Okay, usually these columns are fun. They take a look back at the week in sports and give me an opportunity to show all 20 of my readers how well (or poorly) I can make fun of people.
I was geared up with a column about things like Miami losing by 15 points to Wake Forest, their worst loss since the Nevin Shapiro regime, NBA guard J.R. Smith asking some girl on Twitter if she "was trying to get the pipe", and the playful war of words between the team of Shane Beamer/Aaron Moorehead/Trey Gresh against Antone Exum.
All of that was coming this week...but not any more. Not when I saw that the Naismith Award revealed its top 30 candidates and that Erick Green was not one of them.
In other words, IT IS ON.
In case you weren't aware (probably because it is one of the least relevant awards of all time) the Naismith Men's College Basketball Player of the Year Award is supposedly given to the best player in college basketball each season. Every year about this time they come out with a list of the top-30 candidates, otherwise known as the players who actually have a chance to win.
Obviously this list gets paired down as time goes on, eventually ending with a top-4 by the middle of March Madness. In other words, this list is supposed to represent the best 30 players in college hoops right now.
I carefully read each and every single name, thinking that I missed him. I checked, double-checked and triple-checked. Erick Green is not on that list.
Before I go into a tirade about why this is a bigger travesty than even the Jim Weaver/Thursday night game debacle, let me make one thing incredibly clear: I do NOT think he should win it. In all honesty, I don't think he should even be in the upper echelon of candidates to win. There are other players who are putting up numbers and playing extraordinarily well on tournament bound teams.
That being said, here are the two things that everybody knows about Green:
1. He is the leading scorer in the country
Green is averaging just over 25 points per contest, which is over two points more than MoMo Jones, who is in second (and not nominated for POY either). To put that in perspective the Hokies are averaging a little over 71 points a game, which means that on average when Erick Green and the Hokies take the court, Green is scoring 35 percent of his team's points. That's over every, single, game.
2. His team is 12-15 and has lost 13 of its last 16
This is probably the Naismith Committee's main case against Green. Despite being the leading scorer in the nation his team has been terrible. Every single player in the top-30 is not only on a team with an above .500 record, most of them are on teams locked to make the dance. The argument could be that not only do Green's numbers not particularly matter in terms of game outcomes, but since his team is so bad he gets extra opportunities to create on offense.
That is a fair point. The Hokies have been VERY bad, and utterly abysmal when the ball is not in Green's hands, which is becoming less and less frequent. Any gunner on a bad team can get numbers. Look at Terrell Stoglin, who averaged 21 points (on 16 shots) for Maryland last season. It's not rocket science to know that the more shots you take, the more buckets you'll make.
This is the case against Green. Sure he's putting up good numbers, but his team forces him to do so.
While that very well may be the case, let's dig a little deeper into Erick Green's season. Former ESPN basketball stat guru John Hollinger came out with his stat Play Efficiency Rating (PER) years ago to rate NBA players. Three years ago he started to use it in college hoops as well, rating the most efficient players in the country.
He combines a litany of stats (which you can see at the bottom of this page) to gage a player. It's not perfect, but it pretty accurately measures not only how good a player's stats are, but how efficiently he puts them up. As you may think, it is very difficult for a college guard to put up a high PER because they not only commit more turnovers than big men, but also shoot from farther away. It just makes sense that a center that can shoot 65% and grab 10 rebounds a night would have a high PER, Hollinger's rating seemingly plays right into their strengths.
According to Sports-Reference.com, there have been 33 college players that have put up a PER over 30 since the 2009-10 season. Of those 30, only 4 (Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Charles Jenkins and Jimmer Fredette) were guards.
Green's PER this season? 32.24, putting him ninth on the list of players with top PER seasons since the statistic was used in college ball.
Not only does he put up points with extremely high efficiency, he also does it with the ball in his hand more than any other player in a Big 6 (BCS) conference, which means that he has more opportunities to turn the ball over, miss shots etc.
In other words, Green is having one of the most impressive advanced-metric performances in recent memory. He is not just some high volume scorer that needs a ton of shots to make it to 25 a night, he's a guy who faces double-teams yet scores with the efficiency of a marksman.
If the Naismith Committee wants to say that number doesn't matter because his team is so bad, then why call it Player of the Year? It is not a "Most Valuable Player" award. Not the player who carried his average team on his back all the way to the tournament (a la Jimmer). It is Player of the Year, which in my mind means the player who is having the best year in college basketball.
Green is having one of the best 2012-13 seasons in terms of traditional statistics (25/4/4 a game) and advanced statistics (32.24 PER). You can argue that it is not the best season of anyone in the NCAA and I would probably agree, using wins and losses as a tiebreaker.
The thing that is not debatable in the slightest? The thought that Erick Green is not having one of the thirty best seasons in the country. Green is absolutely "displaying excellence and outstanding achievement in the sport of basketball".