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Wildcat Awards Watch

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With such a successful Big East regular season under their belt, several Wildcats have put themselves in position for some postseason honors within the conference.  Without further ado, let’s look at who those Wildcats are and their major competition for the awards:

First Team All-Big East contenders:  Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds

Let’s not forget that First Team All-Big East is more than just five players.  Last year the team included 11 members.  With Villanova’s success, it would be safe to assume that there is at least one member of the team that gets the honor.  Although Reynolds has played very well at times, Cunningham has been the team’s best player this season, and is some one that has a lot of respect from all of those within the Big East as well as those who cover it.  

Prediction:  Expect Cunningham to make the team while Reynolds will probably be a member of the second team.

Coach of the Year contender: Jay Wright

The Wildcats were picked to finish fifth within the conference and wound up improving on that by one spot.  While that jump was not too big, the Wildcats were a lot higher nationally than many could have ever expected.  There aren’t too many candidates which helps Wright’s case.  Providence was the biggest surprise within the conference, so Keno Davis has to be looked at as one of the favorites.  It also is always possible that Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino or Jamie Dixon could win the award for doing a great job with great teams.

Prediction:  Inevitably, Wright will fall short most likely.  The leading candidate seems to be Davis, who was National Coach of the Year last season.  If UConn beats Pittsburgh today and locks up the regular season title, Calhoun may get the nod as the Big East is always eager to reward their long time members.

Most Improved Player contender:  Dante Cunningham

It appears that this is the most likely major award that a Wildcat will walk away with.  Cunningham, who last year averaged 10.4 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game, finishes the regular season at 16.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg.  He seems like a completely different player this season, and it is obvious that he put some serious time into the offseason, specifically on his jump shot.

Prediction:  This looks like one that Cunningham will win, but if anyone does pull off the upset, it would be Hasheem Thabeet.  The UConn center has went from good defensive player to one of the best in Big East history while also becoming a solid offensive player this season.  However, it appears that Thabeet will be given Defensive Player of the Year while Cunningham walks away with this one.

Sixth Man of the Year contender:  Corey Fisher

It may not be too obvious to most Wildcats fans, but Fisher has a really good chance of winning this award.  Fisher has come off the bench in all but three Big East games and is averaging 10.8 ppg this season.  He scored in double figures in 12 of the 18 Big East games this season.  His play is one of the main reasons Villanova was so successful.

Prediction:  The only real threat to Fisher winning this award is Providence guard Marshon Brooks.  He actually has a higher scoring average (11.2 ppg) but most of that scoring came in the non-conference schedule.  Brooks only had seven Big East games where he scored in double figures.  Both will get heavy consideration, but look for Fisher to get the nod.

-David Cassilo

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