Conference play is officially underway, and with it arrives the unofficial midway point of the basketball season.
Now is the perfect time to look forward and the perfect time to look back.
On the cusp of the conference season, midseason awards are in order.
Here’s a look at some of the MWC’s top players, coaches, and storylines to keep an eye on going forward.
All-Conference First Team
Jimmer Fredette, BYU (21.6 points, 5.6 assists, 48.5 percent 3FG)
Darington Hobson, New Mexico (16.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists)
Roman Martinez, New Mexico (15.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 44.4 percent 3FG)
Tre’Von Willis, UNLV (14.5 points, 3.2 assists, 92.6 percent FT)
Tuffy Moss, TCU (14.9 points, 6.6 assists)
Fredette and Hobson are no-brainers. There’ll be more on them later.
Martinez merits inclusion for his all-around contributions. He is fourth in the MWC in scoring, sixth in rebounds, sixth in steals, and second in three-point percentage.
Willis is top 10 in numerous statistical categories (points, assists, assist to turnover ration, FG percentage, FT percentage) and is the best player on a 12-2 team that figures to compete for the MWC title.
TCU hasn’t been particularly good, but Moss has been awesome. He’s fifth in scoring, comfortably first in assists, and fourth in three-pointers made.
All-Conference Second Team
Afam Muojeke, Wyoming (17.6 points)
Evan Washington, Air Force (12.5 points)
Carlon Brown, Utah (13.4 points)
Zvonko Buljan, TCU (14.6 points, 9.1 rebounds)
Billy White, San Diego State (12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds)
Muojeke is second in the conference in scoring and fifth in steals. If he can trim his turnover total down from 4.3 per game to something respectable, he could be a first teamer.
Washington is one of the conference’s most well-rounded players. He’s one of only two players (Hobson being the other) who averages at least 12 points, five rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
Brown is the Utes’ leader on the floor and ranks in the top 15 in points, rebounds, and steals.
Buljan is second in rebounding and sixth in scoring. He’s a borderline first teamer.
White’s stats won’t blow anyone away, but his impact on the Aztecs at both ends of the floor is impossible to overlook.
All-Conference Third Team
Oscar Bellfield, UNLV (11.1 points, 3.9 assists)
Malcolm Thomas, San Diego State (10.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks)
Dairese Gary, New Mexico (10.3 points, 3.7 assists)
Jackson Emery, BYU (13.4 points, 2.5 steals)
Andy Ogide, Colorado State (11.4 points, 5.9 rebounds)
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State (10.6 points, 9.6 rebounds)
Coach of the Year
Steve Alford, New Mexico
At this point, it has to be Alford, though the conference is replete with worthy candidates. Alford has taken a New Mexico team that lost its three best players and was picked fifth in the preseason and turned them into a favorite. The Lobos are 14-2 and ranked in the top 15 of both national polls.
Dave Rose, Lon Kruger, Steve Fisher, and Tim Miles have all been doing an excellent job this year. Rose is coming off a tumultuous offseason and has the Cougars rolling. Kruger is has exceeded expectations with an inexperienced team. Fisher lost four key seniors, yet the Aztecs could be an NCAA tournament team.
Miles deserves a special pat on the back. He took over a Colorado State program that went 0-16 in conference his first year. The Rams showed steady improvement last year, and despite somewhat underwhelming talent, they could wind up playing in a postseason tournament at this year’s end. That would be a huge feat considering how low the program was just two years ago.
Defensive Player of the Year
David Foster, Utah
Some might argue that Foster has an unfair advantage, given he’s 7’3”. No one can argue with the ridiculous 4.5 blocks per game he is averaging in just 20 minutes on the court. He completely changes the game at the defensive end. You can’t shoot over him. He is hands down the single most disruptive player in the MWC.
Jackson Emery (BYU) and Billy White (San Diego State) both deserve recognition. Emery is a terrific perimeter defender and probably plays passing lanes better than anyone in the conference. He averages an MWC-best 2.5 steals per contest.
White’s versatility is what makes him special. He can literally guard all five positions. Analysts tend to throw that phrase around a little too liberally, often claiming an athletic 6’6” or 6’7” wing can guard a solid post player. At 6’8” and 226 lbs., with long arms and very quick feet, White is the only player in the conference that can truly guard all five positions effectively.
Freshman of the Year
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
This is a relatively easy choice. Leonard is close to averaging a double-double and leads the league in rebounds. His quickness and leaping ability make him impossible to keep off the glass. If he could shoot, he’d be a heck of a player.
Tyler Haws (BYU) and Dorian Green (Colorado State) both have gotten their college careers off to a good start. Haws averages 11.1 points and 4.3 rebounds. Green puts up 13.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 steals.
Newcomer of the Year
Darington Hobson, New Mexico
If not for the ridiculous numbers Jimmer Fredette is putting up, Hobson would be the MWC POY. For now, he’ll have to settle for Newcomer of the Year.
Hobson does it all. He is in the only player in the top five in scoring, rebounding, and assists. He shoots over 40 percent from long range. He averages over a steal per game. His assist to turnover ratio is an impressive 1.6/1. He is the MWC’s best all-around player, the best NBA prospect, and the single biggest reason the Lobos have been such a pleasant surprise.
MWC Player of the Year
Jimmer Fredette, BYU
A strong argument can be made for Hobson, but the first two months have belonged to Fredette. Fredette is by far the best offensive player in the conference. His 21.6 points per game have him comfortably on top in that category. He is second, behind only Moss of TCU, in assists. He is one of the most prolific and most accurate three-point shooters. He also has the top free throw percentage.
Most notably, Fredette punctuated his impressive nonconference slate with a memorable 49-point performance at Arizona. To sum up, he’s not a bad offensive player.
It will take a monumentally impressive second half for any player to wrestle the award from Fredette's grasp.
For a look at what to expect going forward, check out this week’s edition of the MWC Power Rankings.
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