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Big 12 Player of Year award still up for grabs in final week of regular season

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Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) jumps back to shoot the ball over TCU's Kouat Noi (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) jumps back to shoot the ball over TCU's Kouat Noi (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson) by Associated Press

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.

Kansas State guard Barry Brown, Jr., left, drives to the basket against Texas forward Jaxson Hayes during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Kansas State guard Barry Brown, Jr., left, drives to the basket against Texas forward Jaxson Hayes during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

“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.

Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff, right, watches as Kansas guard Dedric Lawson, left, takes as shot under pressure from Oklahoma State forward Yor Anei during an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 3, 2019. Lawson led scoring for Kansas with 20 points in the 72-67 win over Oklahoma State. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff, right, watches as Kansas guard Dedric Lawson, left, takes as shot under pressure from Oklahoma State forward Yor Anei during an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 3, 2019. Lawson led scoring for Kansas with 20 points in the 72-67 win over Oklahoma State. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt) by Associated Press

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.”

Comments

Dirk Medema 2 months, 3 weeks ago

IMO, it is somewhat like the Heisman, where a bad game can take you out of the mix. That was Brown against KU for me. Averages are fine for the masses, but this is an award for the best player. It seems to me that the best players shouldn't disappear. Have Culver and Lawson also had those disappearing games?

Brown has 2 single digit scoring games and several others that were close.

Culver has one 9 pt game.

Lawson doesn't have any. I think Coach Self is being diplomatic. His guy is averaging a DD, and a solid DD at that. We didn't lose games because of Dedric's lack of production, even with other teams throwing every player and the kitchen sink at him.

John Strayer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I get the team winning conclusion of Bill Self...but if KU doesn't win the regular season title...how do you not give MVP to a double-double machine like Lawson? Especially since he is the focal point of every opposing defense...

Dane Pratt 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I would eliminate Brown from the conversation. To Dirk's point, he disappeared against us in a key match up.I think Wade is more important to K-State than Brown.

Adam Bengtson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I am not sure what the debate is? Quit buying the win the league argument. KU won it 100 times in a row, and have had 5 POY's? Clearly don't have to win the league.

Joe Black 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Sorry Benton but it shouldn't be up for grabs at all. It has never just automatically gone to the conference champ or KU would have 14 MVPs in a row. The league does however have a history of rewarding top scorers. Lawson is that and to top that off, he is also the leagues leading rebounder. Yes there is a shoo-in for the award and his name is Dedric Lawson. Although he isn't as flashy as some of the other candidates, he was been the best and most consistent.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 3 weeks ago

It's not Benton's argument. It is Coach Self's response to a question.

The "best player from the best team" also comes with the qualifier that there aren't players that have separated themselves from the pack, so to argue about KU having 14 titles and only 5 POY awards is more a matter of reading comprehension.

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