The 2016-17 basketball season was a splendid one for the Cincinnati Bearcats. It was one worthy of awards and easily the best start-to-finish campaign of the Mick Cronin era.
“But what was that you said about awards?” you ask. Well I mentioned awards because its about time we hand some out, specifically ones that you, yes you, voted on over the last few weeks. Now the votes have been counted and we can officially name the honorees for this year’s DTD awards. For a full list of the nominees, check the original story.
Winner: Troy Caupain (46.7 percent)
Runner up: Gary Clark (32.6 percent)
UC’s captain may not have had the most stunning statistical season of his career, but he was the leader of this team. There is zero argument about that. Without him on the floor leading the offense, the Bearcats probably don’t win 30 games and definitely don’t beat Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In that game he scored 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting and also secured seven rebounds. The all-time assists leader in program history, Caupain has been the MVP, at least leadership wise, for years and this is a just victory for him to close his career out on.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Gary Clark (80.4 percent)
Runner up: Jacob Evans (7.6 percent)
This was pretty close to unanimous. Although he was the defending American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Clark will have to settle for the DTD DPOTY trophy. (There is no physical trophy. Just a trophy in our hearts and isn’t that more special? It’s not? OK moving on). We all know that Clark is a defensive beast. He posted a defensive rating of 91.9, which was tops among any player on the team with more than 400 minutes. He also led the team in defensive win shares (2.4).
Sixth Man of the Year
Winner: Jarron Cumberland (95.7 percent)
Runner up: Justin Jenifer (3.2 percent)
Did I say the category before was nearly unanimous? Well this one was even closer. Cumberland excelled as a freshman, showing a fearlessness and poise on offense not seen from every rookie that steps on the floor. His heroic performance against Xavier already burned his name into UC history, but his consistent scoring off the bench (8.3 PPG) and solid three-point shooting means UC was in good hands when Cronin went to the bench.
Freshman of the Year
Winner: Jarron Cumberland (96.8 percent)
Runner up: Nysier Brooks (2.2 percent)
Cumberland won’t win sixth man of the year again a year from now but not because he won’t be great. He is part of the future of the Bearcats and that’s a very good thing. He already played like an upper classman as a freshman and was easily the best rookie on the squad. The hype surrounding him will just increase as he gets ready to become a starter.
Most Improved Player
Winner: Jacob Evans (43.5 percent)
Runner up: Kevin Johnson (30.4 percent)
Evans could have easily been Team MVP as he was the best scorer and ranked second in minutes played. At 13.6 points per game, Evans was a consistent offensive force who was capable of taking over games and making huge shots, like he did against Marshall. Evans finished third on the team in PER (22.8) and ranked second in true shooting percentage (.596) behind some dude named Jarron Cumberland. Evans was Cumberland last year, scoring 8.4 points per game and showing flashes of star power in his first year. Those flashes lasted much longer this past season.
Individual Performance of the Year
Winner: Troy Caupain vs. Kansas State
Runner up: Jacob Evans vs. Marshall
We touched on this already, but Caupain was unstoppable against the Wildcats, playing easily the best NCAA tourney game of his career. Akin to the Jordan shrug game, Caupain drained 5-of-6 three-pointers and orchestrated an absolute decimation of Kansas State.
Game of the Year
Winner: 86-78 win over No. 24 Xavier
Runner up: 55-54 overtime win at No. 19 Iowa State
The Crosstown Shootout is the most important game on the schedule, so a win, especially one that ended a losing streak to the Musketeers, stood out in a year in which UC knocked off more than one ranked team and won a NCAA tourney game.
This was fun. Let’s do it again next year. (That includes the 30-win thing).