Big East Player of the Year votes aren’t due for a few more days, but Villanova coach Jay Wright won’t spend too much time slaving over his ballot.
Wright said the choice for the award became obvious after Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough made seven 3-pointers and scored 30 points in Monday’s 93-72 blowout of Villanova.
“We’ve seen a lot of great players this year,” Wright said. “But after that performance I’d say he’s the best I’ve seen now. That kid just dominated the game.”
It’s been that way all season for Hansbrough, who averages 18.4 points and 4.7 assists for a Fighting Irish squad that is 23-5 overall and 13-4 in the Big East. There may be flashier players or guys with gaudier statistics, but not many competitors – if any – have been as consistent as Hansbrough, who shoots 48.1 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from 3-point range. And few can match his fire and passion.
For his efforts, Hansbrough has been selected as the Yahoo! Sports Big East Player of the Year.
“Ben,” coach Mike Brey said earlier this season, “brings a whole new level of toughness to our team.”
Also earning accolades for a successful 2010-11 season is Louisville’s Rick Pitino, who has been chosen as Yahoo! Sports’ Big East Coach of the Year.
Pitino, whose team is 22-7 overall and 11-5 in the Big East, edged out an exceptional list of candidates that included Brey and Steve Lavin, the first-year coach at St. John’s. Lavin, though, inherited a team composed of 10 seniors who went 17-16 last year. And as much credit as Brey deserves, it helps to have the Big East Player of the Year on your roster along with veterans such as Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott.
Pitino’s team lost its top three scorers from last season along with projected starter Jared Swopshire, who has been out all year with an injury. Leading rebounder Rakeem Buckles got hurt at midseason and missed 13 games, which could’ve spelled doom for a squad that doesn’t have a future pro on its roster.
Still, the Cardinals’ effort on defense and their willingness to share the ball has brought on a level of success that no one would’ve predicted four months ago. Pitino has long been regarded as one of the game’s top coaches. In some ways, this may be one of his best efforts yet.
Here are the rest of Yahoo! Sports 2010-11 All-Big East honorees along with a list of award winners.
G Marshon Brooks, Providence, senior – Leads the Big East and ranks second in the country in scoring with 25.1 points per game … Shoots an impressive 49.4 percent from the field … Scored 52 points in a loss to Notre Dame and had 43 in a setback against Georgetown … Also leads the Friars in rebounds with 7.2 boards per game.
G Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame, senior – Ranks third in the conference in scoring at 18.4 points per game … Shoots 43.7 percent from 3-point range, which ranks fourth in the Big East … Plays 35.2 minutes per game … Shoots 81.8 percent from the foul stripe … Averages 4.2 assists … Brother of Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough … Began his career at Mississippi State.
G Dwight Hardy, St. John’s, senior – Ranks fourth in the Big East with a 17.9 scoring average … Has averaged 26.4 points over his last seven games … Made the Red Storm’s game-winning shot in a 60-59 upset of Pittsburgh on Feb. 19 … Shoots 86.1 percent from the foul stripe … Top player for a St. John’s squad that will make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
G Kemba Walker, Connecticut, junior – Averages 22.8 points for a 21-7 team that was picked to finish 10th in the Big East … Has scored 30 or more points seven times, including a 42-point effort against Vermont … Averaged 30 points in Connecticut’s opening six wins, which included victories over Kentucky and Michigan State … Also averages 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals.
G Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh, senior – Averages 12.3 points, 5.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals for the top team in the nation’s toughest league … One of the most versatile players in the Big East who plays his best when the game is tight … Team leader ranks fourth in the league in assists and third in assist-turnover ratio (2.3).
F Jimmy Butler, Marquette, senior
F Rick Jackson, Syracuse, senior
F Kris Joseph, Syracuse, junior
G Austin Freeman, Georgetown, senior
G Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh, junior
G Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame, senior
G Corey Fisher, Villanova, senior
G Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette, junior
G Casey Mitchell, West Virginia, senior
G Peyton Siva, Louisville, sophomore
Player of the year: Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame
Coach of the year: Rick Pitino, Louisville
Freshman of the year: Cleveland Melvin, DePaul
Newcomer of the year: Jae Crowder, Marquette
Defensive player of the year: Gary McGhee, Pittsburgh
Sixth man of the year: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
Most improved: Scoop Jardine, Syracuse
Most underrated: Jason Clark, Georgetown