I'll be honest; it took me much longer than it should have to get the MAC Women's Basketball Awards up yesterday. Because my predictions were all wrong and I had to rewrite the entire post.
UB placed a trio of Bulls in the awards, which is something to celebrate. Kristen Sharkey was named Second Team All-MAC, Mackenzie Loesing Third Team, and Christa Baccas Honorable Mention. Last year, Loesing (Second Team), Sharkey (Third), and Alexus Malone (Freshman) were honored.
Loesing and Baccas received individual recognition, as well. Mackenzie, a junior averaging just over 13 points a game, was named "Sixth Player of the Year,"* while Christa, a senior who's going to fall just short of the UB and MAC career blocks record, was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Here's the (first) thing: Anyone who's watched Sharkey play this season knows she belongs on that First Team. How many times this season has every one of us known where the ball is going, and #RIGHTSHARK still pours in eight points in about seven minutes? On a team plagued by inconsistency, Sharkey has always been good for points.
All while drawing well more than her fair share of attention from defenses.
Sharkey 2nd Team. I would LOVE for any team to play her without doubling or triple teaming her. She got MY vote for 1st team. #TWF!!!!— Felisha Legette-Jack (@UBCoachJack) March 9, 2015
Now, I understand the logic that went into this. Conveniently, the ten players on the First and Second Teams were the top ten scorers in the MAC. Kristen was tenth.
Of course there's more to basketball than scoring: Sharkey's also fifth in rebounding, first in offensive rebounding, eighth in blocks, and twelfth in steals. She's really good at basketball, and for long stretches this season was the UB offense.
Looking at the First Team, there's a lot I can't argue with:
Sina King. She'll be named MAC POTY today. She's very good. Sharkey and Malone did a number on her last week, but she deserves this.
Kiyanna Black. The best player on the best team in the MAC. I don't think she has a stronger case than Sharkey, as she's really only a standout in the points column, but I get it. Token Bobcat in a huge year for them.
Inma Zanoguera. The best player in the MAC you haven't heard of, man or woman. I have been a huge fan of hers since she singlehandedly beat Buffalo in the first UB-Toledo matchup, and I would listen to arguments for her as POTY.
Nathalie Fontaine. Fourth in scoring, 11th in rebounding, not particularly notable anywhere else other than her high FG%. But she's the star of the #2 team in the conference, so I get it. I would get it more if Sharkey were alongside her.
Amanda Corral. Here's where I have a problem. Corral is fifth in scoring and first in 3P%, but only ninth in made three-pointers. And she played the most minutes in the MAC, for a Northern Illinois team that finished as the eighth seed in the conference.
I'm sure Amanda Corral is a great basketball player. But when I saw the All-MAC teams, there are three players one the whole list that I had to stop myself and say 'who?', and Corral was one of them. The other two were Honorable Mention. When she played Buffalo, she was held to eight points. She doesn't register in any other stat on a conference scale other than points.
She's a gunner, the lone scoring option on a mediocre team, forced to score points because almost no one else can: The Huskies average only 54 points a game this year.
After the announcement I was messaging someone I know and talk to occasionally about women's hoops. Admittedly, they're a Buffalo fan, but they know the conference. A text from him: "Somebody said to me 'NIU wouldn't be where they are without her.' Ummm, in 8th? Where they are sucks."
I firmly believe great players can play on bad teams. But the First Team has a representative from each of the conference's top three seeds, and in Zanoguera one of the most multifaceted players in the conference. And then, Corral. If she was that great, maybe she would be able to contribute in any other stat and help her team win more games. I could make an argument for Sharkey over Fontaine and Black, too, but I understand their selections.
Thing is, I think every player on the Second Team has a case for First Team over Corral. Crystal Bradford was slowed by a knee injury and was still top six in five stats (to Corral's one). Akron's Anita Brown tops her in nearly everything, and Cha Sweeney is a do-it-all point guard who while not directly comparable at least registers in multiple stats. Miracle Woods might have a tougher argument, but she's in there, too.
Give me these ten players, and I put Corral ninth or tenth out of them. Sharkey deserved First Team. Even gimpy Crystal Bradford deserved First Team. Unless you only look at points.
That's one. I don't have as vociferous an argument for the other two, but I'm going to detail them.
Christa Baccas. Defensive Player of the Year. Hooray! Honorable Mention All-MAC? What?
Let's start with the last five Defensive Players of the Year, and their recognition on the All-MAC teams:
2014: Crystal Bradford - First Team
2013: Andola Dortch - First Team
2012: Dortch - Second Team
2011: Kourtney Brown - First Team
2010: Brown - First Team
I cannot make an argument for Brown on the First Team. Honestly, I can't even put her over Sharkey, Woods, Sweeney, Bradford, or Brown on the second team. Christa didn't score enough.
But you're telling me the Defensive Player of the Year doesn't make the Third Team? Let's just rename these things the "Points and Rebounds Teams" and the "Everything else Player of the Year"
Looking at the Third Team, the name that jumps out to me is Kent State's CiCi Shannon. Shannon is a great player, a center like Baccas. In 80 minutes against UB this year she's owned the Bulls for about 45 of them. And sure, she puts up more points and pulls down slightly more rebounds. But Christa is well past her in blocks, steals, and offensive rebounds. Once again, I understand the rationale, but it's really flawed.
Stephanie Reid. I get it. I know she was only here for half the season. And I don't expect voters to disregard that. Indeed, Akron's Kerri McMahan has similar, if slightly lesser, numbers to Stephanie in conference play, and I get that whatever she did in OOC time should count too. I won't quibble with Baleigh Reid or Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriett, either, who appear on multiple stats tables and whom I remember playing well against UB.
But in conference play, our Reid was sixth in the entire conference, not just among freshman, in assists/game and ninth in A:TO ratio. The third guard on the Freshman team, Ball State's Moriah Monaco, only shows up on the fringes of the top 15 in 3PT%. Like Corral, I guess the MAC voters are willing to honor you on the basis of one stat, but only if it's the right one.
*I think it's f*ing garbage that the MAC calls the awards "Sixth Man" and "Sixth Player" of the Year. Why the f* can't we say "Sixth Woman" of the Year. Why would you want to shy away from the fact that oh yea, women play women's basketball. People who don't like women's basketball because women are playing it ARE STILL GOING TO NOTICE that there's women on the court even if you start calling them "players."