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2023-24 Mountain West Basketball: MWCConnection Preseason Awards


COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 21 Colorado State at San Diego State Photo by Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We are almost a week away from the start of the 2022-23 Mountain West men’s basketball season! Earlier this week, we went over our preseason power rankings as what our All-Conference teams looked like.

Today, we dig into awards—who did each of our four voters vote for? Let’s find out!

Colorado State v New Mexico
Isaiah Stevens #4 of the Colorado State Rams drives against Donovan Dent #2 of the New Mexico Lobos during the first half of their game at The Pit
Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Player of the Year: Isaiah Stevens, G, Colorado State

Stevens, who was named preseason player of the year by the conference last year, was named ours, too. He missed the start of the season due to injury, but still tallied 17.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on 46.5/37.8/86.2 shooting splits. There’s arguably no playmaker in the conference, nor is there a better player at reading-and-reacting to a defense than Stevens, a four-time All-Mountain West selection.

Defensive Player of the Year (tie): Nelly Junior Joseph, F, New Mexico; Lamont Butler, G, San Diego State

Among our four panelists, there was a split! Joseph led the MAAC in defensive win shares (2.6) a year ago. He also ranked top-10 in blocks per game (1.5; 2nd), defensive box plus-minus (0.7, 8th) and defensive rebound percentage (20.6; 4th). Butler, however, is a pest at the point of attack defensively who can guard at least 2-3 positions at a high level. SDSU doesn’t make it to the national title game without his impact defensively. Butler led the conference in steal percentage two seasons ago and will certainly be in the running again this upcoming season as the head of Brian Dutcher’s cobra.

Freshman of the Year: Dedan Thomas Jr., G, UNLV

Thomas swept the vote amongst our panelists, though Tru Washington and Jadyn Toppin were very good candidates, too, among others.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Iona vs UCONN
UConn Huskies guard Tristen Newton (2) shoots the ball against Iona Gaels forward Nelly Junior Joseph (13).
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Newcomer of the Year: Nelly Junior Joseph, F, New Mexico

Junior Joseph, an Iona transfer, went from Rick to Richard Pitino this offseason. He averaged 14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks last season and is a two-time All-MAAC selection. He will almost certainly have a sizable role in Pitino’s frontcourt in lieu of the departures of Morris Udeze and Josiah Allick.

6th Man of the Year: O’Mar Stanley, F, Boise State

Stanley swept the vote as well. He’s a do-it-all workhorse who averaged 12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per 30 minutes with St. John’s last year. This is one of Leon Rice’s deepest frontcourts ever, and the insertion of Stanley is a big reason why.

NCAA Basketball: New Mexico at San Diego State
New Mexico Lobos head coach Richard Pitino (right) reacts toward an official during the second half against the San Diego State Aztecs.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Coach of the Year: Richard Pitino, New Mexico

Pitino’s Lobos leaped from 13 to 22 wins last year. Is there another sizable leap incoming? UNM sputtered in conference play, but returns the best backcourt in the conference with a high-energy frontcourt. This team is a true darkhorse for a MW Title.

Best offense: New Mexico

New Mexico finished as the 24th-best adjusted offense in Division-I last season, per KenPom, and I don’t see them taking a step back; if they do, it’s not going to be a big one, barring anything unforeseen.

Best Defense: San Diego State

I don’t really need to elaborate on this one. If you know, you know.

Best bench: Boise State

The Broncos are going to be an exciting watch.