I thought I'd share my ballot with the fans, because after all, basketball season just ended last night.
Here's the categories the Front Row Show picked, and here's my responses (the opinion is my own, and please remember this is for entertainment only, not for any official awards):
Game of the year - Utah State 82, Idaho 75 (Jan. 5) • It might've been the loudest the Spectrum was all season, and it was undeniably special. The Aggies had to fight their way back in the second half, down 69-61 with only three minutes left. Looking at it in retrospect, it's a glimmer of what might've been if Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed were healthy. Utah State played defense when they needed it, they defended home court, and they showed toughness in that extra period. The Santa Clara win was more impressive over the course of the season, but this one was electric and memorable. You might look back in a few years remembering where you were when Medlin hit the tying shot.
Player of the year - Spencer Butterfield • In Stew Morrill's self-termed "second season," there's no denying that Butterfield was the alpha dog of the squad. He came to play every night, and there wasn't a minute when he could be mistaken for someone who was giving up. Playing through a painful injury, he set an example to all of the players, and they often took their cues from him. The team's home loss in January to UT Arlington was a low point, but Butterfield's 23-point and 11-rebound night helped catalyze other players to try harder and nearly upset Louisiana Tech in the last game. He was single-minded in his determination, even if he couldn't carry the Aggies where they wanted to go.
Play of the year - Preston Medlin's buzzer-beater against Idaho (Jan. 5) • I might as well be consistent. Aside from his other game-tying shot, this one stands out. Medlin had a slow start to the season and worked hard to reestablish himself as Utah State's top scoring threat. This moment was in some way the culmination of that effort: The stage and the pressure weren't a problem for the Aggies' sharpshooter. It'll go on the highlight tape for years.
Performance of the year - Spencer Butterfield against Texas State (March 7) • This might've been the toughest category to pick, considering that Medlin, Reed, Shaw and a number of others each had standout performances. But the energy Butterfield brought to a game no one was sure he'd play was unmatched in any contest this season. In less than a week, he went from the hospital to outhustling much taller guys for 20 rebounds, a feat that no Aggie under Stew Morrill had ever accomplished. It was a statement of will, and it gave Utah State 20 wins, which was a nice benchmark to cover.
Newcomer of the year - Jarred Shaw • If this seems off to you, consider that while Butterfield might be Utah State's most valuable player, he's not the program's most talented player. You just might give that to Shaw, who was a match-up nightmare when he played with his head on straight. After a season in which the Aggies couldn't score inside, Shaw offered consistent double-digit scoring by driving in or stepping out for makeable jumpers. He didn't always meet his potential, which was frustrating to fans. But when he played hard, he lit other WAC big guys up. Ask Kyle Barone, the conference player of the year, who had to endure Shaw dropping 27 on him on Jan. 31. Shaw will have to get tougher in the Mountain West, but he has the talent to compete next year.
Iron man of the year - Danny Berger • A no-brainer. He couldn't contribute in the way everyone hoped, but the fact that he's alive and handled it so well is miraculous. Athletes take so much confidence in their bodies and health. Consider that when his heart stopped beating, all that changed for Berger. But by all accounts, he's recovering well, and he's always been upbeat and taken a good attitude to a very unfortunate situation. Watching him get back to basketball is an inspiration.
You can chime in below if you have your own thoughts.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon