I hate “If the season ended today” scenarios because they are dumb… so I’m just going to call this the Season So Far Awards.
We are just over three weeks away from the tip of the Summit League tournament… each team has 5 or 6 games left in the regular season… but we’ve got a pretty good idea of who’s got what.
The league will name 5 “of the Year” winners and these are my totally personal and biased (but probably spot on) opinions on who will win.
Men’s Player of the Year
Possibles: Jordan Dykstra (South Dakota State); Brett Olson (Denver); Chris Udofia (Denver); Marshall Bjorklund (North Dakota State); Taylor Braun (North Dakota State); Luis Jacobo (Fort Wayne); Trevor Gruis (South Dakota); John Karhoff (Omaha)
Probable: Taylor Braun
Duh. He was the Pre-Season Player of the Year (picked by the media and coaches and sports info people) and has lived up to the hype. He’s got three of the seven 30+ point games in the league. He was dog sick when the Bison played at South Dakota and Denver and still made the plays at the end to beat USD and then he ran the tank dry in NDSU’s loss at Denver. (He had 16 in the first half and finished with 17.) He is simply the guy who makes the shot or gets the steal or creates something good late in the game or late in the shot clock.
Dykstra has been fantastic for South Dakota State (1st in PPG, 3rd in RPG in league games) and Olson has been phenomenal for Denver (56% FG, 56% 3PFG, 94% FT). BUT… at this point, Braun is still the POY.
Men’s Newcomer of the Year
(There is no Freshman of the Year so this is guys in their first year in the league, freshman or otherwise.)
Possibles: Mo Evans (Fort Wayne); Steve Forbes (Fort Wayne); Khufu Najee (IUPUI); Devin Patterson (Omaha); Adam Thoseby (South Dakota); Garret Covington (Western Illinois)
Probable: Garret Covington
He is long and lanky and has led the Leathernecks in scoring in seven of their eight Summit League games. He shoots 54% on 3PFG and is the #1 guy on every opposing teams scouting report. Steve Forbes has made a significant impact at Fort Wayne, but the case for Covington is too convincing. Without him and fellow freshman Jabari Sandifer, WIU would be in a bit of a pickle.
Men’s Sixth Man of the Year
Possibles: Matt Hagerbaumer (Omaha); Mo Evans (Fort Wayne); Tyler Flack (South Dakota); Adam Link (Western Illinois); Marcus Byrd (Denver); Marcus Heemstra (South Dakota State); Mike Felt (North Dakota State)
Probable: This is a tough call, but… Adam Link
Felt won it last year, and he and Evans and Flack have all been great at times but inconsistent. Heemstra has been steady and the Jacks might not have won at South Dakota without him. Byrd has been really good, especially in Denver’s last two wins over NDSU and USD. But Link has provided the most bench punch… averaging 27 minutes, 8 points and 4 rebounds per game. (And he has actually started 14 games this year, but has been a reserve in every league game so far.)
Men’s Defensive Player of the Year
Possibles: Jake Bittle (South Dakota State); Chris Udofia (Denver); Kory Brown (North Dakota State); Marcellus Barksdale (IUPUI); Devin Patterson (Omaha)
Probable: Kory Brown
Bittle leads the league in steals (18) and disqualifications (4). He’s aggressive! And scrappy. And adds a little mean streak to the Jackrabbit lineup. Hard to argue against him.
Udofia leads the league in blocks (23) and at just 6-foot-6 protects the rim better than anybody else. Hard to argue against him.
Barksdale has shown to be sticky against some of the better scorers in the league, and Patterson can create a lot of havoc (and turnovers) out on the perimeter.
But… Kory Brown can lock you down. He is ferocious. He was a second shirt on Fort Wayne’s Luis Jacobo in the Bison win on Saturday. Brown makes very good offensive players look very uncomfortable. He is that guy that slaps the floor and claps his hands and smiles in your face as he revels in the opportunity to shut you down.
Men’s Coach of the Year
Possibles: All of them (yes, total copout… but only because I’m not sure what the criteria should be)
Probable: Tony Jasick, Fort Wayne
If it is only based on Wins and Losses, it will go (like it has for the last 5 years) to whoever wins the regular season championship. But if it is based on doing the most with what you’ve got and exceeding your pre-season expectations then it should go to Jasick, with a nod to Derrin Hansen at Omaha. (The Mavs have already won 4 more games than all of last year.)
Fort Wayne has already tied a school record for wins at the D1 level (18) and even though the Dons got thumped at SDSU and lost at NDSU last weekend they are still in contention to win the league. IF they can find a way to win a road game or two down the stretch, Jasick should get some serious consideration for the COY.