In 2010, with Peyton Manning at quarterback, the Indianapolis Colts went 10-6 and won a division title. In 2011, with Manning on the shelf following neck surgery, the Colts went 2-14 and had the worst record in the NFL.
Because the 2011 Colts were (minus Manning) pretty much the same team as the 2010 version, their dramatic drop-off inspired a midseason swell of support for Manning -- already a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player -- winning his fifth MVP without throwing a pass or taking a snap, since his absence proved how valuable he truly was to the Colts.
For the 2012-13 Seattle U basketball team, the MVP-in-absentia argument could've been made for freshman Deshaun Sunderhaus after a particularly revealing 68-46 home loss to Utah State in early February.
One month before the Redhawks would host the Aggies at KeyArena, Sunderhaus had played the best game of his career against Utah State on the road. That night, the 6-9, 230-pound power forward put up 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in a game SU lost by single digits. And just one week before the Redhawks-Aggies rematch, Sunderhaus posted 17 points and 12 boards in a close loss to Texas State.
But an ankle injury forced Sunderhaus to miss SU's home date with Utah State, and the Redhawks suffered without him.
Seattle U was outrebounded 44-25 in the blowout loss. Despite missing 40 field goal attempts and two free throws, the Redhawks managed just five offensive boards. Little-used backup T.J. Diop stepped in to lead SU with six rebounds, and he only played 12 minutes off the bench.
Senior forward Chad Rasmussen was SU's top scorer with 10 points, the only Redhawk to crack double figures. Without Sunderhaus' low-post offense, Seattle U was forced into several low-percentage shots on a night when they were already cold. They shot 31 percent from the field and 10 percent from three-point range, going 2-for-20 beyond the arc. The 46-point output was SU's lowest of the season.
Sunderhaus missed one more game after Utah State -- another lopsided loss at Denver -- and in his first game back, had 14 points in a close loss to eventual WAC champion New Mexico State. He finished the season averaging 9.4 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds.
In a mostly unexpected breakout freshman campaign, Sunderhaus proved as much with his absence as he did with his presence just how valuable he was -- and how valuable he will be -- to the Seattle U program.