As is often the case, a list of the best newcomers in the Big Sky is riddled with transfers and junior college guys rather than freshman, and that is the case (for the most part) here. While a couple of the freshmen deserve inclusion here (and if you want more talk about the freshmen, check here), a lot of this list will be guys that came into the Big Sky with some experience already.
By my count, there are four guys that really deserve consideration to be the Newcomer of the Year. In no particular order, here they are:
- Martin Breunig (Montana) - Before the year, I was told Breunig would be the best big man in the conference, and with Joel Bolomboy's numbers down a bit, and Venky Jois battling injury problems, that has proven prophetic. Breunig has been a scorer in the post, shooting nearly 60% on two-pointers, on a lot of attempts. He has also been beastly on the boards, with a 9.9 OR% and 19.9 DR%, both top 7 numbers in the Big Sky. The only thing that has held him back is a propensity to get into foul trouble. However, when he's on the court, he's outstanding. At this point, he is certainly the frontrunner for the award.
- Cameron Michael (Northern Colorado) - UNC coaches told me how excited they were when Michael decided to transfer, and he has been everything they could have hoped for in his first year in Greeley. He has been a great shooter, at over 41% from downtown. He is not just a shooter though, as he takes almost five shots a game inside the arc, where he is also efficient. He takes care of the ball as well. He is just a really good player for them.
- Tiegbe Bamba (Portland State) - His long awaited debut for the Vikings was worth the weight, as he has been a steady frontcourt presence for them this season. On two-pointers, he is shooting almost 63% (he has taken 27 threes, but at least made 9 of them), and he's been a solid rebounder on both ends of the court. He turns it over a little more than you'd like for a big man, but he has helped bring stability to the frontcourt which the Viks didn't have last year.
- Braxton Tucker (Portland State) - The other new equation in the PSU front line is Tucker, who has been very solid as well. Like Bamba, he is an efficient scorer, who has been better at creating his own shot than Bamba has. He is very solid on the offensive glass, sporting a top 10 offensive rebound rate in the conference.
- Ben Wilson (Idaho State) - Wilson is getting a lot of minutes for the Bengals, and can do some nice things. At 6'6'', he has the length to be disruptive in the zone defense, especially up top. He has also been a relatively solid playmaker, with an Assist Rate over 21%. He's not really a scorer, and he's not a natural PG, but has played there most of the year out of necessity.
- Estan Tyler (North Dakota) - Tyler is talented, and his role seems to have grown as the year has gone on. Still, he's been a little inefficient shooting the ball, and turns it over more than you'd like. He's a good shooter, and his numbers are probably hampered a little bit by a lack of a lot of other offensive options for defenses to focus on.
- Bogdan Bliznyuk (Eastern Washington) - Bliznyuk has slowed a little the past week, but he is still a diverse scorer that will be a big factor in EWU's tournament run. The Eagles have a future offensive star on their hands, and a guy that could win a scoring title in the conference at some point.
- Arkadiy Mkrtchyan (Idaho) - You don't always hear a lot about Ark, but he's a really good player for them that does a lot of little things. He doesn't shoot a lot, but he's efficient when he does. He's also a really good rebounder on both ends, and above average at drawing fouls. He could be a future star for the Vandals.
Thoughts? Anyone I missed? Who is the best among the group?
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