The first of two postseason All-Mountain West awards will be released Monday when the media vote is revealed (the coaches have their own awards, which will come out later in the week). The media awards allow for one ballot per market, meaning 11 total votes. I was in charge of the Nevada-region vote, and it wasn’t easy. From player of the year to freshman of the year to defensive player of the year to sixth-man of the year, the races were tight. In the sake of transparency, here is my all-conference ballot. As a reminder, panelists are asked to consider conference-only stats with non-conference play only being used as a potential tiebreaker.
Player of the Year
Jalen Harris, Nevada: There is no wrong answer between Harris and San Diego State's Malachi Flynn. Both are having historic seasons and worthy of winning player of the year. The MW is lucky enough to have two of the top-15 players in the country. I've always opted to give my vote to the best player in the league rather than the best player on the best team, which explains why I went with Harris by a narrow margin over Flynn. Using MW-only stats, Harris is averaging 25.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the field, including 41.4 percent from three (60.6 true shooting percent and 57.3 effective field-goal shooting). His PER was a ridiculous 30.3. Flynn checks in at 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 45.3 percent from the field, including 34.7 percent from three (59.9 true shooting percent and 53.9 effective field-goal shooting). His PER was 29.2. Harris has been the better scorer (115 more points than Flynn in MW play, 6.4 more per game), and he's been more efficient doing so (by a good margin). Flynn has the edge defensively, but both have excellent all-around games, and Flynn was the best player on the court in San Diego State's win at Nevada on Saturday (by far). But this is an 18-game award, and Harris was the best player in MW action. If the award went to the best player over the full length of the season, which is how I would prefer to vote on these awawrds given the larger sample size, Flynn would have the small edge over Harris. Flynn is going to win the MW POY award, and you can't go wrong either way, but I went with Harris' scoring and efficiency excellence.
Coach of the Year
Brian Dutcher, SDSU: This is a no-brainer. I guess you could try and piece together a case for UNLV’s T.J. Otzelberger (who inherited a rebuild), Nevada’s Steve Alford (who lost his entire starting five) or Colorado State’s Niko Medved (who turned the Rams around in year two), but the only answer is Dutcher, who has perfectly blended the right transfers with his returning cast and ran away with the MW. SDSU is a top-five team in the nation after not receiving a single vote in the preseason AP Top 25. Don’t overthink it. Dutcher should be a unanimous selection.
Newcomer of the Year
Jalen Harris, Nevada: There is a line of thought of awarding the MW newcomer of the year to Flynn, so both Harris and Flynn get honored, but that’s dumb. If your conference player of the year is a newcomer, then he also is your newcomer of the year. And we’ll give Flynn an honor in a second.
Freshman of the Year
Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State: The All-MW postseason awards are loaded with tough decisions and the freshman of the year is no exception. It came down to three players in Stevens, Rams teammate David Roddy and Fresno State big man Orlando Robinson. Stevens leads MW freshmen in scoring (13.3 points per game) and assists (4.7) in conference play and has been efficient doing it, shooting 45.6 percent overall, 36.2 percent from three and 79 percent from the line. He barely beats out Robinson.
Defensive Player of the Year
Malachi Flynn, SDSU: San Diego State has far and away the best defense in the MW, and that starts with the on-ball pressure provided by Flynn. His teammate, Matt Mitchell, might be a more versatile defender, but we’ll give the award to Flynn thanks to his MW-best 51 steals. Among non-SDSU teams, Utah State’s Justin Bean and Diogo Brito are worthy of consideration, but Flynn gets my vote.
6th Man of the Year
Nisré Zouzoua, Nevada: This can sometimes be a barren category, but there are five legitimate options with Zouzoua, Utah State’s Diogo Brito, Colorado State’s Kris Martin, Boise State’s Alex Hobbs and San Jose State’s Richard Washington, who are all averaging at least 7.5 points per game. Zouzoua has been the best of the batch. In MW games, he's averaging 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three. Brito’s defense puts him No. 2 on my ballot.
Nos. 1-5 make the All-MW first team; Nos. 6-10 make the All-MW second team; and Nos. 10-15 make the All-MW third team.
1. Jalen Harris, Nevada
2. Malachi Flynn, SDSU
3. Sam Merrill, Utah State
4. Bryce Hamilton, UNLV
5. Matt Mitchell, SDSU
6. Justin Bean, Utah State
7. Seneca Knight, SJSU
8. Justinian Jessup, Boise State
9. Nico Carvacho, Colorado State
10. Derrick Alston, Boise State
11. Neemias Queta, Utah State
12. Yanni Wetzell, SDSU
13. Jazz Johnson, Nevada
14. Hunter Maldonado, Wyoming
15. Lavelle Scottie, Air Force
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.