By Vince Nairn


We’re about two-thirds of the way through the conference season, which means it’s an appropriate time to start talking about end of the season awards. This is the first batch of rankings. Here goes…

Most Valuable Player

1. D.J. Cooper, Ohio

Cooper has done everything for the Bobcats. He leads them in points, assists and steals and is second in rebounds. The Bobcats have struggled this season, but I can’t even imagine how bad they would be without Cooper. Even when he’s injured and coming off the bench, he still impacts the game

2. Byron Mulkey, Buffalo

Mulkey is ninth in the MAC in scoring (14.6 ppg), but an even bigger attribute has been his defense. He doesn’t just guard the opposition, he shuts it down. Just ask Cooper, who had his worst MAC game of the year the first time Ohio played Mulkey and the Bulls.

3. Xavier Silas, Northern Illinois

The nation’s second-leading scorer has no trouble putting the ball in the basket, and he does it at an efficient rate — usually. The problem is that there is nobody on his team to help him. Northern Illinois is a glorified Division-II team when he’s off the court. But the Huskies don’t exactly scare anybody when he’s out there.

4. Brandon Bowdry, Eastern Michigan

See above. Bowdry has also put up great numbers, as he’s second in the MAC in scoring and first in rebounding. But his team is so bad that it waters down his effect.

5. Julian Mavunga, Miami

Miami’s leader in points and rebounds, Mavunga always is around the ball. The RedHawks look to him to do it all, especially since senior Antonio Ballard went down with a wrist injury. Mavunga is averaging 16 points and nine rebounds since Ballard’s injury, and he’s not a bad rapper, either.

Honorable Mentions: Justin Greene (Kent State), Trey Zeigler (Central Michigan)

Defensive Player of the Year:

1. Mulkey, Buffalo

2. Mitchell Watt, Buffalo

3. Cooper, Ohio

Freshman of the Year

1. Trey Zeigler, Central Michigan

2. Javon McCrea, Buffalo

3. Reese Holiday, Toledo

Coach of the Year:

1. Charlie Coles, Miami

2. Geno Ford, Kent State

3. Reggie Witherspoon, Buffalo