March 3, 2004
As the regular season winds down, it's time to honor the MVPs, diaper dandies and best coaches in the top conferences in America. That's right, my choices for the créme de la créme -- and there were a number of difficult decisions. In some cases, the picks may surprise you.
There will be some cause for debate, but that's half the fun. For MVPs, it often comes down to the ability to make the big play at the right time, showing a winner's mentality. After all, to the victor go the spoils, baby! Part I of my three-part series deals with the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East and Big Ten.
More Awards — Part II: Big 12, C-USA, Pac-10, SEC | Part III: MAC, MWC, WAC
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Chris Duhon | guard | Duke
COACH OF THE YEAR — Herb Sendek | NC State
DIAPER DANDY OF THE YEAR — Chris Paul | guard | Wake Forest
COMMENT: My choice of Duhon is clearly not because of his overall statistics; a number of guys score more in the ACC. Duhon is the orchestra leader and does a great job on offense and defense. He makes things happen for the Dukies. Sendek has kept the Wolfpack in the upper echelon of the league all season. Paul gets the nod over Luol Deng of Duke in a very close call. The ACC has two of the top five diaper dandies in America. I don't feel Wake Forest can win as often without Paul, while Duke has enough weapons to survive if Deng were out. Again, this was a difficult call.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Jameer Nelson | guard | St. Joe's
COACH OF THE YEAR — Phil Martelli | St. Joe's
DIAPER DANDY OF THE YEAR — Carl Elliott | guard | George Washington
COMMENT: Nelson is in the top two in the running for national player of the year (with Emeka Okafor of Connecticut). What can you say about Martelli after his team wasn't ranked in the top 15 in the preseason coaches poll?
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Emeka Okafor | center | Connecticut
COACH OF THE YEAR — Jamie Dixon | Pittsburgh
DIAPER DANDY OF THE YEAR — Chris Taft | forward | Pittsburgh
COMMENT: Okafor is so dominant for the Huskies. He blocks shots, he rebounds, he runs the floor well, and he has improved his offensive moves over the years. The one Achilles' heel is his foul shooting, which he works on hard. Dixon has done an outstanding job taking over for Ben Howland, who went to UCLA. It's never easy for a first-year head coach to move up from a lieutenant's role, but Dixon's Panthers haven't missed a beat. Taft has become an inside force for the Panthers.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Devin Harris | guard | Wisconsin
COACH OF THE YEAR — Bill Carmody | Northwestern
DIAPER DANDY OF THE YEAR — Kris Humphries | forward | Minnesota
COMMENT: Harris has been solid and steady in the Badgers' backcourt. Yes, you can make a case for several others, including Humphries, the league's top scorer, but my nod goes to Harris. You can make a case for several coaches, but Carmody has done a solid job with less to work with. Consider that the Wildcats had a losing nonleague record and then look at wins over Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Iowa and Indiana. Humphries is a no-brainer.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.