The West Coast Conference basketball awards come out on Tuesday, and unlike the Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences, the ballots were done without participation from the media.
This is either the most intelligent voting move ever devised — to cut out reporters — or a shallow exercise devoid of credibility or merit. Yes, I do have tongue in cheek over that remark.
Regardless, if I had a ballot, or could label the awards, this would be my take:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary's point guard. Best player on the best WCC team. Take Dellavedova off the Gaels' squad and they don't win the title. Great shooter, passer and defender. The famous mouthpiece is symbolic of his toughness. Plays like a boxer, competes like a cage fighter, a definite playground alpha dog.
COACH OF THE YEAR: St. Mary's Randy Bennett. Got the Gaels past Gonzaga for the first St. Mary's WCC title in two decades. Ran outstanding defenses and an offense that was tough to stop. Created a bully-tough, aggressive mindset on his team that simply wore down opponents both physically and mentally.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga. Registered in the Top 10 in the league in multiple categories. He's a deadly shooter, heady playmaker and consistent free-throw converter from the line and the key leader for the 'Zags. He deserves the award because of his consistency week after week.
BEST SHOOTER: Gary Bell, Gonzaga. The junior shot .460 from 3-point land on 40-of-87 shots. I'll give him the nod over St. Mary's freshman sensation Brad Waldow, who led the league in overall field goal shooting with .656, because Bell led the league from distance. Gaels had a great system to get Waldow good shots.
BEST REBOUNDER: Rob Jones, St. Mary's forward. A tough, athletic and very quick player, Jones led the league in rebounds with 10.5 per game. He edges out Elias Harris of Gonzaga (8.6 rpg) by a big margin. Jones is a huge force in the league inside the paint.
BEST DEFENDER: Noah Hartsock, BYU. The Cougar senior led the league in blocked shots and scoring. His block total of 48 led the league by six over Gonzaga's Robert Sacre (42) and was seven more than teammate Brandon Davies (41). He did this without playing his final game on Saturday against Portland and logging just seven minutes at Gonzaga the game before. Strong, smart, determined and gutsy around the rim, Hartsock played with an artistry everyone respected.
TOUGHEST PLAYER: Anthony Ireland, Loyola-Marymount. Short in stature but huge in heart, Ireland was a major force in upset wins over upper division WCC teams, including BYU in the Marriott Center.
ALL-CONFERENCE: Matt Dellavedova and Rob Jones, St Mary's; Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies, BYU; Robert Sacre, Elias Harris and Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga; Anthony Ireland, Loyola-Marymount; Angelo Caloiaro, San Francisco; and Evan Roguemore, Santa Clara.
ALL-ROOKIE TEAM: Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Gonzaga; Matt Carlino, BYU; Jimmy Dee, San Diego; and Brad Waldow, St. Mary's.
ALL-ACADEMIC TEAM (official): Craig Cusick, BYU; Cody Doolin, Justin Raffington and Jay Way, San Francisco; Matt Delevedova and Beau Levesque, St. Mary's; Michael Hart, Gonzaga; and Corbin Moore and Ryan Nichols, Pepperdine.
In general, the WCC is a tougher league than many give it credit for. With Gonzaga and St. Mary's ranked most of the season, this is a three-bid league if BYU can get Hartsock back in the lineup.
In days to come, we'll find out if the WCC can earn three slots in the NCAA Tournament. But on paper, many bracketologists predict the WCC will do just that.