Big 12 Player of Year award still up for grabs in final week of regular season
Just as the Big 12 title race has yet to be resolved with mere days to go in the regular season, this year’s conference player of the year award remains up for grabs, too.
There’s no one dominating the league the way Blake Griffin did at Oklahoma in 2009 or Kevin Durant did in 2007 — not even close. Nor is Kansas a shoo-in for the crown, making the Jayhawks’ most valuable performer an obvious choice for the honor.
So which player is the most deserving of the hardware in 2019?
Bill Self, who has coached five Big 12 Players of the Year during his 15-plus seasons at KU, doesn’t have a winner in mind quite yet. But he will by the time this wild race wraps up on Saturday.
This year, Self opined, the award should go to the candidate from the league championship team.
“I don't think anybody has separated themselves,” Self said this past week, when asked for his thoughts about a possible Big 12 Player of the Year. “Like, last year, Trae (Young) and Devonte' (Graham) separated themselves from everybody else. You know, you’ve got two first-team All-Americans. This year, we're not going to have that in our league.”
Using Self’s parameters, only three players entered the final week of the regular season in contention for the Big 12’s top individual honor, because only three teams headed into the final two games of league play with at least a somewhat realistic shot at the conference title. (Sorry, Baylor.)
There’s Texas Tech sophomore guard Jarrett Culver, Kansas State senior guard Barry Brown Jr. and KU junior forward Dedric Lawson.
“Whoever’s team plays the best down the stretch and wins the league, to me, that’s the most deserving in this particular year,” Self said.
Entering Monday’s games, here are the individual statistics in Big 12 play for arguably the three best players in the conference:
• Culver: 17.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals, .486 field goal percentage, 14 for 65 on 3-pointers, .706 free throw percentage and — per sports-reference.com — 21.1 Player Efficiency Rating in league games.
• Brown: 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.0 steals, .472 FG percentage, 25 for 75 3’s, .658 FT percentage and 21.1 PER vs. Big 12.
• Lawson: 18.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals, .479 FG percentage, 18 for 44 3’s, .782 FT percentage and 26.5 PER vs. Big 12.
All three candidates have proven to be crucial to their respective team’s success over the past couple of months, but not one of them has emerged as an obvious choice for player of the year in the conference.
And perhaps no separation will ever take place. What if there’s a tie for the Big 12 title this season? Should the existence of co-champions mean co-Big 12 Players of the Year, as well?
“I don’t know,” Self admitted. “Then, it would probably come down to stats or whatever if it’s a tie. But to me, if there is an outright winner, that guy deserves it.”