With the 2013-2014 regular season over with, it is time for some Big 12 awards.
Player of the Year - Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
This was the hardest award to give out to me. You could make a case that Ejim isn't even the POY of this own team, with DeAndre Kane also getting love. Andrew Wiggins or even Juwan Staten also deserves to be in this conversation as well. For me, I love how Ejim plays the game and what he brings to ISU. He is the second leading scorer and rebounder in the league, an underrated defender and a tremendous athlete.
Others considered – Andrew Wiggins, Kansas; Juwan Staten, West Virginia; DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Coach of the Year - Rick Barnes, Texas
This hurts my soul, but what Barnes has done with UT this year is special. They had lost pretty much every player of value from the last few years, and returned one of the youngest and least talented on paper teams in the league. I had them in 8th or 9th battling TCU and Texas Tech for the basement. To finish 11-7 in conference play, and 22-9 overall after the last few years is remarkable.
You could make a case for Lon Kruger, or even Bill Self. Both did great job, and I wouldn't have an issue with either winning it. But Barnes to me was exceptional this year.
Others considered – Bill Self, Kansas; Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Freshman of the Year - Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
This is a no-brainer, now that Joel Embiid has missed a few games and his play slipped since being injured. Wiggins is one of the best players in the country, and probably #2 on the POY list. A tremendously gifted scorer, Wiggins had his marquee game Saturday against West Virginia, scoring 41 points on just 18 shots. The smooth and athletic wing finished the year as the leading freshman point scorer.
Most Improved Player – Cameron Ridley, Texas
As a freshman, Ridley was an out of shape liability on defense, and a guy that simply play enough minutes to make a huge impact. He played just 16 minutes per game for a team that needed his size, and average just over 4 points and 4 rebounds per game. Ridley came back in better shape for his sophomore campaign, and his play improved immensely. His scoring went up to 11.5 points per game, and he became one of the best rebounders in the Big 12, averaging 8.1.
Ridley was also counted on by Texas to be the anchor on defense of a young team that is quite small in the backcourt, and he answered that call by blocking 9.4% of shots (47th best in the country) and getting 2.2 blocks per game.
Defensive Player of the Year – Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
The best on the ball defender in the Big 12, Smart made countless plays for the Cowboys on the perimeter. He almost doubled up the second place finisher in steals per game (Smart – 2.7, buddy Hield – 1.5) and his size bothered smaller and weaker point guards all season long.
The graduate transfer from Marshall made a huge impact in his one year at Ames. Sixth in the league in scoring, second in assists, and one of the best rebounders from the guard position in the Big 12, Kane was a tremendous all-around player for the Cyclones.