The 2020-21 Big 12 basketball regular-season came to an end on Sunday, and Heartland College Sports has put together its 2020-21 Big 12 Basketball awards.
These awards were put together using the same template that the coaches will use for their Big 12 awards, which will be released later this week. There are superlative awards, three all-league teams, along with all-freshman, all-newcomer and all-defensive teams.
In this case, this is my team. I’ve watched at least three-quarters of Big 12 Conference games this year, along with about 50 percent of non-conference. I don’t have a vote for the media team, which will also come out later this week.
My process? I actually put together a rough draft for this team about a month ago. Each week, as the season progressed, I made adjustments based on what was going on in conference play. I put an emphasis on what happens in Big 12 play, though that isn’t the only criteria. I also look at any player’s meaning to his team, where those teams finished in conference play, and those intangible factors that are hard to describe.
This was a VERY DIFFICULT team to put together, even more difficult than the team that I put together last year. There is a wealth of talent and the Big 12 this year. Honestly, you could make a case for at least 25 players to be on the first, second, or third teams. There are some players that I left off that I hated to leave off. But these are the hard decisions every coach and every media voter faces when putting together a team like this. This is just the way that I see it as we go into the Big 12 Tournament. If you love it, great. If you hate it, that’s OK too. There is room for debate on plenty of these guys. But as I filed this team on Sunday evening, I felt good about where I had everyone placed.
So, let’s get to it. Here is the Heartland College Sports 2020-21 All-Big 12 Basketball Team.
Player of the Year
G Jared Butler, Baylor
Best player, best team? I suppose you could argue that’s the logic here, but I think there’s a strong case to be made that Butler is the best overall player in the conference. Even on those nights when the scoring wasn’t there (and those were few and far between), the defense and passing was. That’s the true test of a great player — making an impact when the thing you do best isn’t firing. When Butler’s shot WAS firing, he was the complete package.
Freshman of the Year
G Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
In another year he might be the Player of the Year (and I’m not saying you can’t make that case this year). But this year’s crop of Big 12 superlatives was crowded with great players. Cunningham stands out for many reasons besides his No. 1 recruiting ranking in the 2020 Class, or his projected No. 1 overall NBA Draft status. He plays like a senior, he leads by example, he doesn’t complain or act like a one-and done, and his game is clutch in the second half and final five minutes of games (the shooting percentages back that up). He’s that rare 6-foot-8 player that can play four different positions. He passes and defends just as willingly as he scores. Oklahoma State was lucky to have him for one year.
Newcomer of the Year
G Mac McClung, Texas Tech
Sure, I COULD be lazy and give this award to Cunningham, too. But, I believe this award is meant for the best non-freshman newcomer, and that’s McClung. He is FAR more than his YouTube highlight reels, and he’s in line to be a leading contender for Big 12 Player of the Year next season.
Sixth Man of the Year
G Taz Sherman, West Virginia
This was the hardest award to decide upon. At one point, I felt it was Texas Tech’s Terrence Shannon Jr. But I came around to Sherman after comparing the pair’s numbers coming off the bench. Sherman averaged about three points more than Shannon in that capacity (both made a handful of starts in Big 12 action). Some look at this as the award to be given to the sixth-best ‘starter.’ I want to give it to the best first player off the bench. This season, that was Sherman.
Defensive Player of the Year
G Davion Mitchell, Baylor
Mitchell regularly drew the toughest defensive assignment every night, and that’s a big reason why he’s a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist. He’s come a long way from a year ago, both his defense and his 3-point shooting. I also considered his teammate, Mark Vital, and Kansas guard Marcus Garrett.
Coach of the Year
Scott Drew, Baylor
I can already hear the argument — ‘When you have the best players, you have the best team.” It’s the same argument many make when Kansas coach Bill Self wins this award. Well, first of all, best players doesn’t always make for best team. Second of all, even if you HAVE the best players, you have to have the right coach to pull the strings. Drew did it with three COVID-19 pauses, including a three-week break in February, and kept the Bears in the No. 2 ranking practically the entire season. Yes, some of ‘that’ is players. But some of ‘that’ is coaching, too.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard. Send him a tweet with your question to be included in this week’s Big 12 Basketball Mailbag, which appears each Friday during the conference season.
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