The Big East kept us patiently waiting, but they officially announced the remaining awards. Some of these awards were known and some were debated, but now we all officially know who has come out on top and earned their honors.
Player of the Year:
Tyler Kolek had an absolutely excellent season. It makes sense that the Conference’s Player of the Year comes from the league’s Regular Season Champion. Two years removed from winning A-10 Rookie of the Year, the George Mason transfer has been an absolute revelation at Marquette. Kolek has been known as an incredible facilitator, averaging the second-most assists per game in the country, but his ability to score and control just about every game for the Golden Eagles shined through.
In Big East play, Kolek’s numbers have really stood out, as he’s averaged 15.1PPG to go with his already impressive eight assists per game, while shooting over 50% from the field and nearly 40% from three-point range. The Big critique of Kolek’s game last season was the jumper, and he’s gone from a 28% three-point shooter to a 39.6% three-point shooter, a remarkable improvement, which is a testament to the hard work he put in this offseason.
Freshman of the Year:
Cam Whitmore came into the Big East as the most heralded recruit the conference has seen in quite a bit of time. He dominated with the USA U18 team this summer and continued that high-level play in college. After an early injury set him back, it took Whitmore quickly found his footing. The five-star Maryland Native-led all freshman in the Big East in both scoring (12.4PPG) and steals (1.5SPG), and was second in rebounding (5.1RPG) only to UConn’s Donovan Clingan.
Scholar-Athlete of the Year:
Xavier’s Jack Nunge had an excellent season, so it only makes sense that he gets some recognition. The 6’11” Iowa transfer had the best season of his college career, averaging a career-best 14.0PPG and 7.7RPG while shooting 52.5% from the field and 41.2% from three-point range. His ability to play big and also stretch out and knock down the three-point jumper has been a vital part of Xavier’s offensive success.
Coach of the Year:
I left the most obvious for last, to not “bury the lede” as they say, because everyone knew this was Coach Shaka Smart’s Award. Marquette was not projected to finish amongst the conference’s elite, yet they won the outright Big East Regular Season Title and finished the season as a Top-Ten team. Coach Smart is in the conversation for National Coach of the Year, and for good reason. His Marquette team was not expected to do much, but came out of this season and absolutely dominated in conference play. The Golden Eagles made a statement in November when they absolutely trounced a Top-Ten Baylor team, and they have not looked back since. Marquette finished with a 25-6 record and likely a top-three seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Congratulations to every award winner on their incredible seasons!