The Pitt News picks the 2005-2006 Big East Awards


It comes but once each year, and it can never come soon enough.

No, not spring break, but… It comes but once each year, and it can never come soon enough.

No, not spring break, but Championship Week, the appetizer that holds all college basketball fans over until the main course that is the NCAA Tournament.

Included is the Big East Tournament, likely the most sought-after ticket in all of college basketball. With the 12-team tournament slated to begin next week, The Pitt News voted on the possible award winners that will be announced next week.

Player of the Year – Mike Gansey, West Virginia

If this award meant most athletic or most likely to make a splash in the NBA, there’s no question UConn’s Rudy Gay would’ve won it, but what Mike Gansey did all season on both sides of the ball meant more to his team than Rudy Gay’s highlight reels. He led the Mountaineers to several key victories as the nation’s top off-the-ball player.

At just 6-foot-4, the scrappy hustler Gansey collected 5.8 rebounds a game while stealing the ball twice a contest. The combo guard shot a whopping 56 percent from the field, including 43 percent from three, to average 17.4 points per game for the Mountaineers.

-Jeff Greer, Staff Writer

Coach of the Year – Andy Kennedy, Cincinnati

Six months ago Andy Kennedy was given his dream job, a job that he had spent the past decade preparing for. Even if only for this 2005-2006 season, Kennedy would be the new interim head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

And what a season it’s been.

Despite the loss of two recruits during the off season, one denied admission and another granted a release when former head coach Bob Huggins was let go, Kennedy was able to lead the team to an impressive 13-2 start with major wins over LSU, Vanderbilt and Marquette. Then, the team lost forward Armein Kirkland for the year because of a torn knee ligament. Though this put the team in a five-out-of-six-game dry spell, Kennedy and the Bearcats were able to bounce back and obtain huge victories over Louisville, Providence and especially Syracuse.

Now, thanks to Kennedy’s ability to overcome these difficult obstacles and his impressive coaching strategies, a team that was not even part of the Big East last year is 18-11 overall, 7-8 in the Big East and has a shot at its 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

-Erin Castellano, Staff Writer

Most Improved Player – Aaron Gray, Pitt

No player in the entire conference has both surprised and impressed on a national level like Pitt center Aaron Gray.

Dealing with the departures of Chevon Troutman and Chris Taft, the Panthers haven’t missed a beat with Gray’s natural physicality and rigorous off-season training to mold one of the Big East’s premier paint players.

As a sophomore, Gray only averaged slightly more than four points and three rebounds per game. This year, the season where he assumed his first starting role, the 7-foot junior is the only player in the Big East to average a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards per game. Although still young in experience, Gray is already being considered a strong prospect for the NBA.

-Pat Mitsch, Senior Staff Writer

Rookie of the Year – Dominic James, Marquette

The 5-foot-11 Golden Eagle freshman has started every game for Marquette, averaging an impressive 15.6 points per game while hauling in 4.3 rebounds a contest as well. James has also dished out a team-high 5.22 assists a game, which is good enough for third most in the Big East.

While being the only freshman in the Big East’s top 20 scoring averages, James has scored in double figures in every Big East games he’s played in, with the exception of Marquette’s opener against UConn. In his two games against Pitt this season (the two teams split the series 1-1) James scored 16 points both times, while combining for nine assists.

-Dave Thomas, Senior Staff Writer