Shamorie Ponds ruled the local college scene this season

There is still plenty to celebrate about college basketball, and now seems like a good time to remind everyone of that.

So, in our annual tradition, here’s this season’s Courting The Area award winners:

Team of the Year: Seton Hall
Though the Pirates haven’t matched the expectations they generated upon rising to No. 13 in the nation, Seton Hall almost certainly will reach a third straight NCAA Tournament, following a 10-year gap between previous appearances. The senior-led group has struggled recently, but also has shown several flashes of its potential, and still has time to make a run as a sleeper.

Honorable mention: Wagner

Haggerty Award (Player of the Year): Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s)
The Brooklyn guard turned one of the most disappointing seasons in school history into one of the most memorable stretches St. John’s has ever seen. New York’s best player became a national star after leading the Red Storm to back-to-back wins over No. 4 Duke and No. 1 Villanova, following those games with a record-setting 44-point performance against Marquette at Carnesecca Arena. Growing into the alpha dog in the absence of Marcus LoVett, Ponds leads the Big East in scoring (21.5) and steals (2.5), while averaging 5.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

Honorable mention: Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra), JoJo Cooper (Wagner), Joel Hernandez (LIU Brooklyn), Tyler Nelson (Fairfield)

Coach of the Year: Bashir Mason (Wagner)
After going 13 years without a regular-season title, the Seahawks won their second Northeast Conference championship of the past three years under Mason. Despite returning just one starter, Wagner got off to its best start to a season since P.J. Carlesimo’s 1979-80 squad, and has averaged the most points (76) since the school’s last NCAA Tournament team (2003), while ranking 25th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (40.6). Mason has posted a winning record in five of his six seasons, claiming at least 19 victories on four occasions.

Honorable mention: Glenn Braica (St. Francis Brooklyn), Joe Mihalich (Hofstra), Tim Cluess (Iona)

Wagner coach Bashir MasonBill Kostroun/New York Post

Newcomer of the Year: Justin Simon (St. John’s)
The Arizona transfer rarely seized the spotlight, but has been vital on both ends of the floor. The sophomore guard averages 11.6 points and leads St. John’s in rebounds (7.2) and assists (5.0), while ranking second in the Big East in steals (2.4).

Honorable mention: Marvin Clark (St. John’s), Pauly Paulicap (Manhattan), Geo Baker (Rutgers), Roland Griffin (Iona), Deion Hammond (Monmouth)

Most Improved: JoJo Cooper (Wagner)
The senior guard has put Wagner in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years. Cooper leads the Northeast Conference in assists (6.4), ranks fourth in steals (1.7), and is one of only two players in the nation to average at least 14 points, six assists and 5.5 rebounds. Cooper had never averaged more than 8.2 points and was a career 32.8 percent shooter, before shooting 42.4 percent this season.

Honorable mention: Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s), Myles Powell (Seton Hall), Blake Francis (Wagner), Raiquan Clark (LIU Brooklyn), Austin Tilghman (Monmouth)

Best win: St. John’s over Villanova (Feb. 7)
The Red Storm’s upset of Duke was more stunning, considering St. John’s hadn’t won in six weeks, but the win in Philadelphia was more impressive. St. John’s was due for a letdown, and Villanova, which had barely escaped with a win at the Garden less than a month earlier, wasn’t going to take the Red Storm lightly. Still, St. John’s earned a win over the nation’s top-ranked team for the first time since 1985, with Ponds scoring 26 points and Simon adding 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Honorable mention: St. John’s over Duke, Rutgers over Seton Hall, Seton Hall over Texas Tech

Lefty Driesell Award (Best Defender): Joseph Chartouny (Fordham)
The 6-foot-3 junior guard hasn’t let the weight of losing affect his always-stellar defense. After finishing third in the nation in steals last season, Chartouny improved his average for the third straight year, and leads the nation with 3.4 steals per game.

Honorable mention: Tariq Owens (St. John’s), Pauly Paulicap (Manhattan), Justin Simon (St. John’s), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s)

Brooklyn Dodgers Award (Wait ‘Til Next Year): St. Francis Brooklyn
The Terriers are already ahead of schedule. St. Francis Brooklyn was coming off a 4-27 season — the school’s third-worst in 98 years — and picked to finish last again in the Northeast Conference, but currently sits just one game out of second place. Led by sophomore guard Rasheem Dunn, the young team will return each of its top-five scorers.

Honorable mention: St. John’s, LIU Brooklyn, NJIT

Washington Generals Award (Wait ’Til Next Generation): Fordham/Rutgers
The Rams and Scarlet Knights sit in a familiar spot, at the bottom of their respective conferences. Fordham hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1992. Rutgers hasn’t been invited since 1991. It’s fair to wonder whether John Calipari could turn these programs around. It’s not clear if even John Wooden would have been able to.

Honorable mention: Army

Troy Dyer Award (Reality Bites): Wagner
In a one-bid league, what happens now is all that anyone will remember. Wagner won the Northeast Conference regular season title two years ago, and had homecourt advantage in the conference tournament, but lost the title game in Staten Island to Fairleigh Dickinson. The Seahawks are undefeated at home (14-0) and need just three more wins on their floor to make sure one of the best seasons in school history won’t be defined as another disappointment.

Honorable mention: Seton Hall

Games of the Week

Seton Hall at St. John’s (Saturday, Noon)
Now, the Pirates are playing for seeding. Seton Hall has recovered from its four-game tailspin and won two straight, essentially sealing a third straight NCAA Tournament bid. Seton Hall won the first meeting with the Red Storm, 75-70, on Dec. 31, though St. John’s was without star guard Shamorie Ponds.

Villanova at Seton Hall (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.)
Are the Pirates capable of making a run in March? There is no better way to find out than a matchup with the No. 3 team in the nation, in front of the Prudential Center’s largest crowd of the season. Seton Hall has lost four straight games against the Wildcats, most recently falling 92-76 on Feb. 4.

Conference Tournaments
The Big Ten Tournament comes to Madison Square Garden for the first time starting Wednesday, with Rutgers playing in the opening round. NEC champion Wagner also hosts its quarterfinal game Wednesday and the MAAC Tournament begins Thursday in Albany, where Iona hopes to win its third straight title.

Rutgers guard Corey SandersAP

Local Power Poll

1. Seton Hall
Record: 19-9, 8-7
Up next: Saturday (Noon) at St. John’s

2. St. John’s
Record: 14-14, 3-12
Up next: Saturday (Noon) vs. Seton Hall

3. Rutgers
Record: 13-17, 3-14
Up next: Sunday (3 p.m.) vs. Illinois

4. Wagner
Record: 21-7, 14-3
Up next: Saturday (4 p.m.) at Mount St. Mary’s

5. Iona
Record: 17-12, 11-6
Up next: Sunday (2 p.m.) at Rider

6. Hofstra
Record: 18-11, 11-6
Up next: Saturday (4 p.m.) vs. Towson

7. Manhattan
Record: 13-16, 8-9
Up next: Sunday (6 p.m.) vs. Quinnipiac

8. Fairfield
Record: 13-15, 8-9
Up next: Saturday (1 p.m.) vs. Monmouth

9. Stony Brook
Record: 12-17, 7-8
Up next: Saturday (7 p.m.) vs. Vermont

10. LIU Brooklyn
Record: 14-16, 9-8
Up next: Saturday (2 p.m.) vs. Sacred Heart