Jardine did everything he needed to do over the course of a season to silence his critics – especially when it counted most. Not only did he lead the team in assists once again while notching second-team All-Big-East honors, but he elevated his game in the NCAA Tournament, even dramatically upping his one glaring flaw that most felt would cost the Orange a game – free-throw shooting. Jardine went 10 of 12 from the line in the Big Dance and led SU in scoring and assists in the Elite Eight run. Not bad for someone who was thought of as a liability.
Waiters did it all in 2011-12. He scored, he passed, he defended and he even remained patient when most thought he wouldn't while riding the bench all season long on the way to Sixth Man of the Year honors in the Big East. Waiters scored nearly 13 points per game and led the team in steals while contributing a pair of rebounds per game. Like Jardine, he elevated his game in the post season – scoring a career-high 28 points in the Big East Tournament and placing second to the senior in points per game in the NCAAs, notching 13 points each time out.
Melo did it all on both ends of the floor. Not only did he more-than double his scoring average as a sophomore, but he put the defense on his back as he anchored the 2-3 zone in the process. Melo earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors while averaging a gaudy 2.93 blocks per game along with a team-leading 5.8 rebounds per game. However, he was ineligible for NCAA Tournament play because of what is believed to be an academic issue related to his mid-season ineligibility that cost him a trio of games.
Fair is on this list because of his consistency. While the numbers don't jump out at you (8.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), he did it on a night-in, night-out basis. When rebounding was an issue, as it commonly was, Fair was the front court man to pick up the slack – yet he also showed ability to put the ball in the basket with a mid-range jumper or even a posterizing dunk. He did tail-off a bit in postseason play and James Southerland swiped some of his minutes.
Joseph was another constant for SU. He led the team in regular-season scoring at 13.4 points per game and he also notched the most made three-pointers on the team with 51. The senior was solid on the boards, pulling down 4.7 per game and he was even second on the team in steals. But like Melo and Fair – once the NCAA Tournament was the task at hand - Joseph couldn't get the job done. His scoring, rebounding and even steals were down in terms of average despite playing the most minutes of any player on the roster.
Winner: Jim Boeheim
That's right. Not a typo.
Boeheim was even more consistent than Fair this season, holding the team together through the Bernie Fine mess, his own law suit, the pair of Melo ineligibility concerns and even through reports of inconsistency with the team's drug testing policy and the APR. Boeheim was one of only a handful of coaches, at best, who could have not only dealt with all the distractions in a way that his team would not be affected, but he did so by continuing to win. The team's 34-3 record over the course of the season, which included a 17-1 record in the conference an spotless record at the Carrier Dome, despite everything including dealing with 10 very talented players that all expect to play is proof that the Hall-of-Famer is indeed the Most Valuable Person (or Player) on the SU roster – and it wasn't even close.