggs, Akron senior forward
Yes, this is the safe pick. But, that doesn't even matter because Diggs, the 2011-2012 MAC Sixth Man of the Year, has picked up where he left off without a hitch. He's second on the team in minutes played, and that's coming off the bench. Diggs is the ideal sixth man. He's energetic, dynamic, can play anywhere, and puts up numbers. He's second on the team in points-per-game with 11.5. First in assists (3), fourth in rebounds (4.4) and first in steals (1.6).
Stats aside, it's the spark he brings to the court that make him the best sixth man in the MAC. He never takes a night off, and despite being the team's most consistent player this season has no qualms with not starting. He honestly wouldn't be as effective as a starter. Some guys get more amped up coming off the pinewood, he's one of those.
Freshman of the Year: Dontel Highsmith, Northern Illinois freshman quard
Yes, Ball State's Zavier Turner will likely be the one who wins this in the end, but no freshman has had a bigger impact on their team than Highsmith. The frosh unfortunately is done for the season after tearing his ACL last week, but that doesn't change what he's done. With Highsmith leading the way with 10.5 points a game (while shooting an astonishing 54 percent from the field), and adding 3.5 boards, the Huskies have already eclipsed their win total from this past season.
He has been a shining example of the new attitude NIU has embraced. He doesn't quit, and shows up in big games. Even in blowout losses he grinds. Like his 19-point, 6-boards performance against No. 13 Iowa State. He has brought hope to a broken down program. Though he can't do anything more this season, knowing he'll be at NIU for the next few seasons instantly puts the Huskies in a better place.
Newcomer of the Year: Maurice Ndour, Ohio junior forward
No offense to Karrington Ward or Drummond/Weatherspoon, but Ndour is the best newcomer in the MAC, and it's not even close. He may not be as talented as the other new faces, but what he lacks in skill, he makes up for in passion and motor. He's No. 6 in scoring with 14.9 a game, No. 4 in rebounding with 7.9 a game and No. 5 in blocked shots with 2.1 a game. Did I mention he can also step outside and drain a three? And that he can play almost any position on the court for Ohio?
He stepped in right away and became Ohio's MVP, and that's saying something for a veteran squad. Without Ndour, who can lead the team in three-points made one night, and blocked shots and rebounds the next (or all in the same night) , Ohio would be a few wins lighter right now. He's earned the right to wear D.J. Cooper's No. 5.
Coach of the Year: Tod Kowalczyk, Toledo
In his fourth season as the Rockets' head coach Kowalczyk has taken them from a worst place finish (4-28) to being the front-runners in the MAC and knocking on the door of a national ranking. Bolstered by a solid group of returnees, Kowalczyk's success this season has been finding the perfect group of transfers who can plug in right away and contribute. To mix sports for a second, by snatching up J.D. Weatherspoon and Justin Drummond, he hit it out of the ballpark. Not only are those two supreme talents, they fit into his system perfectly and mesh with returning starters Julius Brown, Rian Pearson and Nathan Booth.
Now time to name an All-MAC starting five. Think of it as our mid-season First Team All-MAC.
|G.||Julius Brown, Toledo|
|G||Rian Pearson, Toledo|
|F||Javon McCrea, Buffalo|
|F||Richaun Holmes, Bowling Green|
|F/C||Majok Majok, Ball State|