Billy: Ben Moore
SMU fans have been waiting for the Illinois product to put together a full season of solid play and this year Moore did that. The SMU offense flowed much more through Moore this season and with his ability to be patient and find the open man for the assist, that part of his game saw major improvements. Moore started conference play with 10 straight games in double-digit scoring while continuing to be solid on the boards. Moore complimented Jordan Tolbert and Markus Kennedy well on the floor as well. The two bruisers were able to find Moore on the baseline for mid-range jumpers and find him cutting to the basket for buckets - a sign that Moore understood his role much better this year. In the past couple seasons, Moore's role was awkward with more depth in the front court, but with his improvement and tighter rotation, his game blossomed and as a senior, I expect his game to improve even more as he'll lead an inexperienced front court.
Scott: Ben Moore
Not only did Moore add a mid-range shot to his offensive arsenal, but he also grew in every statistical category across the board. The junior took more shots, averaged 4.8 more points, and shot 11 percent better than he did as a sophomore. Overall, the Bolingbrook-native’s added aggression coupled with his skill set is what stood out to me the most. But while Moore made strides in his offensive game, that wasn’t the only part of his game that improved. He also averaged half a block more this go around, and took advantage of his length even more when guarding thicker post players.
Patrick: Sterling Brown
Markus Kennedy has repeatedly said Sterling Brown is the most improved player in the conference. I don’t think he’s an obvious pick for that award, but I think he’s SMU’s most improved player because of his growth into a more consistent offensive player. His scoring nearly doubled from last season (5.1 to 10.1 points per game) and he had 17 games with at least 10 points. He had eight total such games in his first two years. His shot selection and his usage are rarely forced. His 63.2 mark from the field is among the 50 best nationally. He was a little disappointing defensively because he didn’t become SMU’s next great perimeter defender like many thought, but he was still effective on defense. But the offensive improvement stands out more.
Hatts: Sterling Brown
Markus Kennedy has touted for the whole second half of the season that Sterling Brown is the most improved player and he is right. Brown has always been known as the guy that will do the dirty work but may not score a ton of points or do a lot of things on the stat sheet. That changed this year after Brown developed an extremely effective three point shot. Brown finished the year shooting over 53 percent from behind the arc and almost doubled his scoring average from last season at 10.1 points per game. The 6-6 junior showed up in the biggest moments for SMU and was consistently aggressive even on nights that SMU’s offense wasn’t clicking. Coming into the season, not many expected Brown to provide much of any offense but heading into next year as a senior leader, a lot more will be expected of Brown as a scorer and as a defender.
Demo: Sterling Brown
When it comes to most improved it really comes down to two for me: Sterling Brown or Ben Moore. Each one improved their games from their first two seasons, and proved to be really valuable weapons later in the season. However, I am of the opinion that Brown managed to maintain a certain level of ridiculous precision and defensive intensity for an entire season. He became, in a way, SMU’s ‘x-factor.’ Time and time again, he demonstrated his ability to be a star, but did so almost reluctantly, as if aware that he would be stepping out of his role. And because SMU never forced the ball to him, and because he didn’t ask for it, he was able to remain very effective all season long. He was like a well-known secret-weapon, that somehow kept it’s element of surprise despite having a large, public body of work proving its existence. From his sophomore to his junior season, we saw him jump from a very good depth player that sometimes went MIA, to a budding star in the SMU program. Sure he might have made some questionable hair choices along the way, but it’s exciting to think about how much he might improve heading into his senior year.