What Do The Numbers Say?

Conspiracy theories flew quickly after it was announced on Sunday that Marquette's Jae Crowder was the only unanimous selection to the All-Big East first team. West Virginia's Kevin Jones, while earning a place on the squad, was left off at least one coach's ballot. While most every WVU fan is rightly outraged, let's take a look at the numbers to see what they reveal.

Obviously, those that watched Jones this year see no way that anyone could say he's not one of the five best players in the league. The only possible thing to ding Jones on his three-point shooting percentage, but he still made enough shots (and enough big shots), to deflect even that criticism. So, is there any basis in the numbers to support Crowder over Jones as the big East player of the year?

First, and foremost in the comparison, is minutes played. Jones played 165 more minutes than Crowder this year, staying on the court more than five minutes per game than the Marquette star. While that did allow Jones more chances to pile up numbers, it also deprived him of the rest that Crowder received. West Virginia simply had to have Jones on the floor, while the Golden Eagles could live at times without Crowder's presence. What's more, Jones still had a higher offensive rating than Crowder (125.1 to 123.8, and was only half a point behind Crowder when figuring points cored per 40 minutes of action. Jones also edged Crowder in field goal percentage and free throw percentage, and crushed him in rebounding average and percentages.

Jones doesn't hold a clean sweep in the stats battle, however, Crowder has an edge in assists and steals, while both had the same number of turnovers (41). Crowder's plus/minus average, which is one of the more popular new metrics used to dissect play, is also better. However, it should be noted that a player can easily pad his stats in the late stages of a blowout and boost his plus/minus rating when the game's not on the line – and that's a circumstance that Jones didn't enjoy very often this year.

In the end, though, all-league selections and award winners shouldn't be voted on strictly on the basis of stats. Nor should the sole factor be the eyeball test. It should be a combination of all of these items, and perhaps more. What things does each candidate do that doesn't show up in stats? How valuable is a player to his team? Where would it finish without him? Which guy would you take first if you had your pick of anyone in the league? Put all of those together, and therein lies your player of the year. And as good as Crowder is, when you take all those other factors into account, the selection from here is clear. It's Jones.

In the end, there's no way to tell whether a bias existed due to West Virginia's exit from the Big 12, or another coach's dislike of WVU, or what. The coaches (or whoever voted for each school) aren't likely to reveal their votes, either, so we probably won't ever know who kept Jones off his ballot. One thing is for sure, however. If Jones doesn't win the award, the howls from the Mountain State will have just started to be heard.

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On the flip side, Truck Bryant's selection to the league's third team appears to be a fair one. The Big East, as usual, is loaded with talented guards, and Bryant's spot with Vincent Council of Providence and Dion Waiters of Syracuse is an equitable one. Had Bryant been totally left off the league's honor rolls, then WVU fans would have had something else to complain about, but this selection seems fair.

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