In a seemingly "down year" for Kansas basketball, the Jayhawks took several of the Big 12's annual honors Sunday, just one weekend after clinching a 14th straight conference title.
Bill Self, co-Coach of the Year
Self split this honor with Chris Beard of Texas Tech. It's hard to argue with Beard getting a share, as Tech looked early on to be little more than a gritty team with their eye on getting into the tournament. Tech ultimately became KU's top challenger for the conference title, with a Wooden Award finalist in Keenan Evans at point guard.
While it may seem repetitive to give this award to Self so often, it's hard to argue that he didn't earn it. In the months before the season started, one big man transferred (Dwight Coleby), another walked away from basketball (Jack Whitman), and a third (McDonald's All American Billy Preston) suddenly became ineligible days before the season's start. The result was Kansas using a seven man rotation, unusually guard-heavy and short on NBA talent. Somehow, KU came through it, riding those seven players to a 13-5 record and an outright title.
Malik Newman, Newcomer of the Year
Newman, in some ways, probably failed to live up to fans' expectations. He came to Mississippi State as a McDonald's All-American with lottery pick potential. He did well in his only year in the SEC, but expectations mushroomed when he came to Kansas to play under Self. He had some issues with consistency early on, but eventually settled into his role in Lawrence. He came up big with 27 points against Iowa State on January 9th, and proceeded to score in double digits in ten of his final 15 games, including willing the team to victory with late game heroics against Baylor.
Devonte' Graham, Player of the Year
This award was the subject of some debate, with opinions somewhat split between Graham and Oklahoma phenom Trae Young, with some consideration for Texas Tech's Keenan Evans and West Virginia's Jevon Carter.
Ultimately, Graham's importance to the conference champ is likely what tipped the scales in his favor. He played all 40 minutes in 13 of 18 conference games, with no one else available to run the point. He used those minutes well, with the 3rd most points, 2nd most assists, and 5th most steals in the Big 12.
Three Jayhawks also earned All-Big 12 honors. Here are the all-conference teams:
1st Team All-Big 12
Devonte Graham (KU)
Jevon Carter (WVU)
Keenan Evans (TTU)
Trae Young (OU)
Dean Wade (KSU)
These awards were voted on by Big 12 coaches, with the AP versions still to come.