It's time to hand out some hardware today, at least figuratively speaking. Below are my selections for Player of the Year in each major conference, as well as nationally. I should note that I often differ from conventional wisdom on these, because my tendency is to look for players who really had to shoulder a disproportionate burden for their teams. Because no team can succeed as a one-man band, my choices tend to come from teams further down the conference ladder. When I see a team with a lot of talent, my thought is that once everybody's an MVP candidate it means no one is--that means you've got a great team, not an MVP. Perhaps it's not fair to players on those teams, who might well be good enough to carry the load if they had to. But then again, not only are they getting the rings, they're also getting kudos from the mainstream voters. So the
under-the-radar players have to settle for a little thumbs up from the Notebook. Without further adieu, the envelopes please...
BIG EAST: Scottie Reynolds (Villanova). After that huge spiel, I open with a conventional pick from a power team. But Reynolds deserves it. The overall 'Cat backcourt that includes Reggie Redding and Corey Stokes faded down the stretch, the primary cause of Villanova's fall from the elite. And they don't have muscle up front in the best of circumstances. Reynolds has been the constant and the reason they are still a threat to reach the Final Four. Honorable mention goes to South Florida's Dominque Jones and Providence's Jamine Petersen.
ACC: Duke's got three great players in Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. But that violates my theory of too many MVP candidates spoil the stew. Whereas at Maryland, Greivis Vazquez was most definitely "the man", and he also led his team to a piece of the title with Duke.
This is the second straight conference where Notebook standards and mainstream standards find harmony, as Vazquez is likely to win the award. However had Virginia's Sylvan Landesberg not gotten hurt, he was having a season that outpaced everyone else. Another honorable mention goes to Clemson's Trevor Booker.
BIG TEN: Evan Turner is the best player in this conference, perhaps in the country. But he did miss some time at the start of the conference schedule (and a little bit before that as well) with a broken back. It was symptomatic of top players in this league. Kalin Lucas, last year's winner had a sprained ankle for Michigan State, Jon Leurer broke his wrist for Wisconsin (and is now back), and the year ended with Robbie Hummel blowing out his knee for Purdue. For Turner, the question is how much does his missed time have to be held against him and that's a subjective call in what's already a very subjective debate. Candidates who played
every game are led by Wisconsin's Trevon Hughes, Purdue's E'Twaun Moore, Illinois' Demetri McCamey and Northwestern's John Shurna. Which of these four should emerge as the challenger to Turner? And should anyone displace the magnificent Buckeye forward? It's time for full disclosure. Regular readers know I'm a Badger fan, and my Facebook profile photo has Hughes' picture in it. That obliterates any sense of objectivity. I'm going to be a fan and root for Hughes. But objectively, I recuse myself from the case due to conflict of interest.
SEC: DeMarcus Couisins at Kentucky is going to win it, and I won't protest too loudly. But here's another case where you have a genuinely great player surrounded by John Wall and Patrick Patterson. The UK supporting cast, which includes Eric Bledsoe at guard, makes it impossible to completely focus on one player. Opponents who prepared for South Carolina had no such conundrum to deal with. But Devan Downey still
had a great year and led his team to upsets for both the Wildcats and Vanderbilt this past Saturday. And he lifted an otherwise terrible team to a winning season. That's an MVP for me. Honorable mention to Georgia's Trey Thompkins.
BIG 12: The best teams in this league, Kansas and Kansas State are well-balanced with no obvious POY candidates. I would hope that the Notebook choice out of the middle class is another one that will get some mainstream recognition. I'm talking about the fabulous James Anderson of Oklahoma State, who seemed to churn out 20 & 30-point games with machine-like efficiency. I love Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn, but as good as his year was, Anderson was in the stratosphere. This is a no doubt about it pick. Another honorable mention for dynamic duo goes to Iowa State's forward combo of Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap. Get these guys some help in the backcourt!
PAC-10: This is a two-man race between two great
candidates at the forward position. Quincy Pondexter at Washington and Stanford's Landry Fields. I'm going with Fields on the grounds that Pondexter has Isaiah Thomas at guard to take some heat off, while Fields is going it alone. Honorable mention to Cal guard Jerome Randle.
For National Player of the Year, I like Anderson as the best of the lot. If this were the Heisman Trophy and we were inviting five players to New York City, I'd send out invites to Fields, Pondexter, Downey and Vazquez. For Evan Turner, I can see the case for overlooking his missed time to win Big Ten honors. But that's a big obstacle to putting him in the national mix with players who were there every game.
Tomorrow the Big East tournament starts. I'll be back with picks on who will win each one before the ball is tipped in Madison Square Garden. And more spring training baseball reports are going each daily at www.thebaseballnotebook.com