MORGANTOWN — Let us, for a moment, play the devil’s advocate, the Devil being those who selected the winners of this year’s Big East Conference individual awards handed out Tuesday in New York.
Let us say fine, Syracuse was the league’s most dominant team, so it is understandable by Wes Johnson was selected the conference’s Player of the Year and why Jim Boeheim was selected Coach of the Year.
But let us also make a parochial case for the local entrants from West Virginia University, for Da’Sean Butler in the player category and Bob Huggins in the coaching category.
Interestingly, both were hurt in the voting by the fact that they were expected to do what they did while Boeheim’s Syracuse team came out of a ninth-place selection in the pre-season voting and Johnson came off a year when he sat out after transferring from Iowa State.
How often is it that those who do the unexpected, whether or not it was those doing the preseason judging were wrong in their original opinion, seem to have their performances magnified while those who only accomplish what was expected of them are greeted with a ho-hum approach, even though it is sometimes harder to be at the top when you are wearing a target on your chest.
Around these parts there will be more disgust over Boeheim winning simple because Boeheim is Boeheim, the man with the perennial sour look upon his face, than over the slight at Butler, yet it is far less certain that Butler’s accomplishment didn’t match Johnson’s.
Johnson averaged 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds, both highs at Syracuse. That was a nice year.
Butler averaged 17.2 points a game at West Virginia and 6.3 rebounds. While the rebounding edge goes to Johnson, he was a forward while Butler spent much of his time at guard for West Virginia.
The truth is, considering the fact the Mountaineers major weakness was at guard, where Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla split time at the point and where no one really emerged as a shooting guard, Butler’s ability to play the position probably made him the conference’s most valuable player.
It is difficult to imagine where the Mountaineers would have been without Butler’s versatile and clutch play, hitting four game-winning shots while moving from forward to guard, bringing the ball up the court and playing nose-to-nose defense.
Certainly his ability was well recognized when he was named to the All-Big East team this year, jumping up from second team last year, while also named a second-team All-American by Fox Sports.com and being named to the United States Basketball Writers Association all-District II team.
No one, of course, can argue with the Boeheim selection, his team finishing as the regular season champion at 28-3, but the job Huggins has done since coming to West Virginia, picking up a group or players recruited for a different style of play, cajoling them and shaping them into bigger, stronger players with an attitude who played defense first and banged the boards was nothing short of miraculous.
His team earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament and could clinch a No. 1 or 2 national seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong performance in the Big East Tournament.
If Boeheim molded a championship team, he did it from players he recruited to his system, a tribute to the man but was it really as good a performance as Huggins put on with this team, or even than Jamie Dixon put on with his team at Pittsburgh?
Lance Stephenson of Cincinnati, one of the most heralded players to come into the conference, was named Rookie of the Year after scoring 12.0 a game for a disappointing Cincinnati team.
The Mountaineers hold on the Big East’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award ended when Notre Dame’s Tim Abromaitis won the honor.
WVU’s Alex Ruoff had won the award a year ago and Mountaineer backup guard Ted Talkington had won it two years ago. In fact, WVU had won it three of the four previous years as guard Joe Herber took down the honor in 2006.
Abromaitis, one of the nation’s most prolific 3-point shooters and key to the Irish’s late season run after All-American Luke Harangody was injured, will receive a $2,000 scholarship to pursue graduate or professional studies.
Abromaitis is a finance major with a 3.72 grade point average.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com