With the last weekend of the season at hand, the All-conference team will be out early next week.
USU, in the opinion of this blog, should get one member on the respective teams, and that would be Preston Medlin. The rest of the teams should be Nevada and New Mexico State dominated.
With that in mind, here's what I have.
Deonte Burton, Nevada: A no-brainer here. The best player in the league, a point guard who really can score, can make big shots and is a leader. Is maybe the closest thing the league has to a surefire NBA prospect. His sophomore season has really been special.
Preston Medlin, Utah State: With apologies to Kevin Olekaibe, Zane Johnson and Malik Story, Medlin is the best shooting guard in the conference, a headache to deal with because he has great range and can beat you off the dribble. Medlin has been on a tear of late, with 32 against Idaho State and 26 against San Jose State. He's the second-leading scorer in WAC play and he rebounds and defends as well as he scores. He's won most of his matchups at the deepest position in the league, and projects as a POY candidate next season.
Wendell McKines, New Mexico State: You can only admire his heart, tenacity, and how hard he plays. And guess what? This year he has come back with an expanded skillset. He scores, can take you off the dribble, and he has extended his shot into three-point range, all without sacrificing his reputation as the best rebounder in the league. Along with Burton, a no-brainer pick here. Last year with McKines injured, Troy Gillenwater led this team. Notice the difference in the respective years the Aggies are having? It's not a coincidence.
Dario Hunt, Nevada: A beast down low. The best defensive big man in the league, and a guy who sacrifices shots and touches in the post because he wants to win. Hunt plays with a smoldering fire that helps the Wolf Pack. He's a double-double threat every time he touches the floor and he may be the best shotblocker in the league. Hunt is athletic, has long arms and has four years of experience. If Burton is Nevada's best player, Hunt makes the defense go and keeps things sane in the lockerroom amongst a few explosive personalities.
Vander Joaquim, Hawaii: Might be an NBA prospect. Scouts certainly have flocked to his games. Averages nearly a double-double. Long, skilled and much improved than he was a year ago, Joaquim has turned into a very good player. Posts up hard and demands the rock in the post. Turns and scores when he gets it. He's hard to deal with and is the dominant reason for Hawaii being a threat come next week.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State
I haven't always been a fan, but I have to give credit this season. Menzies had the guts to kick Christian Kabongo off his team in December when in past years he would've kept a cancer like that around, which would've eroded NMSU from the inside-out. He has developed his talent, put his team in spots where they can be successful and has made his talent better, at least this season. If Nevada is to be beaten, New Mexico State is the team that will do it. Either way, NMSU's combination of talent and athleticism makes it the WAC's best chance at an NCAA Tournament win this year.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Definitely Burton, apologies to McKines. Burton has taken his game to new heights this year, and is the reason David Carter still smiled when he found out Armon Johnson was turning pro early two years ago. Burton can carry a team on his back, and is almost an impossible cover at this level.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Daniel Mullings, New Mexico State and Raheem Appleby, Louisiana Tech: Two very, very good shooting guards who have had great years. Both player have the potential to be special at the mid-major level. Both players made their teams better. Appleby weighs about 135 pounds, but is 6-4, long and can really score. Mullings is a defensive wiz, a terror in transition and dunks over people in traffic. Has the only triple-double in the conference this season and will lead the team in the future.
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