March 5, 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. Part III of my three-part series deals with the Mid-American (MAC), Mountain West (MWC) and Western Athletic Conferences (WAC). With the mid-major conferences, I haven't seen as many of these players in person, though I've caught most of them on television. But I have talked to a number of people I respect and come up with these selections.
More Awards — Part I: ACC, A-10, Big East, Big Ten | Part II: Big 12, C-USA, Pac-10, SEC
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Derrick Tarver | guard | Akron
COACH OF THE YEAR — Steve Hawkins| Western Michigan
DIAPER DANDY OF THE YEAR — Jeremiah Wood | forward | Akron
COMMENT: Picking a player of the year was difficult because there are a number of good candidates. Mike Williams and Ben Reed, both of Western Michigan, have enjoyed outstanding seasons. Tarver has been key for the Zips, leading the league in scoring. Hawkins has done an outstanding job in his first season as head coach. Hey, ADs across America, see what happens when you give an assistant coach an opportunity? Give the first lieutenants a chance, baby!
MOUNTAIN WEST (MWC)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Rafael Araujo | center | BYU
COACH OF THE YEAR — Joe Scott | Air Force
DIAPER DANDY OF THE YEAR — Andrew Bogut | forward-center | Utah
COMMENT: Araujo has been a dominant inside force for the Cougars. Scott should get consideration for national coach-of-the-year honors because the Falcons were picked last in the Mountain West and have been one of the nation's biggest surprises. Bogut gets the nod over San Diego State's Brandon Heath in a close call.
WESTERN ATHLETIC (WAC)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Kirk Snyder | guard | Nevada
COACH OF THE YEAR — Billy Gillispie | UTEP
DIAPER DANDY OF THE YEAR — Paul Millsap | forward | La. Tech
COMMENT: Snyder has been a do-it-all type of player. He can score, rebound and dish the rock. Gillispie, a former Tulsa and Illinois assistant under Bill Self, took a team that won six games last season and made them into one of the top teams in the wacky WAC. Millsap has flown under the radar nationally, but he's one of the country's premier rebounders and averages a double-double per game.
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.