First, congratulations to the Baylor Men's Basketball team. Scott Drew and his staff, along with a collection of talented, selfless players, have put together a memorable season for Baylor fans, culminating in a 15 point drubbing of one of their conference rivals and former #1 ranked Texas Longhorns.
As the Big 12 handed out awards Sunday afternoon, voted on by the league coaches, Baylor players showed up several times.
Ekpe Udoh was named conference newcomer of the year, Udoh and guard Lacedarius Dunn earned second team all-conference, and Tweety Carter received a third team slot. Udoh also made the all-defensive team and all-rookie team.
If you root for the Aggies or the Longhorns, you might think those awards are fitting and all Baylor should expect. But if you're a fan of fairness and logic, and you delve a little deeper into the numbers, you cannot help but think that Baylor got snubbed.
It is always a difficult thing for coaches at big state schools to acknowledge when they are being surpassed by the guys from the conference's only private school. Sometimes it even causes a little heat from their athletic departments. But as has happened in almost every other sport, the men's coaches will eventually adapt to Baylor. But if this year's awards are any sign - that adaptation has not happened quite yet.
Let's start at the top. Coach of the year. There's no doubt Coach Frank Martin had a great year. After all, he attained the same record as Scott Drew - 24-6 overall and 11-5 in conference. In terms of RPI ranking, the teams are very close as of the publishing date of this piece: 6 for Kansas State and 8 for Baylor. And to be fair, Martin beat Drew in their one head-to-head game, albeit by a paltry 2 points in a game that could have gone either way.
So why pick a bone with that one? Well, these same coaches picked Baylor to finish 10th in conference before the season started. That means they thought Baylor would be an easy to beat team, miss the NCAA tournament, miss the NIT, and altogether have a bad year of basketball. Kansas State was picked 4th. So while Martin led his team to a good year, actually, a great year, Scott Drew achieved something truly historic at Baylor. Their best season in 64 years and a whole 8 places better than these same coaches thought he would finish. Drew would have been a logical choice for 2 coaches that finished with the exact same record.
For our next category, simply take a look at these stats:
Player A: 9.8 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, .8 steals
Player B: 9.7 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, .8 steals
Close, no doubt. But certainly Player A looks to be the better defensive player. What if I told you Player A set the record for most blocks in a single season in the history of the Big 12? You would probably tell me Player A should hands down be the defensive player of the year. No sense of logic or fairness could suggest otherwise. Fast forward to Sunday and slap school names on the front of those jerseys - Kansas and Cole Aldrich for Player B and Baylor and Ekpe Udoh for Player A, and guess who won the award? Cole Aldrich. Again, Aldrich is a good player and had a great year defensively - just not as great as Udoh.
Like the coach of the year, it is not only the statistics that suggest the coaches got it wrong, but also the implications. Baylor was known as a pourous team just one year ago. A team against which you could take the ball inside and pretty much get what you wanted. Udoh single-handily changed Baylor's presence. He not only set the all-time blocks mark, but he improved Baylor's entire team efforts which led to dramatic improvements in points allowed and field goal percentage defense.
Let's try the name experiment again with the all Big 12 teams.
Player A: 19.2 ppg, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 42.4 3-pt%, 43.5 FG%, 86.6 FT%, 1.2 steals, .3 blocks.
Player B: 18.9 ppg, 2.7 reb, 3.6 assists, 38 3-pt%, 41.3 FG%, 82.1 FT%, 1.6 steals, .1 blocks.
Player C: 17.9 ppg, 3.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 35.4 3-pt%, 44.6 FG%, 76.8 FT%, .7 steals, .1 blocks.
In conference only, Player A averaged 20.7 pts, Player B 17.8, and Player C 18.3. To summarize, Player A scored more points, grabbed more rebound, blocked more shots and shot the ball a lot better than the other 2 players.
You have probably figured out by now that the obvious statistical winner, Player A, is a Baylor player, specifically Lacedarius Dunn - a 2nd team selection. Player B is Jacob Pullen and Player C is Donald Sloan - both guards and 1st team selections.
Player A: 16 pts, 3.9 assists, 2.3 reb, 1 steal, 33% from 3, 39.1 FG%, 74.4 FT%.
Player B: 15.8 pts, 6.3 assists, 2.8 reb, 1.3 steals, 39% from 3, 43.7 FG%, 82.4 FT%.
Keep in mind on this one, Player B led the league in assists and was top 10 nationally in that category. A true point guard that was also a threat to score if and when his team needed it. In fact, Player A only beats Player B in one category, points, and that's only by 2 tenths of a point.
Player B is Tweety Carter. Player A, Denis Clemente. You will not be shocked to learn Carter was selected to the 3rd team, and Clemente to the 2nd team. I guess the Big 12 coaches no longer appreciate team leaders, guys that pass and shoot, and players that use discretion in their shot selection. Well - at least if that player has Baylor on the front of the jersey. And by the way, don't go looking for the categories 1st teamer Sherron Collins beats Tweety in - it's not points, rebounds, assists, or shooting percentages; rather, it's all the little known categories - media hype, clutchness, preseason expectations, pre-game video respectfulness, and superlatives handed out by media announcers.
The snubbing of Baylor is deep and obvious. The only thing that is not obvious is why it happened. The explanations range from the innocent - votes were cast before the last few games and based on hype from a ranking or two; to the deviant - some Big 12 coaches do not want to see Baylor succeed too much. Since the conclusion is impossible to prove, I will allow you to draw whichever one you want. It's just hard to ignore numbers and facts - but I guess that's exactly what the Big 12 coaches did on Sunday.