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Horizon League basketball award predictions

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With the regular season coming to a close, the time for debate begins. Which players could be taking home league honors this year?

Will Kahlil Felder take home Horizon League Player of the Year?
Will Kahlil Felder take home Horizon League Player of the Year?
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

With Sunday afternoon's games coming to a finish, another exciting Horizon League season comes to a close. The talent pool in the league continues to be strong and the players still have more to prove on the court in the conference tournament in Detroit next weekend.

But first, the conference awards will be announced. Who are the top performers and who will be taking home some hardware? Here are a few predictions to get the debate started:

Player of the Year: Kahlil Felder - Oakland

Felder has put up stellar numbers on a consistent basis all season long. His performance has put him not only in the conference player of the year discussion, but in the national player of the year discussion as well. Felder's 24.4 points per game and 9.4 assists per game are good enough for first place in the Horizon League. Nationally, Felder currently ranks fourth in scoring and first in assists per game. Those numbers are evidence enough to justify a vote for Felder as conference player of the year. But Felder was no slouch on the defensive end either, averaging just over 2 steals per game placing him third in the conference. All of those numbers add up to conference player of the year.

Honorable mention: Alec Peters - Valparaiso

Possibly the only other player in the league with a legitimate claim to the player of the year award is Peters. Those proponents of the "best player on the best team" rule will point to Peters as player of the year. Peters currently ranks sixth in scoring and fourth in rebounding in the league. He also does so in six minutes per game less than Felder, so the argument can be made that he is a more efficient player as well.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jordan Fouse - Green Bay

This is one of the tougher awards to pick. But the numbers seem to back Fouse more than the other candidates. Fouse ranks second in defensive rebounding, second in steals per game, and fourth in blocks per game. His length has bothered offensive players since his first days on campus for Green Bay. But despite stellar defensive seasons in all three of his previous years, he has never won this award. That very well may change this year. The main knock on Fouse may be that his team did not do a great job keeping opponents from scoring as a unit.

Honorable mention: Vashil Fernandez - Valparaiso and Tai Odiase - Illinois-Chicago

If you like blocked shots, these are your guys. Odiase ranks first in the country in blocks per game with Fernandez coming in at fifth. Both players also rank among the top 10 rebounders in the conference. Fernandez also won this award last season, so his name could be top of mind for voters. Furthermore, Valpo ranks among the top defensive teams in the country which could warrant rewarding Fernandez for his efforts.

Freshman of the Year: Dikembe Dixson - Illinois-Chicago

This one is as close to a guarantee as you will get. Dixson ranks first among Horizon League freshman in scoring, first in rebounding, and third in assists per game. But, Dixson wasn't content to only lead the freshman in these categories. He ranked third in scoring and seventh in rebounding overall in the league putting him among the top performers overall in the conference.

Honorable mention: Too close to call. Many other freshman had good seasons in various categories, but none of them stand out clearly above the others. See the "All Freshman Team" section for some names.

Sixth Man of the Year: Shane Hammink - Valparaiso

Valparaiso claims the deepest bench in the conference and Hammink was one of the top players on that bench. Hammink shot over 50 percent from the field and over 80 percent at the free throw line. Furthermore, he found a role running the offense when starting point guard Keith Carter wasn't on the floor (and sometimes when both of them are on the floor in recent games). Hammink's performance was so good that he eventually made his way into the starting lineup at the end of the season. He only started four games for the Crusaders though, so he should still qualify for this award.

Honorable mention: Max Hooper - Oakland

Hooper averaged 10.5 points per game for the Golden Grizzlies and shot 44.5 percent from three (and the field), coming off the bench 27 times. He also made it through an entire regular season without attempting a two point field goal which is quite notable.

All-League First Team:

Kahlil Felder - Oakland (G)

Alec Peters - Valparaiso (F)

Paris Bass - Detroit (G/F)

Matt Tiby - Milwaukee (F)

Carrington Love - Green Bay (G)

All-League Second Team:

Dikembe Dixson - Illinois-Chicago (F)

Jalen Hayes - Oakland (F)

Mark Alstork - Wright State (G)

Jordan Johnson - Milwaukee (G)

Jordan Fouse - Green Bay (F)

All-Freshman Team

Dikembe Dixson - Illinois-Chicago (F)

Rob Edwards - Cleveland State (G)

Josh McFolley - Detroit (G)

Drew McDonald - Northern Kentucky (F)

Jordan Andrews - Youngstown State (G)

All-Defensive Team:

Jordan Fouse - Green Bay (F)

Vashil Fernandez - Valparaiso (C)

Tai Odiase - Illinois-Chicago (F)

Carrington Love - Green Bay (G)

Paris Bass - Detroit (G/F)

Coach of the Year: Billy Donlon - Wright State

Enough about the players, how about the coach of the year? Billy Donlon, head coach of the Wright State Raiders, consistently does more with less year in and year out. You won't find any of his players among the top ten scorers in the league and you won't find any of his players among the top ten rebounders in the league. But his Raiders ended the regular season in third place and beat league-leading Valparaiso twice, the only league opponent to defeat the Crusaders at all. Add in the fact that his team only won three league games a season ago (an abnormal down year for the Raiders) and you can see how valuable a coach Donlon is. A turnaround like that is difficult to ignore.

Honorable mention: Bryce Drew - Valparaiso

He was the coach of the best team in the conference, what more is there to say? What he has working against him, probably unfairly so, is that his team had such high expectations coming into the year. Whereas Donlon surpassed expectations, Drew's team may have only met them. Will that be good enough for voters in picking coach of the year?