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Columbia Spectator Staff

The final weekend of basketball season is upon us, and while I still have time, I want to do a little something for those players who have distinguished themselves this season. That's why it's my pleasure to present the first (and last) annual Benny Awards, the most prestigious prizes in all of college basketball. All winners will receive a fine certificate suitable for framing, as well as a game-worn Mark Cisco headband. Don't lie to us, Mark, we know you've got thousands stashed away somewhere.

The Bennies are an equal-opportunity enterprise, so each award will have both a male and female recipient. If you feel your favorite player was snubbed, feel free to go crazy in the comments section, or just make up your own fake awards and not give me any. I promise I can take it.

The GrubHub Award: for the player who always delivers.

Ah, the Grubby. Not a Most Valuable Player award per se (because Most Valuable Player doesn't have a cool pun in it), but certainly the highest honor we here at the Bennies have to offer. The winner of the Grubby must be cool under pressure, consistent week-to-week, and satisfy his or her teammates' late-night cravings for mozzarella sticks. (Maybe not that last one.)

On the men's side, Brian Barbour was predictably solid, leading the Lions in scoring, assists, and minutes per game despite struggling with an illness that hampered his production in the season's home stretch. However, as usual, statistics can only tell part of the story. The Lions were simply a different team with Barbour running the point—he was, for lack of a better term, the team's heartbeat. Perhaps most impressive was the way he took care of the rock: Although he was tasked with bringing the ball up on nearly every possession, he still only averaged 1.4 turnovers per game.

Tyler Simpson provides the same sort of leadership for the women's team, topping all players in scoring and minutes by a wide margin. During an inconsistent season, the Light Blue could rely on Simpson to pour in 15 or so points with five rebounds and generally hold things together on the floor. Her poor free throw shooting is frustrating (she was only 45 percent from the line this year), but this one bugaboo is not enough to disqualify her from Benny glory.

The Viagra Award: for the player on the rise.

The coveted Viagra Award goes to the first-year player who makes the greatest contribution to his or her team during the season. On the men's side, it was a heated battle between Grant Mullins and Maodo Lo, but Maodo's got to take the prize. I'm still not sure I made the right decision—Mullins is certainly more important to the team's future, since he will be asked to take over Barbour's role next year (I actually christened him "Baby Brian" because his skill set so uncannily resembles that of the senior standout), but "Chairman Maodo" reigns supreme based on his killer home stretch (double figures in four of his last five games, including 20 in a big victory against Yale). I'm sorry, Grant. If it makes you feel better, my friend Hayley still thinks you're the cutest.

After the first month of the season, I could've sworn that the women's award would go to Bailey Ott, who was fighting for rebounds and scoring in the post like Charles Barkley. Alas, Ott saw her playing time reduced once the Ivy season rolled around, leaving the door open for spark plug point guard Sara Mead to steal my heart and the Benny.

The Frank Lucas Award: for the biggest hustler on the court.

This one is near and dear to my heart. The highlight of my high school basketball career was taking five charges in one game, which tells you everything you need to know about my high school basketball career. Half the men's team was in the running for this award (I really appreciated how willing Alex Rosenberg was to put his body on the line), but in the end it had to go to John Daniels, who plays tenacious post defense and fights for boards despite usually being smaller than his opponents. Anyone who questions JD's toughness must've missed him tumbling over the scorer's table while diving for a loose ball a couple of weeks ago.

On the women's team, Brittany Simmons is the only choice. The senior guard isn't shy about scrapping on both ends of the floor, and her game highlights the unselfishness that the Frank Lucas Award is all about. She racked up 38 assists (good for second on the team), but it's her willingness to defend and track down rebounds that clinched the Benny.

That's a wrap on the first annual Bennies. I only wish we had time to recognize Steve Frankoski and Miwa Tachibana for their shooting prowess (their 180 Award highlights how they can turn a game around with just a few shots), and my girlfriend will kill me for not finding a way to slip Dean Kowalski in there somewhere. But until next year, these are your champions. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to hit 1020 for the awards show afterparty.

Tyler Benedict is a Columbia College senior majoring in English and Middle Eastern, South Asian and African studies. He is the poet laureate emeritus of the Columbia University Marching Band. The Road Less Traveled runs biweekly.

sports@columbiaspectator.com | @trbenedict

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