Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Alando vs. the All-Father

There seems to be some debate among the media and the various coaching fraternities about who's the Big Ten's MVP for this past college basketball season. Specifically, several stories have come out today claiming great consternation between the choice of Alando Tucker and Greg Oden as league MVP. My response-- are you kidding me? Have people forgotten that the "V" in MVP stands for "Valuable"?

Ohio State (originally known as Ohio A&M College), was 6-1 without Oden, the only loss being a competitive nine point defeat at the home stadium of the semi-pro team known as North Carolina. With Oden, they certainly improved their interior defense and rebounding. But I believe that even if Oden had missed the entire season, Ohio State would still be no worse than second in the Big Ten. Look back at their schedule. Maybe they lose at home to Michigan State and lose the second Wisconsin game. In non-conference play, they probably lose to Tennessee (Oden had a huge game in that one). That's three more losses, two more conference losses. I don't see what other games they lose without Oden. Their only match-up against Indiana, a seven point win? Debatable--Othello Hunter is a good interior player, certainly good enough to bother D.J. White. They'd still lose to Florida and still lose at Wisconsin. No way that Penn State beats them either time, regardless of how close the games appeared. A final loss at Michigan? Maybe, but given Michigan's horrid record in the clutch, also very debatable. So without Oden, I am very comfortable estimating that Ohio A&M would be 24-6, 13-3 in the conference, tying for best record overall, but losing the first tiebreaker to Wisconsin after getting beat twice.

Now where would Wisconsin be without Tucker? Lets see-- losing to Marquette on the road in December (28 points, 5 boards), losing to Pitt at home in December (32 points, 10 boards), and losing at home to Winthrop in November (21 points in a 3 point OT win), and likely losing on the road at Georgia (29 points, 8 boards in a hard fought ten point win). That's three more certain non-conference losses, and probably a fourth as well. During the regular season, with no Tucker, the Badgers would have lost at Nortwestern (Wisconsin was down at the half, struggled the entire game,and only Tucker's inspired play in the second half allowed UW to pull that out--17 points, in the second half, 8 rebounds), lost at home to Ohio State (17 points, 6 rebounds in a narrow win), lost at Illinois (17 points, 8 boards, plus a clutch offensive rebound and falling down assist late in the game), lost at Minnesota (29 points, 9 rebounds in a closer-than-it-looked 13 point win), and lost at home to Michigan State (26 points, exactly half of Wisconsin's total points). Do people not realize that Alando is Wisconsin's only player who can consistently create offensive opportunities? Kammron is a good jump-shooter, but only a decent penetrator. When he drives, he relies more on getting fouled than getting to the basket. Butch, until he dislocated his elbow, was a good jump shooter and a decent low post threat, although not against athletic defenders. Alando can post people up, hit turnarounds from the wing, drive to the basket, hit three pointers (although not that consistently), and finishes around the basket like no one else on the team. And when asked, he can rebound like a power forward. Simply put, he is the most athletic player on the team, the best leader, and the best scorer. It's like if you combined Brett Petway's athleticism, Carl Landry's scoring ability and Mateen Cleaves' leadership. The Badgers would likely be 8-8 in the league without Alando, and would have had at least 3 more non-conference losses, making them a 19-11 team. With that type of a record, I doubt they would even be ranked. But look at where Tucker has taken Wisconsin--ranked fourth in the nation, 13 league wins (a school record) and 27 regular season wins (another school record).

Alando is a once in a decade player for Wisconsin-- a freakishly athletic and skilled fifth-year senior who is still around only due to injuries and a perceived lack of fit in the NBA. Oden is a ferociously talented player with uncanny defensive timing, who Ohio State is borrowing for two seasons at the most. He's a fine rebounder, his offensive game is improving, and he closes the lane on defense. In fact, there's a strong argument to be made that he should be Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten. But there's no way he's the most valuable player in the league, because his value to his Ohio A&M pales in comparison to Tucker's value to Wisconsin. Hell, Oden's not even the most valuable player on Ohio State.

Conley should beat him out for Big Ten freshman of the year hands down. Conley broke the Ohio State single season record for assists, and lead the league in the category. He led the league in assist to turnover ratio. He led the league in steals. He's the best dribble penetrator in the Big Ten. He beat Michael Flowers, Wisconsin's best defender and one of the best defensive guards in the league, off the dribble on the most important possession of the season when Flowers knew he'd be driving. But even then, Flowers couldn't stay in front of him. After getting by Michael, Conley hit a runner with his right (non-shooting hand) to win the game and the regular season championship. And he did all of this playing point guard, the game's most mentally demanding position. And that play was typical of his performance throughout the season. Conley consistently made important plays down the stretch to win games, like Saturday's game against Michigan. Anyone who votes for Oden as freshman of the year over Conley isn't thinking straight.

Thus, I think it's unambiguous, even though Oden's team accomplished more, Tucker is far, far more valuable to Wisconsin than Oden was to Ohio State. Without Tucker, Wisconsin is like Illinois this year-- a good defensive team that can't score, and is stuck in the middle of the Big Ten pack. Without Oden, Ohio State is still one of the best teams in the league. And Oden isn't even the most valuable player, or the most valuable freshman on his own team. Conley is.

So, Dear Media and Coaches: look at what happened, think about which player was really the most valuable, and make the right decision. Given the growing attention given to talented high school players, part of our national obsession with "the next big thing," Oden has the hype behind him. But Tucker got the results. As Public Enemy memorably said, "don't believe the hype."

No comments: