In this calm after the end of the regular season and before the storm of the West Coast Conference Tournament, I thought it would be a good time to hand out some awards to worthy players and coaches a day after the conference did the same.
These are strictly unofficial, mind you, and come with no trophies or gift certificates, although I guess I could dust off some old plaques and trophies in the garage and re-purpose them from 1973 to 2015. Or not. As a reminder from the good folks at the conference office, all postseason WCC teams and major individual awards were voted on solely by the league's 10 head coaches.
What I found interesting was to go back to WCC Media Day in Los Angeles last Oct. 27, when the coaches came out with their preseason poll. It's easy and often popular to criticize coaches for their every move but more times than not, they know what they are doing. That's why Marty Wilson is in Malibu and I'm not.
The coaches hit on the top three teams, as Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary's indeed did finish 1-2-3. They also nailed San Diego in fifth, Portland in sixth and Santa Clara in a tie for seventh, which relegated the Broncos to eighth in a tiebreaker. The league's head men also had Loyola Marymount and Pacific as the bottom two teams, in that order, although the actual finish was Tigers in ninth and Lions in 10th.
Where the coaches missed was on Pepperdine and San Francisco. They had the Dons finishing in fourth and the Waves in a tie for seventh. The way it played out, Pepperdine had some big moments and finished fourth while USF never found a central focus and came in seventh.
So, well done, coaches.
Speaking of which, for Coach of the Year I like Gonzaga's Mark Few for the way he had the Zags playing at a high level all season despite mounting pressure to run the table in the WCC season. He nearly pulled that off until BYU ended the nation's longest active home winning streak at 41 (and 22 overall this season) on the last day of the season. At 29-2, Gonzaga was eight points shy of an undefeated season, losing by three at Arizona and by three to BYU.
For Player of the Year I'm going to use the analogy of a decathlete in track and field and go with jack-of-all-trades Kyle Collinsworth of BYU over the actual POY, Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos. All Collinsworth did in one season was record five triple-doubles, one shy of the NCAA career record, to go with 13.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.9 steals and an assists-to-turnovers ratio of 2.0. His follow shot on Saturday with seconds remaining secured BYU's upset of Gonzaga.
These being my unofficial awards, I'm going to create a category of Most Valuable Player in addition to POY and give it to Saint Mary's center Brad Waldow. In my opinion no player in the league was as valuable to his team as Waldow, who came close to averaging a double-double for the season with 19.1 points and 9.0 rebounds.
It's no accident that with Santa Clara concentrating its defensive efforts on Waldow, who was held to five points, the Gaels struggled and ultimately lost 71-70 in the final seconds. The Game of the Year in conference has to be BYU going to Spokane and beating Gonzaga to secure second place in the league standings while casting a little doubt on the Zags' dominance.
Coaches are fond of saying the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores. That may be true but Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis was pretty darned good as a true freshman, coming off the bench to average 9.7 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting .684 from the field. He's the choice for Freshman of the Year over such talented yearlings as Shawn Olden of Pepperdine, Emmett Naar of Saint Mary's and Devin Watson of USF.
Was there a better player off the bench than Sabonis? That's why he's also Sixth Man of the Year as well.
For establishing school career records in assists and steals, San Diego's Christopher Anderson is Little Big Man of the Year. At 5-foot-7, quickness, guile, vision and anticipation are what goes into Anderson's game.
Give that man a top hat and tails and put him on stage in Vegas with a comely assistant because Portland's Eric Reveno is Magician of the Year. How else but magic to explain how the Pilots lost their last four games (as well as earlier defeats to LMU and Pacific) and still secured sixth place and a bye into the quarterfinals on Saturday?
San Diego's Jito Kok, as in block, is the top shot-blocker in the conference with 2.6 rejections per game. He's also the Tweeter of the Year for his alternately thoughtful and irreverent offerings, like this recent posting:
KOK - @JitoKok - Feb 24
I'm gonna be reviewing all bathrooms on campus as part of me giving back to the community. First up, law school.
I still laugh at one of his earlier tweets about Frankenstein showing up to a body building contest and being unsure of the concept. Think about it.
See you all in Las Vegas.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.