Before we dive into the candidates vying for the prestigious Conference USA player of the year award, I'd like to address something that needs to be said:
I, Dave West, consume an embarrassing amount of Conference USA basketball, from the moment the regular season begins in November. It's a burden of an addiction, and at its peak, I've been known to watch Florida International game replays more than once in one night.
I come to you all with this admission in hopes to prove that I know this conference and its players as well as anyone. And I am totally comfortable admitting that I have no idea who is going to win the player of the year this season. There are three clear frontrunners and just the right number of talented outliers to really muddle up the decision. That said, let's take a look at the contenders:
Jacorey Williams, Middle Tennessee
Forward | Senior | 17.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 apg
JACOREY. WILLIAMS. Are you kidding me?! @Bball_Fanatic_ with the emphatic jam in the 70-55 win for @MT_MBB! pic.twitter.com/FegoHzybdT— Campus Insiders (@CampusInsiders) February 12, 2017
The former Arkansas Razorback burst onto the scene with 43 points in his first two games. He's since tallied six more 20-plus-point games, in addition to 10 double-doubles. His Blue Raider squad is all but a lock to win the regular season title, something six of the last seven player of the year winner’s teams have done. The glaring flaw, if it could even be called that, is that Williams is a one-year transfer player. No Conference USA transfer has ever won the award, and Williams may have to settle for newcomer of the year.
Erik McCree, Louisiana Tech
Forward | Senior | 17.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.1 apg
Just. Like. That. @LATechHoops F Erik McCree isn't playing any games from deep. #beINCOLLEGE pic.twitter.com/zDBIHuC7ZB— beIN COLLEGE SPORTS (@beINCOLLEGE) February 3, 2017
Many don't realize that the former three-star recruit began his career with Steve Prohm at Murray State. He logged around 200 minutes for the Racers his freshman season before choosing to transfer to play for Mike White and Louisiana Tech. McCree became an immediate impact player his sophomore season and has averaged double figures in each season in Ruston. Assuming his stellar play continues, he could be the third Bulldog in a row to win the award. That's an incredible accomplishment for Louisiana Tech, and something no school in the conference has ever done. McCree leads Conference USA in double-doubles with 11, and he's hit 48 threes, showcasing the 6’8 forward’s ridiculous versatility.
Reggie Upshaw, Middle Tennessee
Forward | Senior | 14.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.6 apg
The #BlueRaiders regain the lead with this 3 from Reggie Upshaw. #Owls trail 48-43. #beINCOLLEGE pic.twitter.com/Kyn79ulXLd— beIN COLLEGE SPORTS (@beINCOLLEGE) January 6, 2017
It may surprise some that Upshaw is on this list, given that his stats aren't nearly as eye-popping as the previous two. Upshaw is a four-year starter for Middle Tennessee and the conference may give him the award to represent his career achievement as a whole. Factor in Middle Tennessee’s success this year, and Upshaw could have a strong case. He is about as close as Conference USA gets in terms of a national household name, and he'd be the perfect poster boy for the award.
Best Of The Rest
Jon Elmore, Marshall (20 ppg)
Jon Davis, Charlotte (19.7 ppg)
William Lee, UAB (13.1 ppg, 51 blocks)
Marcus Evans, Rice (19.3 ppg, 62 3ptm)