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HCS Big 12 Men’s Basketball Award Winners for 2022-23 Season: Coach of the Year, Player of the Year and More

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Kansas State

The Big 12 men’s basketball season is complete. Now it’s time for Heartland College Sports to hand out some awards for the 2022-23 season.

While the Big 12 coaches and the Big 12 media will have their say, here is the Heartland College Sports Big 12 men’s basketball superlatives for the season.


Player of the Year: Markquis Nowell, G, Kansas State

I’ve done this for six years for Heartland College Sports. This is, without question, the most difficult debate I’ve had about men’s player of the year.

Wilson and Nowell, to me, are basically dead even. We’re talking statistically and analytically. For instance, if you added up Wilson’s overall stats (points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals) and did the same for Nowell’s the total is less than a point apart. That’s not meaningful nor anything to base this decision off of. It’s just interesting.

Analytically, does player analytics and the two players’ analytic scores are basically dead even. There isn’t a statistical significantly difference. We’re talking .004 of a difference.

Wilson has more rebounds, of course. Nowell has more assists, of course. Makes sense for their positions. Wilson has a better field-goal percentage, but Nowell has a better free-throw percentage.


In fact, you could argue that, based on their play last season, that Wilson and Nowell are not only the two best players in the league, they’re also the two most IMPROVED players in the league. It’s been an absolute joy watching the two of them play this season.

We could do this all day. I could pick co-players of the year, legitimately. But that’s a cop-out. One has to be selected.

I did all my research, mined all my data, consulted with my gut and it led me to choose Nowell by a hair.

It’s like everything in this conference this year. The margin between one thing or the other is so incredibly small.

Freshman of the Year

Keyonte George, G, Baylor

George is one of two terrific freshmen who will probably be playing in the NBA this time next year (Kansas’ Gradey Dick is the other). Their seasons have been comparable, but George’s numbers were a little bit better than Dick’s for the bulk of the season. Perhaps more importantly, I felt George was the more consistent player during Big 12 play and was a big reason why Baylor rebounded so quickly from its 0-3 start in league action.


Newcomer of the Year

Keyontae Johnson, F, Kansas State

There is no debate here. Not only is Johnson’s comeback the best story in the Big 12 and one of the best stories in college basketball, but he had an incredible impact on Kansas State’s turnaround. You could make an argument for Johnson as player of the year, honestly. But I couldn’t put him over either Nowell or Wilson. Newcomer will have to do.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kevin McCullar, F, Kansas

So, let’s get analytical for a second. has some great defensive analytic ratings for players, and McCullar’s Defensive Bayesian Performance Rating was best among Big 12 players that have logged more than 1,000 defensive plays. If you want to get into normal basketball numbers, McCullar is one of the few players in the Big 12 to be among the league’s leaders in both blocked shots and steals during league play. In key moments, he became a stopper for the Jayhawks.

Sixth Man of the Year

Sir’Jabari Rice, G, Texas

The first guard off the bench for the Longhorns was the best sixth man in the conference. Rice was the highest-scoring bench player in the conference. He helped lift Texas to victory in several key games and was one of the Longhorns’ most consistent scoring threats. The former New Mexico State guard was an All-WAC guard a year ago. He didn’t skip a beat in Austin.

Most Improved Player

KJ Adams Jr., So., Kansas

There were plenty of players who saw a jump in their quality of play. Heck. But Adams had a tremendous second year, sliding into the Jayhawks’ starting lineup as their undersized center. He didn’t play much last season, but even set against the quality of his limited play last year Adams’ improvement could be measured in leaps.


Coach of the Year

Jerome Tang, Kansas State

I also considered Kansas coach Bill Self and Texas interim coach Rodney Terry here. Both did masterful jobs, Terry especially under the worst of circumstances. But Tang inherited a team that hadn’t had a winning season since before COVID-19 and had two returning players. Yes, two returning PLAYERS. Tang put together a new roster and instead of surviving in the Big 12, he and the Wildcats thrived. His roll of the dice on Keyontae Johnson paid off handsomely. He spent the season engaging the fan base and setting it ablaze. It was a masterful turnaround job and, when the inevitable valley came in late January, he helped the Wildcats survive it to remain in contention for a Top 4 seed at the Big 12 Tournament.  

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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