Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Casting our ballots: Big 12
By Pat Forde
A quick look at the player and coach of the year races in the Big 12:
Player of the Year
Kansas' Marcus Morris is averaging 17.3 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Marcus Morris’ improvement has been dramatic, enabling him to step into one of Kansas’ vacant leading-man roles after being a complimentary part his first two seasons in Lawrence. Morris has raised his scoring average from 12.8 to 17.3, his rebounds from 6.1 to 6.9 and his assists from 1 to 1.4. He’s also shooting 61 percent from he field and a no-fluke 36 percent from 3-point range (23 made 3s on the season).
Combine that with KU’s top-five ranking and leading position in the Big 12, and Morris is my narrow choice over Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen, Colorado swingman Alec Burks and Texas forward Jordan Hamilton. All of them have their flaws.
Pullen has been the best player in the league of late, but he was suspended three games for NCAA rules violations and failed to take the leadership role Kansas State was lacking early when it floundered under high expectations. Burks might be the league’s biggest talent and has had a fine year, but he plays for a mid-pack team -- and this is a team game, so team results matter. Hamilton is a devastating offensive player when he’s locked in, but he’s shot horribly and indiscriminately as the Longhorns have lost three of their past four, and he seems to be backsliding to some of his bad freshman habits.
So I’ll go with Morris, but there’s plenty of room for disagreement here.
Coach of the Year
I’ll cast a somewhat tepid vote for Texas A&M’s Mark Turgeon. Every time I watch the Aggies play, I come back to the same thought: How does this team have the record it does? There is no great talent, no surplus of athleticism, no sprawling collection of McDonald’s All-Americans -- yet still, A&M is in the upper echelon of the league. Its 22 victories (nine in Big 12 play) owe a lot to the coach, who has been a consistent winner where many never thought it could be done.
Turgeon lost his top three scorers and leading rebounder from last season’s 24-10 team, and it really hasn’t mattered. The Aggies, picked to finish sixth in the preseason, still are successful in a tough league (currently third) and have a couple of quality nonconference wins as well (Temple and Washington). They turned freshman role player Khris Middleton into a go-to scorer as a sophomore, more than doubling his average from last season (7.2 to 14.6), and filled in everyone else around him.
So he’s the choice (narrowly) over Kansas’ Bill Self, Texas’ Rick Barnes and Colorado’s Tad Boyle. As with the player of the year, you can make a compelling case for any of those guys. But the choice here is Turgeon.
Click here to find out who our panel of 15 experts picked in each of the nation's 10 best conferences.