On Tuesday morning, the BIG EAST Conference announced three recipients of three regular season awards for excellent performances during the 2015-16 campaign.
Xavier Musketeers guard JP Macura was named as the BIG EAST's Sixth Man of the Year. The Lakeville, Minnesota native averaged 9.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists while logging 22.7 minutes per game this year. The sophomore guard's best performance was perhaps against Villanova when he dropped 19 points in the Musketeers' victory over the then-No. 1 ranked Wildcats.
Kris Dunn of the Providence Friars was named the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. After splitting the award with St. John's Red Storm forward Sir'Dominic Pointer last year, whom you can read an excellent profile about right here written by our own Sean Saint Jacques, Dunn is the solo recipient of the trophy this season. The New London, Connecticut native made opponent's lives miserable this season as the BIG EAST's best on-ball defender, picking up a DRtg of 92.7 per Sports-Reference.com, the lowest amongst all guards in the conference.
Perhaps most unsurprisingly, Friars forward Ben Bentil is the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player of the Year. The sophomore forward from Wilmington, Delaware took an enormous leap this season, putting himself in Player of the Year contention with dynamic efforts across the board. Seeing a minutes jump didn't hurt his play at all, as Bentil averaged 21.2 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 46.1 percent from the field, way up from his numbers of 6.4 points, 4.9 boards, and 43.6 percent from the field a season ago.
Also announced was senior guard Kellen Dunham of the Butler Bulldogs picking up the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award.
~ I am admittedly pretty surprised about the Sixth Man of the Year award. I figured it would go to a Musketeer, but not Macura. James Farr seemed like a very easy candidate to hand the award to as he outpaced much of the field from start to finish. Farr was a rebounding machine this year and a pretty effective scorer as well and it's not like he started many games for X either, with only four starts to his credit this season. That said, Macura is a fine candidate for the award. It merely just took me by surprise.
~ No shock at all to Dunn getting DPOY for the second straight season. He was by far the BIG EAST's best on-ball defender and one of the best in the entire country as well. The only person I could have seen the award going to otherwise was either Farr or Villanova Wildcats center Daniel Ochefu whose Defensive Rating was at just 85.4. That mark is fourth-best in the nation behind Egidijus Mockevicius of Evansville, Vashil Fernandez of Valparaiso, and Chinanu Onuaku of Louisville.
~ And, again, no shock at all for Bentil getting MIP. No one was even close, and that's really all I have to say about that.