2012 NCAA Tournament Awards
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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The 2012 NCAA Tournament is nearly completed. On Monday night Kansas and Kentucky will clash in New Orleans, Louisiana to determine who is the national champion. This year’s tournament has been incredibly enjoyable from start to finish and to help cap it off, we’ve put together our awards list featuring the top individuals and moments from the first round on.
Top Coach: Bill Self – Kansas
The competition for this award was stiff with Kentucky’s John Calipari, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Ohio State’s Thad Mata and Ohio’s John Groce. Had the Bobcats been able to upset North Carolina in the Sweet 16 Groce probably would have been the winner. Self has earned the honor, though, by taking Kansas to their second national championship under his watch in a year where nobody expected them to be a title contender.
Coincidentally, the last time Kansas was in the championship game they played against John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers. If Self can top him again, he’ll be a legend and icon in Lawrence, Kansas forever.
Most Outstanding Player: Anthony Davis – Kentucky
There’s a lot to be said about a guy like Davis, who is clearly the best player on a star-studded Kentucky squad, not caring about how many shots he gets. He doesn’t need the ball to dominate a game and that’s exactly why he is the MOP.
He’s shot 24-39 in the tournament, recorded double-doubles in the last four games after coming one rebound shy of one in the opener, handed out 13 assists and blocked 23 shots. Prior to the big dance there was no question about whether or not he was the best prospect in this year’s draft. He’s done nothing to change that. In terms of most valuable, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson may be more valuable to his team because there’s no way they’re in the championship without him. Kentucky would be good enough to go on a run without Davis, but the drop off wouldn’t be as big as Kansas without Robinson.
Best Defender: Anthony Davis – Kentucky
Louisville sophomore Gorgui Dieng and Kansas junior Jeff Withey block a fair amount of shots themselves, but there’s no discussion over who the premier defensive player in the field of 68 is. It’s definitely Davis, who has done a great job of avoiding foul trouble no matter how much team’s attack him. The only time his minutes were limited due to foul trouble was against Indiana, but he thrived in the second half as he made up for lost time.
The scary thing about Davis is that he can be better defensively than he is right now. Once he adds some lower body strength opponents won’t be able to get good position against him anywhere near as easily. His lack of strength was a concern coming into the year, but has rarely been exploited. Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Davis’ teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are fine individual defenders, but they don’t weight on the minds of everyone on the opposition like Davis does.
Biggest Upset: Lehigh over Duke in the 2nd round
Although not as upset-heavy as some of the recent tournaments, there were a few good ones this year. 15 seed Norfolk State shocked number two Missouri and Ohio beat some teams people didn’t think they could. Lehigh beating Duke tops them all, though. Duke was heavily favored and predicted to go on a serious run. They were without starting center Ryan Kelly, but even if he did play it’s not like he would have done much to slow down C.J McCollum. In similar fashion to what VCU’s Eric Maynor did against Duke in an opening-round upset in 2007, McCollum torched the Blue Devils for 30 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Lehigh went on to lose to Xavier in the next round, but their victory against Duke will make this season one that is remembered for ever in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Biggest Disappointment: Kendall Marshall breaking a bone in his right wrist
Injuries are an unfortunate reality in all sports, not just in basketball. You hate to see them no matter what, but Marshall’s injury was particularly devastating. He was at the top of his game prior to breaking a bone in his right wrist against Creighton. With him out the Tar Heels were done as title contenders. They barely survived against Ohio in the Sweet 16 and eventually fell to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
The Tar Heels are now entering a new era with Marshall, Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson all headed to the NBA. Everyone in Tar Heel nation will always wonder what could have been had Marshall not gotten hurt. They very well could have ended up winning it all. Now head coach Roy Williams will have to focus on building a new contending core.
6th man: Darius Miller
By virtue of playing with five future first round picks, Miller isn’t always the first name that comes up when talking about the Wildcats. You have to really watch them play to see how big of an impact he has on the team. He comes off the bench and the defense immediately has to take him into account due to his well-rounded skill set. He hurts teams in a variety of ways.
Miller is good enough to, and probably would, start at any other school in the nation. The Wildcats would not be as good of a team without him. Look for his production to be key in championship game.
Most Surprising Run: Ohio
While the amount of respect mid major get has improved over the years, nobody was really looking at the Mid-American representative to make much noise. Ohio, who finished third behind Buffalo and Akron in the regular season, especially didn’t strike much fear. But, that’s why they play the games.
Ohio rode their strong defensive play and backcourt of D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt to the Sweet 16, where they should have eliminated the injury-depleted Tar Heels. That game was theirs for the taking, but they missed a free throw towards the end of regulation and went ice cold offensively in overtime. Still, no one was more fitting of the Cinderella tag.
1st Team All-Tournament
PG: Pierre Jackson (Baylor)
SG: Brad Beal (Florida)
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky)
PF: Thomas Robinson (Kansas)
C: Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
2nd Team All-Tournament
PG: Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin)
SG: Walter Offutt (Ohio)
SF: Draymond Green (Michigan State)
PF: Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)
C: Tyler Zeller (North Carolina)