Happy Mountain West Tournament day, for those who celebrate!
Before that tips-off, let’s dig into the second of our three-part postseason series, where today we preview our team’s votes for multiple awards — including the player of the year, coach of the year, freshman of the year and more!
In total, six voters — including myself — participated. We also dove into which team we thought had the best offense, defense and bench!
Player of the Year: Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, New Mexico
You could’ve picked a number of players with this award, but, ironically, one of our few unanimous selections went to Jamal Mashburn Jr. He was the conference’s leading scorer, averaging 19.5 points on 44.2 percent shooting, including 39.3 percent from beyond the arc. In 18 conference games, the 6-foot-2 guard averaged 21.0 points on 43.6 percent shooting, but improved from 3-point range, knocking down 39.7 percent of his triples. Mashburn is the facsimile of a premier mid-range master, but has modernized his game at the rim and from beyond the arc since the start of his collegiate career.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Shaver, G, Boise State
There were plenty of good defenders in the Mountain West this season, but Shaver earned our defensive player of the year award honors. There’s a compelling argument for Jaelen House, the conference’s steal leader, Nathan Mensah, who’s one of the most feared shot-blockers in the Mountain West, and even Lamont Butler, who was excellent at the point of attack for San Diego State all season. But Shaver’s argument was as compelling — he was another excellent point-of-attack defender, along with House, who could guard multiple positions and was a big part to Boise’s defensive success throughout the season. He averaged 1.6 steals for Boise this season.
Freshman of the Year: Rytis Petraitis, F, Air Force
This was essentially a two-person race between Petraitis and Darrion Williams, the actual winner of the award. Petraitis was the most productive freshman in the conference, even though Williams’ production was more conducive to team success. He led all freshman in scoring (10.2 ppg), in addition to 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steal, shooting 48.3 percent and 32.7 percent from distance.
Newcomer of the Year: Elijah Harkless, G, UNLV
You could always count on Harkless to get you a bucket when the offense mucked up. At least UNLV did, a lot. Harkless, a former Oklahoma transfer who primarily operated in the mid-range, was the conference’s second-leading scorer (18.6 ppg) on 41.4 percent shooting, adding five rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals in 30 games with UNLV.
Sixth Man of the Year: Micah Parrish, F, San Diego State
This was another two-player race between Parrish and Utah State’s Dan Akin. Parrish narrowly nudged Akin in our poll, being the most productive bench cog on arguably the deepest bench in the Mountain West. He only started one game, averaging 7.7 points and 3.2 rebounds, but was Brian Dutcher’s swiss-army knife who he could deploy on any opposing offensive player. He didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but you could still feel his impact.
Coach of the Year: Tim Miles, San Jose State
Miles coached San Jose State to the No. 5 seed and the program’s first-ever bye in the Mountain West after his team was projected to come in 10th. Prior to 2022-23, the Spartans haven’t had a winning record in the Mountain West since it joined prior to the 2013-14 season, and didn’t have a winning season since 2010-11 — its only other season above .500 since 1993-94.
Best Offense: New Mexico
New Mexico faltered towards the end of the season, but they were still a top-20 offense regardless. They placed in the top-50 in multiple offensive categories, including pace, turnover-rate and effective field goal percentage. In conference play, the Lobos were the second-most efficient offense, despite not shooting many 3s, leading the Mountain West in 3-point percentage and were in the top-2 in turnover rate and free-throw rate — an output that came in lieu of missing House for two games. If they make a run in the tournament, their offense will likely play a big part in it.
Best Defense: Boise State
Boise State and SDSU were two of the best defenses in the nation, not just in the Mountain West, with Boise getting the slight nod in our voting. They were in the top-20 in defensive rating, defensive rebounding percentage and opponents’ 3-point percentage and in the top-35 in opponents’ effective field goal percentage. Like SDSU, the Broncos had several of switchable defenders — Max Rice, Chibuzo Agbo and Naje Smith, to name a few. They’re going to be a tough out in March, and it starts on the defensive end.
Best Bench: San Diego State
The Aztecs weren’t top-heavy, but they were deep. They led the Mountain West in bench points per 100 possessions at 39.5, with roughly 36 percent of their scoring came from its top four bench players — Jaedon Ledee, Parrish, Adam Seiko and Aguek Arop — combining for an effective field goal percentage of 57.9 percent. The Aztecs were a legit nine-deep this season, getting production from the bench that they really haven’t had in the Brian Dutcher-era.
We will announce our top-10 players on Thursday! Stay tuned!