In the most bizarre, unique, and (at risk of conforming) "unprecedented" college basketball of all-time, there were some silver linings. We witnessed UCLA make an historic run from the First Four to the Final Four; saw Gonzaga carve apart everyone in its path, only to be throttled in the National Championship, and watched with dropped jaws as an ailing Georgetown team ran the table in the BIG EAST tournament.
This year, I have the pleasure of being asked to vote in the Met Basketball Writers Association's annual awards. Every year, the MBWA recognizes the most outstanding players & coaches in the NYC metro area. By virtue of covering both the BIG EAST and NEC this year, my unique perspective will hopefully bring a bit more of a diverse opinion to the MBWA table this year.
Here's my ballot - it's in as of tonight. As always, the DM's are open for the good, bad & ugly. Bring it on!
Haggerty Award (Player of the Year): Sandro Mamukelashvili (Seton Hall)
PHOTO: NY Post
This was a very tough choice; with a center good for nearly 9 rebounds per game and a wing-guard that can shoot & stretch the floor also on the ballot, Sandro Mamukelashvili wasn't a clear favorite. But when looking at his accolades and just how far Seton Hall went this year, the appeal to pick Mamu for the 2020-21 Lt. Frank J. Haggerty Award got much sweeter. Mamukelashvili, the product of Georgia, was the the only Met-area
Division I player named an All-American this year after his AP Honorable Mention nod. Mamu was named the BIG EAST Player of the Year, and was a finalist for the Karl Malone National Power Forward of the Year Award. It's not hard to understand why; he was the only high-major forward in Division I to average at least 17ppg, 7rpg, and 3apg this year. Mamukelashvili was one of four true forwards to rack up more than one 30-point game this year, and the company is great...Luka Garza (Iowa), Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana), and Moses Wright (Georgia Tech) are the others. It's clear that Sandro Mamukelashvili stood out on the big stage this year, and Seton Hall benefited greatly.
Honorable mentions: Julian Champagnie (St. John's), Myles Johnson (Rutgers)
All-Met First Team (in order)
1. Sandro Mamukelashvili (Seton Hall)
2. Julian Champagnie (St. John's)
3. Myles Johnson (Rutgers)
4. Posh Alexander (St. John's)
5. Jalen Ray (Hofstra)
6. Jacob Young (Rutgers)
7. KC Ndefo (Saint Peter's)
All-Met Second Team
1. Geo Baker (Rutgers)
2. Ron Harper (Rutgers)
3. Jared Rhoden (Seton Hall)
4. Isaiah Ross (Iona)
5. Deion Hammond (Monmouth)
6. Alex Morales (Wagner)
7. Eral Penn (LIU)
Rookie of the Year: Posh Alexander (St. John's)
PHOTO: Storm the Paint
Mike Anderson "couldn't recruit New York"....until he found the best freshman St. John's has rostered in quite some time. Posh Alexander, who New York sportswriter Jaden Daly described as "the perfect marriage for his coach and system," was dominant all year at the point guard position for the Johnnies. His aggressiveness, intensity, and defensive prowess yielded an ideal output for the St. John's scheme and style of play. Alexander cruised to both the BIG EAST Defensive Player & Rookie of the Year honors - to understand how rare that is, the only other player to ever rack up both in one year is Allen Iverson after his monster freshman campaign at Georgetown in 1995.
Honorable mentions: DeLonnie Hunt (Wagner), Nelly Junior Joseph (Iona)
Coach of the Year: Steve Pikiell (Rutgers)
I'll hear the arguments until the cows come home for this one. Sure, Rick Pitino's MAAC Championship at Iona made his grand re-entrance into the college basketball scene a worthy cause, and Mike Anderson very well should've been awarded the same title in the BIG EAST. Ultimately, it was Steve Pikiell's accomplishments at Rutgers this season that make him the clear-cut favorite for this honor. The Scarlet Knights were, by all means, an ailing program; with a 20-year drought from the NCAA Tournament, (28 years without a win in the Big Dance), New Jersey faithful were beginning to give up hope on Steve Pikiell and his vision. But with all things considered, Pikiell has righted the ship; this year, the Scarlet Knights won 10 Big Ten conference games, which marks the second-straight season with that honor...the first time they've eclipsed the double-digit mark since 1991. In a crowed Big Ten Conference, Rutgers finished 6th, which was their second-straight season in the top half of the standings. Rutgers hadn't earned a first round conference tournament bye since the 1995 A-10 tournament. For a team that had the 8th-hardest schedule in the nation to spend three weeks in the Top 15, peaking at 11, speaks a lot to the culture Steve Pikiell has built; and he deserves the Coach of the Year award.
Honorable mentions: Rick Pitino (Iona), Mike Anderson (St. John's)