For the second year in a row, I’m picking someone from Augustana as my men’s basketball NSIC MVP, and Minot State’s Carly Boag as my women’s MVP.
On the women’s side, Boag was an easy choice, as she was last year. In fact, this year she was even more of a no-brainer.
The Australian post led the league in scoring (by a mile) with 21.4 points per game. She was also tops in rebounding (10.8), field goal percentage (.587) and steals (3.0).
By leading the league in steals and obviously making her presence felt in the post, Boag is my pick for defensive player of the year, and that, to me, makes her the only choice for MVP. If you’re even in the discussion for top defensive player, and also lead the league in scoring, who could be more valuable? I’ll make that point again later.
Augie’s Shaunteva Ashley was an easy pick for my All-NSIC team, as she’s No.2 in the league in scoring (17.9) and has really taken her game to another level down the stretch. Like Boag, Ashley is a factor at both ends of the court, but her offensive game has really been something. She’s eighth in the league with 4.3 assists per game, and 14th in the league in field goal shooting at 47.7 percent, which has been especially important as a guard on a team that has struggled to shoot the ball this year. Her assist/turnover ratio of 2.13 is tops in the league.
Rounding out my first five are Anika Whiting of Concordia (17.7 points, 7.0 rebounds), Ali Wilkinson of MSU-Mankato (17.0 points, 7.7 rebounds) and Jordan Spencer of league champion Wayne State (16.2 points, 6.5 rebounds).
Plenty of candidates for Coach of the Year, but I’ll give the nod to Northern State’s Curt Fredrickson, whose Wolves took home the North title.
As for freshman of the year, USF’s Sam Knecht was the most impressive first year player I saw, even after fading down the stretch after hitting a bit of a freshman wall. She finished with 8.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game, the latter two of which ranked 13th in the NSIC.
On the men’s side, I honestly didn’t struggle much with my pick for MVP. The only thing that gave me pause was Augustana’s mediocre record, but for one, I’m not the kind of guy who insists the MVP award has to go to a guy from a winning team (though that’s definitely a factor), and some of the other candidates were from teams with simliar records.
I’m going with Casey Schilling for the same reasons Boag was such an easy choice with the women.
Schilling is regarded as one of the most versatile and relentless defenders in the league. He established himself in that regard last year, in an injury-plagued freshman season.
So if a guy is acknowledged as one of the best defensive players in the league — and then goes out and puts himself in the top 10 in almost every offensive category as well…. isn’t that the end of the debate?
Schilling ranked second in the league in scoring with 18.8 points per game, behind Bemidji State’s Brock Lutes.
But Schilling outshot Lutes (.508 to .503), outshot him from 3 (.431 to .386), had more rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and fewer turnovers. He shot a lower percentage from the line (.853 to .780), but scored more points at the line (149-93).
Obviously Lutes isn’t Schilling’s only competition for the award, but my guess is he’s the favorite, being that he won the scoring title and played for a team that tied for the North title.
Everyone else in the top 6 of the scoring race played for a middle-of-the-pack or lower team.
Assem Marei of MSU-Mankato, who finished 7th in scoring (16.7) and fourth in rebounding (8.1) is probably the other candidate for player of the year, and he’d be my second choice for MVP, with Lutes third.
So to recap on Schilling.
2nd in scoring: 18.8
3rd in rebounding: 8.3
15th in assists: 3.04
4th in steals: 1.82
11th in 3FG%: .431
7th in blocks: 1.25
11th in assist/turnover ratio: 1.37
In the 10 years I’ve been covering Augie and the NCC/NSIC, I don’t ever recall a player providing such bulk production. Schilling is one of the top 3-5 defenders in the league, if not the best, and one of the top 3-5 offensive players.
Augie homerism has nothing to do with it. Schilling as MVP is an easy, easy call.
Lutes, Marei, Upper Iowa’s Joey Woods (6th in scoring, 2nd in assists, 8th in steals) and MSU-Mankato’s Zach Monaghan (11th in scoring, 1st in assists by a mile, 3rd in steals) round out my All-NSIC team.
Coach of the Year was tough. The job done by Upper Iowa rookie coach Brooks McKowen is definitely impressive, as was that of Bemidji State’s Mike Boschee. But I’ll give the nod to Winona’s Mike Leaf, whose team came a game short of winning the NSIC in a year where they had to do some reloading and deal with their share of adversity.
As for freshman of the year, there were several guys who had strong seasons, but Riley Bambenek of Winona State is not a difficult choice. He led the Warriors — a 23-6 team — in scoring at 13.8 a game.
MVP: Casey Schilling, Augustana
Coach of the Year: Mike Leaf, Winona State
Freshman of the Year: Riley Bambenek, Winona State
Defensive Player of the Year: Casey Schilling, Augustana
MVP: Carly Boag, Minot State
Coach of the Year: Curt Fredrickson, Northern State
Freshman of the Year: Sam Knecht, USF
Defensive Player of the Year: Carly Boag, Minot State
All-NSIC Men’s Team
Casey Schilling, Augustana
Assem Marei, MSU-Mankato
Brock Lutes, Bemidji State
Joey Woods, Upper Iowa
Zach Monaghan, MSU-Mankato
All-NSIC Women’s Team
Carly Boag, Minot State
Shaunteva Ashley, Augustana
Ali Wilkinson, MSU-Mankato
Anika Whiting, Concordia-St. Paul
Jordan Spencer, Wayne State
Live Chat today at 2. Stop by to debate to argue with my picks, talk NSIC tournament, and whatever else.