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Men's basketball notes: KJ Simpson named CU Buffs' MVP

Apr. 10—If KJ Simpson has played his last game for the Colorado Buffaloes, he's taking one final impressive honor with him.

The CU men's basketball team held its year-end awards banquet on Wednesday evening, with Simpson winning Chauncey Billups MVP Award, named after the CU legend who on Saturday was named to the 2024 induction class for the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Simpson also won one of CU's two statistical awards, landing the McKinley Wright IV Award as the team leader in assists. Freshman forward Bangot Dak won the Most Improved Player Award, while senior Tristan da Silva earned the Most Inspirational Award while sharing the Tebo Family PASS Award with classmate Luke O'Brien.

A first team All-Pac-12 selection, Simpson averaged 19.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.9 steals while starting all 37 games for a CU team that posted a program-record 26 wins before getting eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Simpson is the only power conference player, and one of just five overall in the nation, who averaged at least 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Simpson's .876 free throw percentage established a team record, topping Cory Higgins' mark of .866 in 2010-11, and his 3-point percentage of .434 ranks fourth among CU's season leaders. Simpson's 181 total assists is the third-highest in program history, trailing Wright's 182 in 2020-21 and Jose Winston's record 194 in 2000-01. Simpson earned the Wright Award for the third consecutive season.

The junior guard finished the season ranked 15th on CU's all-time scoring list (1,424 points) and ranks ninth in career assists (378). Simpson is expected to go through the NBA pre-draft evaluation process before deciding if he will return to CU for his senior season.

The Tebo Family PASS Award, shared by da Silva and O'Brien, honors the players who "best exemplified the virtues of Perseverance, Attitude, Selflessness and Success."

Eddie Lampkin Jr., who already has announced his intention to transfer to Syracuse, won the other statistical honor, the Stephane Pelle Rebounding Award, after leading the Buffs with 7.0 rebounds per game.

Showcase swan song

On Wednesday, national college basketball reporter Jon Rothstein reported the 2024-25 season will mark the final edition of the annual Big East-Big 12 battle.

An annual nonconference showcase pairing teams from each league against each other, the Big 12's pending move to a 20-game conference schedule, and therefore trimming each team's nonconference slate, likely played a role in the decision. It is uncertain if the Buffs will participate in the event next season anyway, given pitting the 11-team Big East against what will be a 16-team Big 12 next season would leave five teams out.

Only three nonconference dates are confirmed for the Buffs next year, as CU will play three games at the heralded Maui Invitational against a field set to include Auburn, Dayton, Iowa State, North Carolina, Memphis, Michigan State and two-time defending national champion UConn.

Notable

CU unofficially finished at No. 28 in the final AP Top 25 released on Tuesday, finishing as the third team among others receiving votes. The Buffs received 77 points, two behind an Oregon team they beat twice in three games, although the lone loss was in the Pac-12 title game. ... Arizona finished at No. 12 and Washington State finished at No. 23. ... Among CU's pending rivals in the Big 12, Houston finished tied for third, followed by No. 8 Iowa State, No. 16 Baylor and No. 19 Kansas. BYU finished two points behind the Buffs, unofficially at No. 29.