Bill Self doesn't use statistics to gauge a player of the year candidate's value
College basketball awards season isn’t too far away now, and when it arrives, Kansas head coach Bill Self knows what he would be looking for in a Big 12 Player of the Year.
Self didn’t make a case Thursday during his weekly press conference for either of his team’s legit contenders, Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson, but rather shared his thoughts on the criteria he would use in selecting a conference’s top performer.
It was during this mental exercise that Self explained why he doesn’t first look to statistics when considering candidates.
“In general terms, I think winning is obviously very important,” Self replied, when asked how to best gauge such awards. “I believe sometimes putting up numbers is overrated a little bit if you have a lot of balance on your team.”
Self knows that from firsthand experience, thanks to one All-Big 12 first team from a decade ago that looks laughable in retrospect.
“I remember when we won the national championship in ’07-’08, we had three guys that should’ve been on first team. And zero made it in the media poll,” Self recalled, “because our leading scorer averaged 13.”
Indeed, the Associated Press All-Big 12 first team in 2008 included not a single Jayhawk. No Darrell Arthur. No Brandon Rush (the aforementioned leading scorer). No Mario Chalmers. All landed on the second team, presumably because KU was so balanced that they split the vote. So the AP first team was comprised of Kansas State’s Michael Beasley, Texas’ D.J. Augustin, Baylor’s Curtis Jerrells, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin and Nebraska’s Aleks Maric.
While one could view this stroll down KU basketball memory lane as a lesson that voters should include Azubuike, Dotson and Marcus Garrett on this year’s All-Big 12 first team ballots, Self also pointed out that Baylor has “such good balance” this season, that the Bears’ individual numbers might go under-appreciated by some when it’s time to dole out postseason accolades.
“They’re not going to have a guy with the elite numbers as far as scoring output,” Self said of BU, led by Jared Butler’s 15.7 points per game and MaCio Teague’s 14.1.
When Self looks to identify the best players around, the hall of fame coach thinks about each man’s value to the team, and what that team would look like without a given player.
“To me those are all things that are somewhat intangibles,” Self said, “but I think they all would play a huge role in who would be a player of the year in every conference.”
Few would be surprised to see either Azubuike or Dotson take home the 2020 Big 12 Player of the Year. And Garrett has been so crucial to KU’s success this season that some would argue the junior guard and defensive savant is actually KU’s most valuable player.
Even Self admitted it can be difficult from week to week to identify which of KU’s three most important players is the team’s MVP. Not that he cares to choose one.
“We’ve had a pretty decent year up until this point, and we’ve had three guys play particularly well,” Self said of his No. 1-ranked Jayhawks. “But I think it will probably distinguish itself over the next three games, because guys have got to play in the biggest games, and these three are obviously pivotal if we’re going to have a chance to win the league.”
Regardless of how the awards and all-this-or-that teams shake out, KU has three team-first players in Azubuike, Dotson and Garrett, who are poised to take the Jayhawks on a deep run through the NCAA Tournament.