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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take a shot at predicting Big East award winners

Trying to predict how 16 coaches, who probably couldn't agree on what time it is, will cast their ballots for the Big East all-conference honors is challenging to say the least. But I'll give it my best shot. The major awards (Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year) will be announced at a press conference on Friday at the XL Center while the other honors are expected to be released tomorrow.

First team
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame; Bria Hartley, UConn; Tiffany Hayes, UConn; Anna Martin, DePaul; Nadirah McKenith, St. John's; Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn; Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame; Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame; Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown; Shoni Schimmel, Louisville; Da'Shena Stevens, St. John's
Second team
Kayla Alexander, Syracuse; Asya Bussie, West Virginia; Christal Caldwell, West Virginia; Jasmine Crew, Seton Hall; Iasia Hemingway, Syracuse; Dayeesha Hollins, Cincinnati; Katherine Plouffe, Marquette; Khadijah Rushdan, Rutgers; Shenneika Smith, St. John's; Jasmine Wynne, South Florida

Coach of the Year: Kim Barnes Arico, St. John's
Certainly Muffet McGraw could win this one after leading the Fighting Irish to its first outright Big East title but history has shown that league coaches tend to rewards coaches of teams which make the biggest jump from the preseason coaches' poll to the final regular-season standings. St. John's was picked seventh and tied for second so that's why I'm picking Barnes Arico. West Virginia coach Mike Carey would be another good choice.

Player of the year: Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame
Diggins clinched this thing Monday night in my eyes as she came up big when the Fighting Irish were trailing UConn Monday night. There are those who think Natalie Novosel is Notre Dame's best player while Sugar Rodgers of Georgetown  is another player who figures to be in the running.

Defensive Player of the Year: Kelly Faris, UConn
Faris doesn't put up gaudy defensive statistics as she isn't in the top 10 in either steals or blocked shots but she is the top defender on a team leading all Division I teams in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. That should count for something.

Sixth Man of the Year: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn
Mosqueda-Lewis finished ninth in the Big East with a scoring average of 14.6 points (in conference games) while starting just one game. Enough said.

Most Improved Player: Anna Martin, DePaul
This should be a three-player race. Martin went from averaging 10.8 points to 19, Seton Hall's Jasmine Crew scored 18.5 points per game which is up from 11.6 a year ago while South Florida's Jasmine Wynne made the most substantial jump as she went from putting up 3.4 points per game to averaging 15.6 points a contest.

Freshman of the Year: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn
Four freshmen averaged at least 10 points per game in Big East games but with all due respect to Pittsburgh's Brianna Kiesel, Marquette's Arlesia Morse and DePaul's Brittany Hrynko, if Mosqueda-Lewis doesn't win this award it would be a stunner of the year.

Sportsmanship Award: Keisha Hampton, DePaul
This is always the toughest award to predict because it goes much deeper than on-court performance but Hampton was held in high enough regard to address the crowd at the Big East media day, is a decorated student/athlete and it would a nice honor for a player who is forced to be a reluctant spectator because of a season-ending knee injury

Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame
The only Big East player to be named a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS award, Novosel had a 3.9 grade-point average in 2011. Da'Shena Stevens, a Senior CLASS candidate who was an academic all-district pick as a junior would be another worthy choice.

All-Freshman team
Lauren Burford, Villanova; Shawnta' Dyer, Louisville; Brittany Hrynko, DePaul; Brianna Kiesel, Pittsburgh; Betnijah Laney, Rutgers; Arlesia Morse, Marquette; Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn; Apew Oluju, Marquette; Bria Smith, Louisville; Kiah Stokes, UConn

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