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Predicting the 2017 Conference USA All-Conference Awards

Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, and more

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana Tech at Rice Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The time has come where we pick apart every minute and stat line of Conference USA’s best performers to determine who will be taking home the coveted all-conference hardware. Weeks back, we discussed that the conference had a tough decision ahead in the player of the year race. Over the last few weeks, that decision has not become any easier.

The coaches, players, media, and others will all gather in Birmingham Tuesday as the tournament is set to tip Wednesday morning. All of the awards, except for player of the year and coach of the year, have typically been announced the day before the tournament starts, with the two big ones the morning of.

Here’s our best guess at how it all plays out:

C-USA Gene Bartow Coach Of The Year

Mike Rhoades | Rice

NCAA Basketball: Rice at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

As we’ll find with most of the awards, this choice was particularly tough this year. You could make a good argument for UTSA’s Steve Henson, who brought the Roadrunners from the pits of Conference USA and improved its record from 3-15 to 8-10, including wins over UAB, Louisiana Tech, and Old Dominion. Eric Konkol should also get some consideration for captaining his Bulldogs to the the No. 2 spot in the standings after being picked to finish seventh and replacing an all-timer in Alex Hamilton.

That said, it was Rhoades whose Owl squad finished with 20 wins for the first time since 2004 and finished with the best record (11-7) since it joined Conference USA. In fact, Rice had never finished above .500 since joining the conference in 2005. Rhoades had three players reach the 1,000 point mark this season — Marcus Jackson, Marcus Evans, Egor Koulechov — which has never happened in the program’s history. You can bet Rhoades will be on many schools’ radars this offseason.

C-USA Sixth Man Of The Year

Zoran Talley | Old Dominion

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-St. John's vs Old Dominion Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This is often the most debatable award each year because there are usually many candidates with similar resumes. You might say Talley’s selection is a little unfair given the amount of starts he’s had. My reasoning for selecting the sophomore forward was his performance when he did come of the bench, most notably at Western Kentucky and at UTEP, where he was awarded the Kenpom.com MVP in both games.

C-USA Newcomer Of The Year

JaCorey Williams | Middle Tennessee

For the second season in the row, the Newcomer Of The Year is arguably the Player Of The Year. Last season, Marshall’s James Kelley exploded onto the scene in his one year in Huntington, much like Williams has done for the Blue Raiders. Williams is averaging 17.5 points per game and he’s done everything from hitting last-second game winners to putting every team’s big man on a poster. He’s the best player in the conference, but Conference USA will not select a one-year transfer player.

C-USA Defensive Player Of The Year

Dominic Artis | UTEP

NCAA Basketball: Texas-El Paso at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to make the Louisiana Tech fans really upset with this pick so let me explain myself. This season, the Defensive Player Of The Year is going to the guard who is near the top of the conference in steals and is known as one of the best on-ball defenders, rather than a shot blocker like last year’s William Lee. While the Bulldogs’ Jacobi Boykins does lead the conference in steals with 59, he is not my pick.

Just two steals behind Boykins is the senior from UTEP, who has been the key to putting together the jumbled puzzle that was the Miners’ season in early January. Dominic Artis is the most import cog to Tim Floyd’s point-zone defense, which is the main reason UTEP won 12 conference games after losing 12 straight between November and January.

C-USA Freshman Of The Year

DeQuan Bracey | Louisiana Tech

This award was virtually spoken for before conference play even began. Bracey has been a star for the Bulldogs all season and is second in total assists (185) only to Marshall’s Jon Elmore. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.56 ranks sixth in all of college basketball and third among those with over 150 assists. Bracey is incredible. No other way to put it.

C-USA All-Defensive Team

Dominic Artis | UTEP

Jacobi Boykins | Louisiana Tech

William Lee | UAB

Giovanni De Nicolao | UTSA

Justin Johnson | Western Kentucky

C-USA All-Freshman Team

DeQuan Bracey | Louisiana Tech

Tyrik Dixon | Middle Tennessee

Byron Frohnen | UTSA

Giovanni De Nicolao | UTSA

Jalen Harris | Louisiana Tech

All-Conference USA Third Team

Giddy Potts| Middle Tennessee

Ryan Taylor | Marshall

Dominic Artis | UTEP

Jeff Beverley | UTSA

Jacobi Boykins | Louisiana Tech

All-Conference USA Second Team

Reggie Upshaw | Middle Tennessee

Jon Davis | Charlotte

Justin Johnson | Western Kentucky

Marcus Evans | Rice

Omega Harris| UTEP

All-Conference USA First Team

Erik McCree | Louisiana Tech

JaCorey Williams | Middle Tennessee

Egor Koulechov | Rice

Jon Elmore | Marshall

William Lee | UAB

C-USA Player Of The Year

Erik McCree | Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

McCree is one of the most versatile players in all of college basketball and that’s not conference bias hyperbole either. He can literally do it all and is the prototypical stretch-4 that the NBA salivates over.

The Orlando native has accumulated 1,444 points, 136 three pointers, and 696 rebounds over the course of three seasons at Louisiana Tech. During this span, former coach Mike White and current coach Eric Konkol have been loaded with talent, and McCree managed to become an impact player for the Bulldogs from day one.

This will be Louisiana Tech’s third Player Of The Year award in a row and I’d argue this one was the toughest to attain given the unknowns surrounding McCree in terms of the roster. No Conference USA team has had three different players win the award in consecutive seasons, which is an incredible accomplishment for any team at any level in college basketball.