Billy: Ryan ManuelGuess I get to break the tie here. I dogged Ryan Manuel a lot for his inability to handle the ball early in the season and during last season. As a senior, Manuel limited his games with three turnovers to just three. Manuel never had more than three turnovers this year and was the team’s best defender and even hit a few big shots (Temple three-pointers). Against Gonzaga and Indiana, Manuel disappeared, but as the season went on, no one got better than Manuel. With Nick Russell graduating, Manuel filled in as the top defender for the team. Manuel’s leadership really took off in the second half of the season as SMU really needed to win almost all of their games to ensure an NCAA bid. I dogged him too much and Manuel proved me wrong.
Scott: Yanick MoreiraNo surprise here. I'm going with Yanick Moreira as my pick for Most Improved Player. Moreira earned a starting spot at the beginning of last season, but after missing about a month because of a knee injury, he never worked himself back into the lineup. This season, Moreira came ready to prove himself and he did not disappoint. After a stellar showing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup the senior's confidence was at an all-time high. Moreira's biggest knock on himself was his inconsistent offensive play, but this year he averaged 11.1 ppg and regularly out-performed his opponent's big man. Defensively, Moreira did have the tendency to goaltend shots, which we saw over the course of the season, but his length and energy on the defensive end made him a formidable defender. It was unfortunate for Moreira to end his SMU career the way that he did, but he will forever be remembered as an integral piece of this SMU team that turned this program around.
Patrick: Nic MooreHear me out. Obviously Moore was SMU's most important player and only consistent outside threat. He had a stellar season overall and rightfully earned AAC Player of the Year. He is the engine in the offense and SMU's unquestioned leader. But, to my point, think back to the early part of the season: Moore didn't settle into his role as a leader right away, and the on-court chemistry wasn't where it was at the end of the season. In SMU's first 16 games, Moore had at least three turnovers in 13 of them, including. In SMU's games against Gonzaga, Indiana, Arkansas, at Cincinnati and at Temple, he had a total of 26 turnovers, did not eclipse 40 percent shooting and didn't score higher than 13 points. He displayed a little bit of the excessive energy that plagued him at times last year.
The second half of the road game against Temple was the turning point. Starting with that half, Moore had three turnovers in his next 140 minutes. He only eclipsed three turnovers four times for the rest of the season, and had at least six assists in 13 of the final 17 games, showing much more poise. The turnovers he did make weren't as costly or noticeable. Most importantly, he became the team's leader and had a few games in which he put the team on his back. Early in the season, Moore wasn't playing poorly, but he didn't have a lot of difference-making moments (Wyoming game being the exception). During the conference season, and postseason, he became the leader he needed to be and lifted the team on many occasions.