THROUGHOUT THE years, the Gazette has earned a reputation for its work uncovering voter fraud.Perhaps today the staff should investigate the Big East, because the coaches' selection of Marquette's Jae Crowder over West Virginia's Kevin Jones as player of the year cannot be right.As a journalist, my job is to step back and examine the big picture. To point out, for instance, the award is for the player of the year and not most valuable player.It is to point out that Crowder is indeed a fine player. The reason he won probably has to do with the strong finish of the Golden Eagles, spurred by Crowder.Marquette won 13 of its last 15 games and is ranked No. 9 nationally. Going backward, Crowder had 26 points and 14 rebounds against Georgetown; 17 and 12 against Cincinnati; 26 and four against WVU when the Golden Eagles were hurt by suspensions; 27 and seven against Rutgers; 29 and 12 against Connecticut; and 23 and six against Cincy in Milwaukee.But while the award is not for the most valuable player, it is also not for the player of the month. It is for player of the year.And it's a damn shame Jones did not win the honor.
If you're into conspiracy theories (and what true West Virginian isn't?), you're undoubtedly screaming that Jones was snubbed because the Mountaineers unceremoniously dumped the conference and are bolting for the Big 12.There might be a smidge of truth there. The conspiracy theory doesn't rise to the level of those pinned to Roswell, the JFK assassination, global warming and the Apollo moon landing, but it would also be naive to think some coaches aren't ticked with WVU's Dear John letter to the Big East.Proof? Check out the all-conference voting. Jones is one of only three players in league history to lead the Big East in overall scoring and rebounding in the same season. Both - Walter Berry of St. John's in 1986 and Notre Dame's Troy Murphy in 2000 - were named players of the year. Yet Jones, stunningly, wasn't even a unanimous first-team pick. There's no rational explanation for that. None. So draw your own conclusion there.Here is the fact though: Jones outplayed Crowder this season. Period.
Check stats. Jones had a higher scoring average (20 to 17.6). Jones averaged more rebounds (11.2-7.9). The Mountaineer was tops in the league in offensive and defensive rebounds. Jones had a higher shooting percentage (51.5-51.2). He had a better free-throw shooting percentage (77.4-74.3). And, as the kicker, Jones compiled the stats against slightly better competition. According to the latest Rating Percentage Index, WVU's schedule ranks No. 13, while that of Marquette is No. 16.About the only statistic in which Crowder rose above Jones was in steals - appropriate, perhaps, because the Golden Eagle stole one here.Head-scratching. I will say that sometimes voters in season-ending awards enjoy naming players with big-time professional potential. It's nice to be able to check out the awards later and say you voted for John Elway or Carmelo Anthony, etc.But a quick glance shows that mock NBA drafts don't include Crowder. No, Jones isn't projected as a high pick either, but if the object is to name a future NBA star, go with Connecticut's Andre Drummond or Jeremy Lamb. Heck, Syracuse has three players rated higher than either: Fab Melo, Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters. If the coaches wished to honor a player from a top-10 team, well, Syracuse is No. 2.
Bizarre.Please understand this isn't meant to tear down Crowder. This is simply a comparison of two fine players. We are splitting hairs here. Crowder had a terrific season, especially down the stretch. Congrats to him and the Golden Eagles.But Jones did nothing but hold up a young Mountaineer team - and have a better season. He was not a one-man band on a terrible team. More than likely, WVU is bound for the NCAA tournament. When the Mountaineers stumbled, it wasn't because of Jones. Ever.The WVU senior didn't hunt shots. He capitalized on opportunities. He made the most of his senior year.Is Jones a future NBA star? Probably not. More than likely he'll be an early-second-round pick. But Jones earned this award. Jones accomplished something only two others - Berry and Murphy - have in the history of the storied league.Jones was undoubtedly the Big East player of the year in 2011-12. And he should have been honored as such.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.