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Jockeying elevates for the AAC’s Player of the Year award

MEMPHIS, TN - JANUARY 16: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies drives against Austin Nichols #4 of the Memphis Tigers on January 16, 2014 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Joe Murphy

The American Athletic Conference’s player of the year award will not be unveiled until Wednesday, but the race for the prestigious selection, at least in the public sphere, has shifted into high gear. The likely selection is Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick; the wing is the conference’s most offensively talented player, one who is the focal point of each opponents’ defensive gameplan, but the senior isn’t the award’s sole candidate. other choices include Louisville’s Russ Smith, SMU’s Nic Moore, and finally, UConn’s Shabazz Napier.

The Husky senior presents the most compelling case, especially due to his frank comments today regarding the selection process: “I think Sean Kilpatrick played very well. But he had a lot of help from Justin Jackson ... Russ Smith definitely played well. Nic Moore, as well, he definitely turned that team around ... The biggest thing is consistency.”

Napier has a point: Kilpatrick did have help from a significantly improved Jackson, as did Smith (from Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock) and Moore (from Markus Kennedy), while Napier essentially was UConn’s sole offensive option (this isn’t a slam directed to Storrs, but Napier was the only Husky to use significant minutes and post an offensive rating well above 100). It will be interesting to find out how the AAC coaches vote, and whether a player’s ability to carry a team by his lonesome is a more compelling reason to anoint him a player of the year.

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