As the regular season winds down, the discussion for postseason awards and other laurels heats up. Suddenly the office water cooler or neighborhood establishment becomes the spot to discuss and dissect the merits of potential candidates, while those given autonomy to cast a vote sit down with pen, paper and DVD player, study tea leaves and rub the Magic 8-Ball before filling out the ballot.
This time the assignment is this: Make the case that Marshon Brooks deserves Big East Player of the Year kudos. Although numbers obviously shouldn't be the singular deciding factor in an MVP or POY voter’s mind, if one looks closely at the stats the Providence College senior is putting up this season, they are truly staggering.
Brooks entered yesterday’s game at Marquette topping the Big East in scoring (25.4 ppg), a mark that ranks him second in the entire country behind the much ballyhooed Jimmer Fredette of BYU. There’s also the over seven rebounds Brooks is averaging, another feather he can pin to his Black & White cap. He’s shooting close to 50 percent from the field, which is downright impressive for a high volume scorer. For comparison’s sake, UConn’s Kemba Walker is averaging 23 points on 43 percent.
In many ways this should be an open-and-shut case. Brooks has torched foes with such ferocity that he and he alone should be the lone contender. Such wishful thinking isn’t the case, however.
Want to know why Brooks’ name won’t be etched on the POY trophy? Look no further than Providence’s sub-.500 conference record, which figures to knock his candidacy down several pegs. Producing scoring sprees don’t — and shouldn’t — mean as much when the team is languishing at the bottom of the conference, a cruel reality dealt Brooks and the Friars’ way this winter. The Friars dipped to 3-13 in Big East play after getting torched by the Golden Eagles, 86-62.
Being an MVP has always entailed two major components. Do you have eye-catching numbers that easily jump off the page? Brooks has delivered on that front in droves. Secondly, is your team reaping the benefits from a win-loss standpoint? This is when Brooks gets eliminated from the mix and attention gets paid to other players on NCAA-bound clubs like the ones Walker, Ben Hansbrough (Notre Dame), Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh) and Dwight Hardy (St. John’s) are on.
The thought here is a solid game by either Walker or Hansbrough, accompanied by a win by their respective clubs, carries more weight than the 52-point symphony Brooks conducted against Notre Dame. Like the 43 points he scorched Georgetown for earlier this season, Brooks’ big nights came in Friar losses. To be a legit MVP frontrunner, one must win the game of stats in addition to winning games. Walker and Hansbrough own strong numbers and play on nationally ranked teams. Brooks has even better numbers, yet has the difficult stigma of playing for a struggling unit, one that has had to rely heavily upon him due to a lack of consistent and dependable help from teammates.
That may shed some light as to why Brooks has racked up 506 shots heading into yesterday while the next closest Friar — sophomore Vincent Council has hoisted up 334 attempts.
With the losses mounting for the Friars, so too does the perception that Brooks is producing in games that have little relevance. It’s a treat to watch him cut up defenses, but cold-hard statistics hold little sway when they come in losses. Games like the ones against the Irish and Hoyas become nice mementoes instead of building blocks geared towards enhancing one’s candidacy.
Providence officials have already begun touting Brooks’ merits. A video was unveiled during a recent home game that rattled off his meritorious scoring sprees in a season that has served as his coming out party. The stat lines were present, yet the final scores were omitted, likely by design.
“Usually coaches generally lean to a player from the winning team. I don’t think it has to be,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim during last week’s conference call. “It’s just Player of the Year, so I think it could be open to anybody.”
Brooks had better hope Boeheim’s mindset is shared by the majority of the voters, because believing the race is open to all players regardless of victories and defeats could prove to be his only saving grace.
The decision to hold off judgment and reserve criticism until it’s actually complete is the best way to view the newfound statewide boys’ basketball tournament, which gets underway later this week. There have been plenty of grumblings already – mostly from coaches of teams that were done by the time February vacation rolled around. Let’s just take the open tourney at face value, which is that it’s a chance to settle the debate of who’s truly the best.
By the way, the idea of creating an all-inclusive event for all sports is a radical idea that would never fly. Imagine Mount St. Charles playing the Division III champion in boys’ hockey, or pitting Bishop Hendricken against a Div. II baseball team. The end results would prove disastrous.
We’ll close out with a little girls’ hockey, which gained some steam in this corner after the Burrillville/Ponaganset co-op outfit upended Mount St. Charles in convincing 6-2 fashion last Friday. Not only was the win monumental for the program – Broncos head coach Gary Rouleau mentioned Saturday that lifetime his squad was 0-22-0 against MSC – but also opened the door that maybe, just maybe, the prelude to a championship won’t follow the predictable pattern of crowning mainstays Mount and Bay View.
Burrillville/Ponaganset finished tied for second, which marks the highest regular season finish for a public school participant. Certainly that’s cause for celebration for a sport burnished by the reputation of being Catholic-school driven (Bay View and Mount have gobbled up all the team trophies since the league’s inception in 2002-03, unless you count the years the league took pity on everyone else and created an additional playoff round).
What would be even better is if the Broncos can raise even more eyebrows in the coming weeks, the kind that would bring a newfound interest.