Player of the Week
Jimmy Hall, F, Senior, Kent State Golden Flashes
Last week, Hall was on the Who’s Hot list for his great play down the stretch heading into the MAC Conference tournament this week. He had already been having a very good senior season, but his conference play has been turned up to a whole new level. On the season, he is averaging a double-double with 18.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The Golden Flashes were one of the hottest teams going into the conference tournament, having won five of their last six. In their first-round game against star Marcus Keene and Central Michigan, Hall paved the way for Kent State scoring 33 points and grabbing 14 rebounds and putting home 14 field goals. The Golden Flashes defeated the high flying Chippewas 116-106 in overtime. On Thursday 3/9 in their second-round game against Buffalo, he was just as good scoring 24 points and notching eight rebounds and leading Kent State to another victory 68-65.
Hall is dominating his conference right now and has Kent State playing their best basketball of the season. If he continues his stellar, leadership play for just a couple more games this tournament, the Golden Flashes could see themselves dancin’.
Marcus Keene, G, Junior, Central Michigan Chippewas
He did it! After the dust had settled and the season has come to an end, Marcus Keene has finally achieved a feat that had not been done for 20 years: average 30 points for a whole season. After Central Michigan was bounced in their conference tournament against Kent State and his season was ended, his scoring average came to EXCACTLY 30.0 points per game. You can’t write up a better script.
In the end, Keene’s season is over and Central Michigan will not be making the NCAA Tournament next week. They should get invited to another smaller tournament to showcase Keene’s talents. Keene was also surprisingly not named the MAC Player of the Year. That award went to Akron’s center Isaiah Johnson, who has been having a very good season with the first-place Zips.
This may be the last time I write about Keene this season, maybe forever since he can declare for the draft after this year if he chooses. Keene has easily been one of the greatest players in the country this year and the Wooden Award committee gave him praise earlier this year by naming him as an early finalist. We may never see a player average 30 for another 20 years now so enjoy what Keene just did folks!
SMU Mustangs (The Whole Program)
What a week and year for SMU. This year was one of their best years as a program, going 28-4, 17-1 in conference and winning the American Athletic Conference regular season title. Now, it was announced that their star forward Semi Ojeleye was named the AAC Player of the Year and their head coach Tim Jankovich was named the AAC Coach of the Year. The Mustangs are running hard to the semifinals of the AAC conference tournament and are heavy favorites going in, looking to win the conference title and gain a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
For a second straight season, it looks like the Hawks won’t be making the NCAA Tournament after a very strong season. The Hawks finished the regular season by winning the MAAC regular season title by four games and on a 17-game win streak. Unfortunately, the conference tournament was in Siena, NY, where the Siena Saints play. Monmouth was pitted against Siena, the conference No. 4 seed, in the semifinals of their conference tournament. Monmouth could not get past Siena in a true road game and lost 89-85. Since the MAAC is such a small conference, Monmouth will most likely miss out on the Big Dance for the second straight season after winning their regular season by a wide margin. It is truly unfortunate and it has sparked much controversy around the country about conference tournament structuring and locations. In the end, Monmouth would need a lot of help to get into the Big Dance and their odds are slim to none right now after such a great season overall.
Mid Major End of Season Awards
Mid Major Player of the Year:Nigel Williams-Goss
Runners up: Marcus Keene, Alec Peters, Cam Oliver
The transfer point guard from Washington came into a good Gonzaga squad and turned them into their greatest team of all time. The Bulldogs finished the regular season 29-1, just missing out on a perfect regular season before losing to BYU in the last game of the year. Gonzaga went on to win their conference tournament handedly and are looking like a lock for a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
Williams-Goss is one of the best and most versatile players in the country, easily in all the mid major conferences. He is tall, long and athletic and a mismatch for just about every guard. For a large majority of this year, he led the Zags in scoring, rebounding, assists and field goal percentage. He finished with 16.9 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game and 4.8 assists. He consistently dominated his conference and out of conference play and was the leader of a Gonzaga team on the brink of being undefeated. One of the final Wooden Award candidates, Williams-Goss is the facilitator that drives arguably the best team in the country.
Mid Major Defensive Player of the Year:Cam Oliver
The sophomore, undersized 6’8” forward quickly turned into one of the strongest players in the paint this season. After a strong freshman year and a decision to skip the draft, he came back and made the Nevada Wolf Pack a strong favorite to make the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 15.8 points per game, 8.6 rebounds and a very impressive 2.6 blocks per game. On the season, he scored 20 or more points in eight games and recorded seven double-doubles on the year. There may not have been a more important player to his team in all the country. In the Wolf Pack’s six losses, he has played significantly worse than his averages and probably cost the team wins. He established himself as a ferocious defensive player, always securing defensive rebounds and becoming a rim protector. He has SEVEN games this year with four or more blocks, many of them with five. He has drastically improved his draft stock this season and looks to be a first round pick in this year’s draft for his stellar defensive play.
Mid Major Coach of the Year:
Runners up: Kevin Keatts, Gregg Marshall, Mick Cronin, Tim Jankovich
Mark Few has been the one of most consistent coaches in all of college basketball in the last 20 years or so. He has propelled the Zags into the Big Dance every year he has coached, which has encapsulated every season since 2000. Never has he had a team this good heading into the tournament though. With a record of 32-1, a near perfect season, he has the perfect cohesion of a team in years. He has found ways to work Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Collins and Przemek Karnowski into the lineup and all become effective around each other. Mark Few has been considered coach of the year in many years in the past, but this year is for many different reasons. Almost any college basketball fan today would tell you that THIS year is the best year for Gonzaga to finally reach the Final Four and compete for the championship. Mark Few has done a masterful job at Gonzaga this year and is leading a Zag team for the ages regardless of the end result.
Mid Major 1st Team
G – Nigel Williams-Goss
G – Marcus Keene
F – Semi Ojeleye
F – Alec Peters
F – Cam Oliver