We are three weeks into the Conference USA men’s basketball season and the player of the year candidates are beginning to align themselves. This is strictly my opinion, but, based on past precedence in the conference selection process, here is my list of 10 players that I believe the winner will come from.

JaCorey Williams ¦ Senior ¦ Middle Tennessee (Transfer)

Egor Koulechov ¦ Junior ¦ Rice (Transfer)

Erik McCree ¦ Senior ¦ La Tech*

Jon Elmore ¦ Junior ¦ Marshall (Transfer)

Marcus Evans ¦ Sophomore ¦ Rice

Reggie Upshaw ¦ Senior ¦ Middle Tennessee

William Lee ¦ Junior ¦ UAB

Jon Davis ¦ Sophomore ¦ Charlotte

Giddy Potts ¦ Junior ¦ Middle Tennessee

Dominic Artis ¦ Senior ¦ UTEP (Transfer)

*McCree transferred from Murray St. his freshman year but did not play for the Racers

Barring some type of un-worldly type of performance from a player not listed over the next two months, the Conference USA player of the year will come from this list.

Here’s where things get interesting though …

Since Conference USA’s inaugural season in 1995-96, a Division 1 transfer player has never won player of the year. The only transfer to win it was Memphis’ Antonio Burks who transferred to Memphis from Hiwassee.

The statistical leaders in the player of the year race are without a doubt JaCorey Williams, Egor Koulechov, and Erik McCree. Williams is sixth in points per game and leads the conference in field goals made with 138. Koulechov leads the NCAA in 3-point shooting percentage and is second in scoring in the conference. He’s also pulling down 8.4 rebounds per game at the guard/forward position. McCree does a little of everything. He leads La Tech in rebounds per game, he’s hit 25 3-pointers, and he’s eighth in the conference in scoring.

Those three are the leaders in the clubhouse as of today, but here’s the problem. Williams is a transfer who will have only played one year at Middle Tennessee, and Koulechov is in his second year at Rice after starting his career at Arizona State. And technically, Jon Elmore, who I believe is right on the cusp in the player of the year conversation, is a transfer from VMI; although, he never played a game for them.

So let’s assume Conference USA sticks to their merits and picks a player who has started their career at the school they are currently attending. Let’s also assume they’ll favor an upperclassman considering they have all but three times the last 20 seasons. Here’s how the list would look given those parameters.

Erik McCree ¦ Senior ¦ La Tech

Reggie Upshaw ¦ Senior ¦ Middle Tennessee

William Lee ¦ Junior ¦ UAB

Giddy Potts ¦ Junior ¦ Middle Tennessee

If Conference USA has been one thing in their award selection process over the last 20 seasons, it’s been consistent. If I had to guess who will win today, I’d pick a player from the four above rather than the ones who are clearly having the greater statistical seasons. But, I will say, watch out for one of the young guns on the list. Marcus Evans and Jon Davis are volume scorers and they aren’t going to go quietly. It’s going to be a fun race to watch pan out between now and March.

Advertisements