Iowa men's basketball year-end awards
The Iowa men's basketball team's second season under Fran McCaffery is in the books, and The Daily Iowan looks at who helped the Hawkeyes reach their first postseason since 2006 — and who held them back from potentially achieving more.
Freshman of the Year: Aaron White
There is no argument here.
White was not only this team's best newcomer, but he impressed observers as much as any Hawkeye freshman in recent memory. The Strongsville, Ohio, native led Iowa in rebounding with 5.7 per game and finished third in scoring at 11.1 points per contest. He victimized opposing Big Ten coaches enough for them to select him to the league's All-Freshman team.
But the scariest thing about the rangy 6-8 forward? He got better as the season went on, a description not often linked to freshmen. White reached double-digit scoring in four of 13 nonconference games, then went for double figures in 10 of 18 Big Ten regular-season games.
He saved his best for Iowa's biggest wins. White was 6-of-7 for 18 points in a road win at then-No. 11 Wisconsin on Dec. 31. He scored a season-high 25 in Iowa's first-round NIT win against Dayton.
McCaffery said it simply following the Dayton game; "We knew we had something in Aaron White when we signed him."
Most Improved: Devyn Marble
Marble barely edged out Zach McCabe for this distinction.
The sophomore guard made a push for MVP until finally slowing down slightly during the second half of the Big Ten season. But before Matt Gatens carried Iowa to a berth in the NIT, Marble rescued the team from drowning in disappointment earlier in the year. Marble was virtually forced into full-time point guard duty for a six-game stretch from Dec. 6-28, and averaged 16.5 points, 5.2 assists, and only 1.3 turnovers.
Marble is likely to assume the role of Iowa's leading scorer next season after averaging 11.5 points this year. And 48 hours ago, I would have said he desperately needs to improve his jump shot to soften that transition.
That was before he poured in a career-high 31 points on Sunday against Oregon, a scoring display that saw him make 7-of-8 3-pointers.
Looks like he's more than ready for the role.
Most Disappointing: Melsahn Basabe
This selection requires the consideration of context.
At the surface, Basabe's season averages of 8.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1 block per game appear solid. But the effect wears off when you take a look at what he accomplished last season as a freshman: 11.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game.
Basabe's numbers this season would be more than passable for a Big Ten bench player — if you didn't see the talent he displayed last season. He eventually seemed to find a rhythm late, particularly in the NIT, when he totaled 32 points in Iowa's two games. The Hawkeyes need more performances like those next year as opposed to his four-consecutive 2-point games from Nov. 20-29, in which Iowa went 1-3.
Most Valuable: Matt Gatens
Plenty of Hawkeyes won more games in their careers than Gatens, but few can claim to have had as much an effect on the program.
The Iowa City native's first three seasons on campus were some of the worst in school history. Many of Gatens' former teammates chose to depart the program each year. Former coach Todd Lickliter was fired after the second, and McCaffery became Iowa's third coach since Gatens committed to become a Hawkeye as a ninth-grader.
Gatens never wavered. This season, "Matty Fresh" was the primary reason for the beginning of Iowa's basketball renaissance. Gatens' 15.2 points per game were the most by an Iowa player since Adam Haluska (2007), and he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's media. He also became Iowa's most reliable defender, regularly neutralizing opposing teams' best perimeter threats.
Gatens' late-season tear — 20-plus points in eight consecutive games — pushed Iowa to an NIT berth. But most importantly, he helped make Iowa basketball fun again.
In today's issue:
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