Some MVP questions

2 03 2010

A.J. Slaughter put on somewhat of a brave face today when addressing the media about not winning the Sun Belt Conference Most Valuable Player award, but his answers to questions on the subject told the whole story.

He was more than disappointed.

“I tried not to put too much stock in it,” Slaughter said. “But I felt like I had a good year and was definitely deserving of the award. The award went to (Louisiana-Lafayette’s Tyren Johnson) and he’s a great player, he led his team to some wins and had a great year.

“It’s definitely going to put a chip on my shoulder and on my teammate’s shoulders too. I felt (Steffphon Pettigrew) should have been on the first team, and I thought Jeremy (Evans) should have been on there somewhere. But we’re going to come out and play with some fire in our bellies.

“It’ll feel much better to have that championship trophy at the end of the year than win Sun Belt Player of the Year. … But you just go down the list, look at my team’s success, we started out slow and picked it back up and won some tough games against top opponents in the league. Numbers don’t lie. You can look at the numbers and see where I rank in certain categories. I won’t lie to you and say I wasn’t thinking about this leading up to it, but I really didn’t want to put too much stock in it either way. Just have to move on to the next phase and try to win a Sun Belt Championship.”

Johnson’s  award as SBC POY marks just the third time in Sun Belt history that a player from a team with a losing record was given the honor.

The only other times: Old Dominion’s Chris Gatling in 1991 and New Orleans’ Bo McCalebb in 2007. 

Personally, I can’t make up too much of an argument that Johnson isn’t deserving of the mention here – he did lead the league in scoring and was perhaps the most valuable player on his team. Maybe more valuable individually than any other player on the conference was to his. Maybe not.

But that fact remains, that his team, was 13-16 this season. 

Now if the Ragin’ Cajuns go out and win the league, then this entire topic of debate is for naught. 

I for one was more miffed at the absence of certain players on the POY ballot. Outside of Slaughter and Johnson, voters  had the option of picking Nate Rohnert of Denver, Tim Williams of South Alabama and Michael Vogler of Troy. 

No offense to any of those players, they had fine years – no doubt about it. 

But man alive gang, two of the players on the ballot didn’t even make the first team. 

There was no Desmond Yates – by far the most valuable player for Middle Tennessee, a top three team in the league. No Brandon Hazzard, the best player on the No. 1 team in the league in Troy. And there wasn’t one player, not one, from North Texas – the only 20-plus win team in the conference. 

To me, an MVP should have to not only have an outstanding year individually – but he or she should also have such a year on a team that has success. 

Did WKU have more success than anyone else in the league? Absolutely not. But did the Hilltoppers have more success than Louisiana-Lafayette – absolutely. 

To me, given the candidates on the ballot, Slaughter should have been unanimous. Now if Yates was on the list, if Hazzard was on there or George Odufuwa of North Texas or even Brandon Reed of Arkansas State – things get a bit more interesting. I would have had a hard time not voting for Yates after seeing what he meant to his team, or for Hazzard after seeing how he epitomizes the style Troy likes to play. 

George Odufuwa was a monster – he averaged a double-double for maybe the best and most physical team in the league. He was also the only player to average double-digit points and double-digit rebounds in the conference. 

And Reed was obviously up and down, but my goodness was he impressive the two times I saw him in Diddle Arena and in Jonesboro. 

Slaughter got my vote, but obviously other coaches and media members disagreed – and that’s what makes these things so interesting. Tons of debate.

I guess my biggest issue here is this: Why is the league allowing schools to ‘nominate’ certain players for certain awards? What’s the point.

Every school gives out two votes – one to its coach, and one to the beat writer that covers the school. The coach can’t vote for his own team, and the beat writer is supposed to be objective. 

Every coach has seen every player in the league. Every beat writer has seen every player in the league – in one way or another (or at least they should have if they’re going to vote). 

We know who these guys are. Why not just say – go ahead, pick three teams, choose a top coach and choose the MVPs. 

But I digress, on to the Sun Belt Tournament.

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