Votes will be counted for postseason honors in college basketball this week. I’ve always believed the game would be better served by waiting until the end of the NCAA Tournament. It should be like a college course where a final exam accounts for a percentage of the grade.
But nobody wants to wait until April to identify award winners, so we vote, and selecting a player of the year in the Big 12 could prove difficult.
Same with the Southeastern Conference.
Top candidates in the Big 12 in no particular order: Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. Plenty of others are having outstanding seasons, like Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten and Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis.
How to break it down?
Ejim leads the Big 12 in scoring (18.9) and is second in rebounding (8.6). But is he the MVP of his own team?
Kane is a few rebounds away from ranking in the Big 12’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and free-throw percentage.
“You’ve got to look at the whole body of work,” said Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, when asked about MVP criteria. “Over the course of the season, what they did to help their team win, and make their teammates better.”
Wiggins’ combination of offense and defense probably makes him the top candidate on a team that has clinched the Big 12 championship. Some consider the best player on the top team as the leading criteria.
“When it gets close, you’ve got to go with the team that’s the most successful,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “It’s all about winning. That’s who should get the awards.”
Smart, like Wiggins, entered the year as a preseason All-American. But Smart missed three games while serving a suspension. His numbers are about the same as last year, when he was the Big 12’s player of the year, and the Cowboys entered Monday’s game against Kansas State tied for seventh.
The SEC’s player of the year may have a leader in Florida senior guard Scottie Wilbekin.
“When the game’s on the line, and they’ve been in seven or eight nail-biters, the ball is in his hands. He either makes the shot, or creates a foul or shot for a teammate,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “The kid’s really done some special stuff.”
Wilbekin, who was suspended for the first five games for a violation of team rules, averages 13.9 points and 3.9 assists. He could lead a group that includes teammate Casey Prather, Missouri’s Jabari Brown, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes.