ESPN named their player, coach and freshman of the year. Respectively, they are: Breanna Stewart of Connecticut, Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame and Diamond DeShields of North Carolina.
DeShields is the only obvious choice. She has lead the Tar Heels in scoring, as a rookie, with 18 points per game. She has taken over contests, and established her career high at 38 points.
The choice of McGraw is understandable, as the Irish don’t seem to have missed a beat after losing floor leader Skylar Diggins. They sweep into the NCAA Tournament undefeated, and as title-holders of their new conference. I believe South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and West Virginia coach Mike Carey should have made it a closer race for coach of the year, however, as both have taken their teams to new heights this season.
ESPN erred in choosing Stewart for player of the year. She averaged 19.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season, and helped the Huskies stay dominant as injuries threatened to sink them. But there were still enough other players to help her shoulder the load, as four of Stewart’s teammates also averaged in double figures.
The true ESPN player of the year is Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike. She averaged 26.8 points per game – far above the next leading Cardinal scorers – and 12.3 rebounds per game. She not only carried her team, but she broke numerous personal records this year. Ogwumike became the Pac-12 all-time rebounds leader in early January, and she attained her new career high of 37 points earlier this month. This season, Ogwumike scored 30 points or more in a game 14 times, and had 24 double-doubles.
That’s just ridiculous.
Stewart is good, but she ain’t no Ogwumike yet.
Player of the year: Chiney Ogwumike.
Let the NCAA Tournament begin.