March Madness is over, and we’re entering the long off-season of recruiting, coaching carousels and the NBA Draft. But let’s take a last look at the season with our post-season awards.
Most Valuable Player
I think it’s important to clarify here, that this is award is not going to go to who I think is the best basketball player, but to whomever I think had the largest impact. And for that reason, I select:
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Kaminsky had a monster year in efficiency, and is a better defender than the runner up Jahlil Okafor. At 7-0, Kaminsky has a rare ability to work both on the perimeter (with his deadly shot) or in the post, backing down defenders. While many would pick Okafor this year because of the championship, Duke is Duke. With Coach K, the Blue Devils will always have a chance. Wisconsin would have been nowhere near the national title game without Kaminsky.
Coach of the Year
While I would love to continue crediting Mike Krzyzewski, I think there is no doubt in anyone’s mind who is winning coach of the year. So despite being sent home early in the tourney (and only this team would call the Final Four early), I select:
John Calipari, KentuckyEmbed from Getty Images
38-1. While Kentucky and Calipari came just short of history, their season was nothing short of incredible. Victory after victory, Calipari kept the team playing well week in and week out. And this is to say nothing of the expectations for next year, as another undefeated season seems to be expected for the squad from Lexington.
Freshman of the Year
Now it’s finally time to honor him, since I have Kaminsky taking the MVP. I select:
Jahlil Okafor, DukeEmbed from Getty Images
Okafor has done something that not a lot of of freshman have ever done, and that is shoulder the offensive responsibility of an elite team almost completely. Add in the fact that he helped lead this Duke squad to a national championship, and Freshman of the Year is completely locked up for this young man. Okafor is expected to be the top pick in the upcoming NBA draft, and for good reason. While still raw, few players have ever showed the athleticism that he has.
Defensive Player of the Year
The key to an amazing defensive player is versatility. The ability to cover wings, the post, or isolation ball in one player makes their coach’s job a lot easier, and makes the opponent’s coach want to pull their hair out. No player personified that more this year than:
Willie Cauley-Stein, KentuckyEmbed from Getty Images
Cauley-Stein was simply a force this year, moving everywhere on the court. Calipari often put him on the best perimeter scorer, but that didn’t stop him from shutting down the paint as well. A shot-blocking monster, with 67 blocks in 39 games. At 7-1 and 240 pounds, he has a mobility that feels like it shouldn’t be allowed.