I'm not going to let the Big East sneak their postseason awards past me without a fight. The final days of the regular season are this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with the conference tournament starting March 5th in Chicago. We're going to make predictions about the postseason awards now, so we're all set and ready when the league announces the official results next week some time.
Player of the Year & Freshman of the Year: Allazia Blockton, Marquette
Look, if I'm going to point out that Blockton should be a candidate for POY, then I sure as hell better make her my pick for POY, right?
Let's deal with the Freshman of the Year award part first. Blockton leads all freshmen in scoring (18.4ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg). Her margins are kind of close, with Georgetown's Dionna White averaging 14.8 points and Butler's Brittany Ward averaging 7.4 rebounds, but the fact of the matter is that Blockton's the leader. The key here is that she's leading in BOTH, while she has two different challengers coming up behind her. Blockton has been named Freshman of the Week seven times, more than anyone else in the league (White has five nods), and Blockton has four Honor Roll appearances. That's one more than Creighton's Audrey Faber, the only other frosh with more than one appearance. On top of all of that, Blockton is 14 points away from breaking the conference's freshman scoring record, which was set 21 years ago. With two guaranteed games left to play (one regular season & one Big East tournament), Blockton is almost assured to accomplish that feat.
She's clearly Freshman of the Year, right? Let's turn our attention over to Player of the Year, then. Blockton is third in the league in both points and rebounds, and she's the only player to be in the top five in both categories. Seton Hall's Tabatha Richardson-Smith comes close, coming in second in scoring, but sixth in rebounding. Blockton leads the league in double-doubles, 20+ point games, and 10+ rebound games. She's 11th in the league in assists, averaging more than three per game, and 15th in steals, at 1.4 per game on average.
I think the stat profile is enough to give it to her. The question becomes whether or not you want to give Player of the Year to a team that is either going to be 9-9 or 10-8 in league play. I can understand if you can't. If you're a "best player on the best team" voter, then that's fine with me..... except how are you deciding who DePaul's best player is? They have three different players leading in points, rebounds, and assists. Megan Podkowa is 2nd in the Big East in rebounds and 7th in points. Chanise Jenkins is 5th in points and 3rd in assists, while Jessica January is tops in assists, 19th in rebounding, and 12th in points. If they don't have a clearly defined best player, why not look somewhere else? Seton Hall's Tabatha Richardson-Smith led the league in Player of the Week awards with 3, but The Hall is 10-6 with two games to play, and that's starting to veer awfully close to where Marquette is in the standings anyway. St. John's Danaejah Grant is the only player in the league averaging 20 points a game (at exactly 20.0) and she has two POW awards. A decent candidate, except teammate Aliyyah Handford is fourth in the league in scoring. Is Grant's production for a 10-6 SJU team dependent on Handford's production? Maybe, and maybe all of those iffy questions for all of the competitors are enough to give Player of the Year to Allazia Blockton.
Coach of the Year: Doug Bruno, DePaul
The Blue Demons were picked to win the league this year. They clinched the #1 seed in the conference tournament with three games to play and locked up sole possession of first place with two games to play. Coaches love voting for someone who was picked to finish low and ended up much higher, mostly because they were the ones doing the picking and they like acknowledging their mistakes. I, however, believe in voting for the coach that accomplished what everyone expected them to do, winning under the pressure of everyone gunning for them.
With that said, if the ballots don't have to be turned in until after Sunday's games and Marquette defeats DePaul on Saturday, well, I could see a coach or four voting for MU's Carolyn Kieger. The Golden Eagles were picked to finish ninth this season and they're currently sitting in fifth behind DePaul and a three way stackup for second place.
All Big East Team
Allazia Blockton, Marquette
Caroline Coyer, Villanova
Danaejah Grant, St. John's
Chanise Jenkins, DePaul
Megan Podkowa, DePaul
Tabatha Richardson-Smith, Seton Hall
I think you probably expected five of those six names to appear here after my defense of Blockton as Player of the Year. The only new name is Coyer, who is top 10 in the league in scoring and top five in assists. She does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats, who are part of that 10-6 mishmash tied for second in the league right now.