The Big 12 coaches will announce their all-Big 12 basketball team today. The media will announce theirs on Monday. You get a sneak peek of my ballot now.
I am a voter for the Associated Press all-conference team. Below is a look at how I voted, with players ranked from 1-10.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jeff Withey, Kansas.
This was a difficult decision that came down to the final day of the regular season. An argument could be made for Rodney McGruder, Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore and Withey. I chose Withey, because of his consistent production (he had 12 double-doubles, one triple-double and was far and away the Big 12′s top post player) and his defense. Withey was arguably the best shot-blocker in the country, and he impacted games in ways no other Big 12 player could.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Bruce Weber, K-State.
This was an easy one. Weber inherited a roster that was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 standings and ended up guiding the Wildcats to their first conference championship since 1977.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Will Clyburn, Iowa State.
The Utah transfer ranked in the top 5 in both scoring (15.2 points) and rebounding (7.1 boards). He came up big in several of Iowa State’s victories, and produced for the Cyclones inside and out.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State.
Smart transformed Oklahoma State from an underachiever to a top 15 team in his first, and likely only, year on campus. He did it all, ranking near the top of the Big 12 in scoring, assists and steals.
1. Jeff Withey, Kansas
The best big man in the conference was the best player in the conference.
2. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart might be the most valuable player in the conference. Take him away from Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys are a bubble team at best. There’s a reason practically every coach in the Big 12 recruited him.
3. Rodney McGruder, Kansas State
His name became synonymous with consistency as a senior. He led K-State in scoring and was the team’s go-to player in several situations. He scored 28 points in a victory over Oklahoma State. He hit a game-winner at Baylor. There were other games he only scored eight points. But even when he was quiet, he was effective, always helping K-State win.
4. Ben McLemore, Kansas
Scoring 30+ points in three different Big 12 games was impressive, but he deferred too often in important games, and his passive nature hurt his team at times. Still, it’s easy to see why he will likely be a high draft pick.
5. Pierre Jackson, Baylor
The first four players on this team were no-brainers. The fifth spot could have gone to half a dozen players. Well, it could have until Jackson closed out the season with a tremendous game against Kansas, anyway. That performance served as an exclamation point on a ridiculous statistical season. He led the Big 12 in both scoring (19.4 points) and assists (6.54). No matter how much Baylor struggled, that is impossible to ignore.
6. Romero Osby, Oklahoma
The best player on an improved Sooners team, Osby ranked third in scoring with 15.7 points per game and was also strong on the glass. He was one of the league’s top big men, and helped Oklahoma get back to the NCAA Tournament.
7. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
He led the Cowboys in scoring and provided much-needed veteran leadership to a young roster that needed it.
8. Angel Rodriguez, Kansas State
The sophomore point guard cut down on the silly mistakes, unnecessary risks and excessive fouls that plagued him as a freshman and turned into one of the league’s best point guards.
9. Will Clyburn, Iowa State
Clyburn made threes, battled inside and scored as many as 32 points in a game.
5. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
The final spot on the second team goes to the Big 12′s leading rebounder. Ejim nearly averaged a double-double, and helped Iowa State inside. He earned my vote in a close call over Travis Releford, who was arguably the Big 12′s top perimeter defender.