Yesterday we gave a quick recap of the season (if 1,000 words can be said to be "quick") to start the postmortem. Today we're going to focus more on the individual performances. For that, I turned to some of the other staff here who are much more knowledgeable about the sport of basketball than I am.
Most Improved Player: Horace Spencer
Tuco weighed in on this one and I agree with him. Horace was my initial choice when I decided to write this article. And, since Tuco can put it so much better than I can, here's what he had to say about the topic of Most Improved Player:
Bryce Brown deserves consideration but he looked good early and blossomed late. The main difference was his increased playing time and a higher position of prominence in a depleted offense. Horace entered the season a defensive beast with few offensive skills. His motor got him into foul trouble early so his contributions were limited. By the end of the year, he was playing smarter defense and was developing a good hook shot. No one crashed the offensive boards and had more put backs than Horace. Over the next two years, he's going to develop into one of the SEC's best big men.
Biggest Impact: Loki
Again, I have to let Tuco take this one:
Can I put Loki or whatever spirit of chaos brought Auburn so much bad luck this year? Or the bureaucrat who kept Purifoy on the bench? On the floor, the most impactful player was TJ Dunans. When he was healthy, Auburn was a different team. TJ crashed the rim and played good defense. TJ could drive and create. Without him--even when Canty was playing--Auburn lived and died by the three alone. I can't wait to see him back full speed next year.
Most Valuable Player: Multiple Selections
There was no consensus on this one, and I think that's fitting. I'll turn to Dr Z, AU_Jonesy, and Tuco for this one.
Dr Z: This team didn't have an MVP. Injuries aside, it was one of the most disappointing seasons of Auburn basketball I've seen. And that is saying something.
AU_Jonesy: I think it has to be Harris. He had his down moments, but he was the only consistent inside presence. In games where he was on, Auburn could rely on him to make shots or get to the line.
Tuco: This may be the hardest award to hand out. It was Kareem Canty going away before he was suspended. TJ Dunans looked like an early contender before his injury in Hawaii. Tyler Harris started more games than anyone and had a very good, quiet season where he averaged 14 points and almost 8 rebounds per game. But, at the end of the day, I think you have to give it to Cinmeon Bowers. Bowers plays with the energy, focus, and chaos of a drunk Labrador puppy. He couldn't hit shots from point blank range, he was constantly lobbing threes that he knew wouldn't fall, and leading breaks he knew wouldn't work but you know what? He almost averaged a double-double. Bruce benched him and he did what it took to come back. We lost our point guard and he stepped in enthusiastically. So he's my MMVP. Most Maddening Valuable Player.
Most Valuable Newcomer: Tyler Harris
Out of the players who were new to the team this year, this one has to go to Harris. If I were going "Freshman of the Year" then I would say Horace Spencer or Bryce Brown, but I decided to widen the scope a bit and add it as any newcomer to the team for the season.
If Canty had stayed with the team, it would have been him. If T.J. Dunans had been healthy the whole season long, then perhaps he would have gotten the nod. As it stands, I have to go with essentially what AU_Jonesy said about Harris. He wasn't spectacular, but if this team can be said to have had one player they could build around the whole season, then it was Harris.
Honorable mention does go to Dunans, Spencer, and Bryce Brown, though. When Canty left the team, Brown stepped in and was able to rain threes, as well. I believe he set the record for most threes by a freshman, and there was the night he drained nine three-pointers against Arkansas. There's a lot of players who got their first big time action, and a lot of it, for the Tigers in 2015-16 who will be coming back next year. That's going to be huge. More on that in a few days, though.
This was originally only going to be a 3-part series, but I think I'm going to add an article for tomorrow I'm going to call "The Legacy of Cinmeon Bowers." I know Dr Z has a column idea for the season, too. This may stretch into next week by the time it's done.