Monday, March 8, 2010

Big Ten Men's Basketball Awards a Big Time Snub.

Okay, I don't usually use this blog to vent on issues pertaining to my beloved alma mater, I generally try to leave that to my own Gopher-centric blog.  But this is one time I'll make an exception, as I'm hot about this, and I'd like some non-Gopher fans' opinions. Preferably from those who actually watch Big Ten basketball.

Today the Big Ten revealed their Men's Basketball All-Big Ten teams, and for the most part it appeared they got it right. McCamey, Lucas, Turner, Hummel, and Moore got 1st team.  Fine, a great group that seems right to me (maybe Shurna over E'Twaun?).  2nd team? Sims, Shurna, Battle, JaJuan, and Hughes.  Yup. Seems OK.  3rd team?  Harris, Green, Morgan, Buford, Bohannon. Whatever, things get pretty subjective down on the 3rd team but that's fine.  Player of the Year - Evan Turner.  Very good, definitely deserved it.  So where's the snub you ask?

Gopher senior forward Damian Johnson, affectionately known as 'DJ Swat' in the Gopher blogosphere came up completely empty.  Not making 3rd team or even honorable mention was one thing.  But not making the fucking All-Defensive Team?  This is a snub in the truest sense of the word.  Damian led the Big Ten in steals (58 at 1.9 spg), and was third in blocks (57 at 1.9 bpg, and arguably inch-for-inch the best shot blocker in the conference, given his height relative to the other leading shot stuffers in the conference.

Members of this 2010 All-Defensive team include: Nash, Lauderdale, Jajuan, Kramer, and Hughes.  So who should Damian have supplanted?  Either Lauderdale, Nash, or JJ in my opinion.  Damian is a better all-around defender than any of these guys, and his numbers prove it (at least in the case of Lauderdale and Nash).  Both Lauderdale and Jajuan were slightly better shot blockers, but neither show up anywhere near the top 15 in steals.  And while its true that DJ is not quite as good a rebounder as those two, DJ's ability to defend on the ball, in the post, or on the top of the zone makes him a far more versatile defender than either of these two.  He's also probably the best help side defender in the conference.  Damian's combined rebound, blocks, and steals per game average is 8.2, while JaJuan Johnson is at 10.0, but heavily weighted towards rebounds (7.2 rpg).  Lauderdale is at an 8.0, with 3 times fewer steals per game.  Nash is at a paltry 6.1, and probably played more zone defense than anybody else on the list. Clearly, DJ Swat's balanced approach to defense is not appreciated by the coaches or media.  Which seems odd to me, because he causes all kinds of matchup problems for opposing teams.

What's even more frustrating to me though is that Larry Westbrook was the Gopher's lone representative on the awards sheet, as an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Not because Minnesota only got one award winner (I'm fine with that given the team's balance and depth), but because this award was clearly given to Westbrook because some media writer opened the Gopher's statbook, and saw that LW led the team in scoring (and only by a slim margin).  Westbrook contributed little more than scoring this year, while Johnson did everything.  Case in point, Senior Night was an analog for his entire career of filling up the stat sheet in ways other than just scoring - scoring 10 points while dishing out 11 assists, 5 boards, 3 blocks, and 3 steals.  In 23 minutes.  At least give him a fucking slight modicum of recognition.
Oh, by the way, 2 players from Iowa managed more accolades than Damian. Yeah, that seems about right.

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