The college basketball awards season is fast approaching with the regular season nearing the finish line.
Meanwhile, media members predicting award winners is always in season.
Gonzaga has swept through the West Coast Conference with 13 double-digit victories entering the final week, giving the top-ranked Zags plenty of qualified candidates for conference player, defender, newcomer and coach of the year.
That’s true nationally with Jalen Suggs a finalist for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award and Joel Ayayi among the final five for the Jerry West Shooting Guard Award. They figure to have company from teammates Corey Kispert (Julius Erving Small Forward) and Drew Timme (Karl Malone Power Forward) when the finalists are revealed later this week.
WCC Player of the Year
Gonzaga players have won the award 14 of the past 21 years, beginning with Casey Calvary in 2001. It appears to be a two-man race between Kispert and Timme.
Both have been wildly efficient, ranking 1-2 in conference scoring and field-goal percentage. Kispert is first in made 3-pointers, free-throw percentage and 3-point percentage. Timme is second in offensive boards, third in rebounding and seventh in blocks.
“Hey listen, I’m always partial to seniors so I think it’d be pretty easy for me,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after Saturday’s win over San Diego. “I’d go Corey. I just know how valuable he is on and off the floor for us.
“I would definitely lean that way and I think Drew would understand that, and Jalen and Andrew (Nembhard) and Joel would understand that totally.”
Kispert and Timme are also in the mix for national player of the year. Iowa’s Luka Garza is considered the front-runner. Baylor’s Jared Butler and Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu are typically in the top three with Kispert and Timme next.
Those are the top five in BetMGM’s and Sportsbettingdime.com’s odds. Bovada lists Garza as a solid favorite, followed by Butler, Kispert, Dosunmu, Timme and Suggs.
WCC Coach of the Year
Few has the inside track for his 14th WCC coach of the year award. He’s guided Gonzaga to a 22-0 record with 21 double-digit wins. The Zags have been ranked No. 1 for 14 consecutive weeks dating back to the preseason poll.
BYU’s Mark Pope and Loyola Marymount first-year coach Stan Johnson merit consideration.
The second-place Cougars are No. 21 in the NET rankings in Pope’s second season and projected as a seven seed in ESPN’s latest bracket. LMU (11-7 overall, 6-4 WCC) is third in the standings, according to win percentage. The Lions were picked seventh in the WCC preseason poll.
Few is a strong contender nationally with Michigan’s Juwan Howard, Baylor’s Scott Drew, Alabama’s Nate Oats and Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger.
WCC Newcomer of the Year
Suggs is seemingly the heavy favorite for the award, which is open to freshmen, grad transfers and sit-out transfers.
The 6-foot-4 point guard has been a major contributor as a scorer, distributor and defender.
Other names to consider are Gonzaga’s Nembhard, Portland’s Ahmed Ali and BYU’s Matt Haarms, Brandon Averette and Caleb Lohner.
WCC Defensive Player of the Year
This is a tough one to gauge, particularly when there isn’t a dominant rim protector, but we’ll give the nod to Suggs.
The freshman point guard leads the conference in steals (2.0 per game), which helps fuel GU’s potent transition game. He’s battled occasional foul trouble, but he has the athleticism to defend bigger or smaller players on switches.
BYU’s Haarms leads the conference and ranks 43rd nationally with 36 blocks. San Francisco guards Khalil Shabazz (1.9) and Jamaree Bouyea (1.5) are in the top four in steals.
Gonzaga’s Anton Watson and Aaron Cook are accomplished defenders who rank in the top 15 in steals while playing fewer minutes than most players on the list.
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