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Jarrett Culver over Dedric Lawson for Big 12 Player of the Year a simple case of one guy winning more

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Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) shoots over Kansas' K.J. Lawson (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) shoots over Kansas' K.J. Lawson (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson) by Associated Press

If Dedric Lawson is cool with it, you’d think Kansas basketball fans would be too.

Saturday afternoon, following KU’s 78-70 victory over Baylor in the regular-season finale, Lawson was asked whether he thought he should be player of the year in the Big 12 Conference.

His answer?

“I guess so.”

Lawson’s numbers certainly made for a strong case — stronger than those words, anyway.

But give the guy credit for getting it just hours before Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver was named Big 12 player of the year. First of all, Lawson didn’t come to Kansas for individual awards and to be all about himself. The team-first, happy-go-lucky Kansas leader has shown that throughout the season.

Second, Lawson clearly recognizes that winning is the most important thing in sports and, even if his numbers were better, two other Big 12 players led their teams to more conference wins than he delivered at Kansas.

To Lawson, and many others, that has to mean something.

The 6-foot-9 Memphis transfer became one of just a handful of players in the history of the league to finish a season leading the conference in scoring (19.1 points per game) and rebounds (10.6), and his 20 double-doubles made him the kind of go-to guy that Kansas could count on for production throughout the 2018-19 season.

But unlike Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, the back-to-back Big 12 players of the year who came before him at Kansas, Lawson could not lead his team to a Big 12 title.

That, of course, did not fall fully on his shoulders. There were plenty of reasons Kansas saw its 14-year streak of Big 12 titles come to an end this season, not the least of which was the strong play by co-champs Kansas State and Texas Tech throughout the conference season.

But there’s little doubt that KU failing to deliver Big 12 title No. 15 to Lawrence cost Lawson in the player of the year voting.

Think about it. Had Kansas found a way to extend the streak, even if it were just by winning a share of the title, it would have been next to impossible for voters to turn down the guy who delivered numbers that landed him in the same category with names like Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Michael Beasley.

All three of those Big 12 legends finished a season averaging double digits in scoring and rebounding and all three were the clearcut choice for player of the year.

That, no doubt, was another factor in Lawson not winning it. Numbers aside, he was not the clearcut choice. Even KU coach Bill Self said strong cases could be made for K-State’s Barry Brown Jr., and Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, who wound up winning it in the eyes of the Big 12 coaches. The Associated Press pick will come out Tuesday, but don’t expect Lawson to win that one either.

A popular criticism of Culver from Kansas fans around the Internet is that he didn’t finish as high in the overall rankings as Lawson. That’s true in most cases.

Culver’s 18.4 points per game put him third, less than a point behind Lawson. His 6.3 rebounds per game put him in 10th place, more than four rebounds behind KU’s leader. And he finished behind Lawson in field goal percentage (49.1 to 48.4), free throw percentage (80.3 to 70.2) and blocks (33 to 12).

What’s even more interesting is a look at the numbers put up by these two players in the four games they played against the other two Big 12 teams that were still in the race heading into the final week of the season.

Culver and Lawson both went 2-2 against the other two teams — Culver 2-2 against KU and K-State and Lawson 2-2 against Tech and K-State — but in those games alone, Lawson’s numbers were noticeably better. Again, the production didn’t lead to any more victories, and wins and losses is really what this thing came down to, but in games against the Big 12’s best Lawson’s 18.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists were better than Culver’s marks of 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

However, if you toss in their games against Baylor, which finished fourth, you’ll notice that the gap between Lawson and Culver shrinks ever so slightly, with Lawson holding a 2.7-point edge in scoring, instead of 3.3, a 2.7-rebound edge on the glass, instead of 4.0, and averaging less than half as many assists.

What's more, according to KenPom.com, Lawson ranked in the Top 160 nationally in five categories — percentage of possessions used, percentage of shots taken, offensive rebound percentage, defensive rebound percentage and fouls drawn per 40 minutes.

Culver, meanwhile, finished in the Top 160 nationally (higher than Lawson in each one) in three categories — percentage of possessions used, percentage of shots taken and fouls drawn per 40 minutes.

Make sense yet?

You can throw out all of the numbers you want to throw out and dissect splits and analytics until your heart’s content. But nothing is going to change the fact that Culver led his team to two more Big 12 victories than Lawson.

“Everything comes with winning,” Lawson said Saturday. “And, this year, we failed to do that.” Stats are great. But wins are better.

Sometimes things really are that simple.

Comments

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 5 months, 1 week ago

God I hope we have the same team coming back next year.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 5 months, 1 week ago

There is a new record available. 15 conference titles in 16 years.

Dirk Medema 5 months, 1 week ago

We already have that. Nothing new. 16 in 17 years and 19 in 22 as well. The streak is amazing, but 19 in 22 is up there with some of the home winning streaks we've seen in the past.

Dale Rogers 5 months, 1 week ago

I have always believed player of the year should go to the best player regardless of how his/her team did. One component, of course, could be how much they helped their team, made them better, but if the best overall player helped his team, expected to finish last in the conference, and because of his performance they ended up 2nd or 3rd, why should he/she be overlooked in favor of someone whose performance was not quite so good but they're on the first-place team?

Bj Cassady 5 months, 1 week ago

Maybe there should be a Player of the year (goes to the player on the winning team) and a Most Valuable Player (best player in the league, regardless of the teams standing). D Lawson hats off to a great season. MVP!

Blake Brown 5 months, 1 week ago

The award is called Player of the Year. Not Most Valuable Player. Not the player who helped his team win the most, but POTY. That should translate into INDIVIDUAL stats, not TEAM W and Ls. I totally disagree with the rationalisation used above. Its an individual award and if that is not what is was intended to be, then it is mis-named.

The Big Xll Player of the Year is clearly Dedric Lawson.

David Friend 5 months, 1 week ago

Without Dedric we are sub 500. He was hurt by our pre-season expectations.

Brett McCabe 5 months, 1 week ago

Were the expectations that he'd lead the league in scoring and rebounding and collect 20 double-doubles? Those are pretty lofty expectations. Put this on Bill for bad-talking his own star player.

Dirk Medema 5 months, 1 week ago

Nuances

David says Our expectations not His expectations. David is absolutely correct that we fell far short of the preseason top 4 rankings, not that it was Dedric's fault.

Brett you are absolutely correct that he exceeded expectations of most. Most. I see Coach counter-lobbying because he knows there is much more that Dedric can accomplish, and that the team needs him to accomplish to really excel. Coach started the year talking about Dedric being one of the best passing Bigs we've had, which should translate into teammates excelling. Has that really happened consistently this year? And wasn't the half-time message from Coach about the lack of boards, and he goes out and blows it away.

Coach is such a master of motivation as he sees so much more in each game and games down the line than we can even fathom. He needs Dedric to peak in the next month and knows there is so much more he can do to make the team better.

Gary Wilson 5 months, 1 week ago

If they're using the best player on the best team in the league method, we should have just had 14 Big 12 players of the year, in a row. The kid got robbed.

Brett McCabe 5 months, 1 week ago

This is Matt posting an awful article. If you are both the leading scorer and leading rebounder on a team that was only two games out of the championship circle, then you win the POY. It's a travesty and Bill didn't help things by trying to motivate his team by saying that the Conference Champ should have the award bestowed on them.

What's Dedric share with Durant and Beasely? The two most important statistical categories.... and the same position.

It's payback. And Bill didn't help his own guy, who deserved the award.

I miss actual critical journalism on this site.

Matt Tait 5 months, 1 week ago

Thanks for the feedback, Brett. I’d love to be critical if I disagreed. But I don’t. Dedric was great. Culver was too. One guy led his team to a title while putting up very good numbers. The other didn’t. Like I said, sometimes it really can be that simple. At least for me.

As for Self, I don’t think anything he did or said was done with the idea of helping or not helping Dedric. Self has said for years that he favors the idea of the best player on the best team winning the award. That’s nothing new.

Sorry you thought the article was awful and sorry the voting upset you so much. Rest assured that both Dedric and Self have moved on and are focusing on this team making a run and nothing more. We’ll see if they have it in them.

I thought Newcomer of the Year was a nice consolation prize and is something Dedric should certainly be proud of and no doubt is.

Thanks again for the comments and for contributing to our site!

Brett McCabe 5 months, 1 week ago

Thanks for assuring me how both Dedric and Bill feel. It's good to know that they don't feel bad about a Jayhawk getting robbed.

Time for Bill to go. Nobody should ever have to apologize for their program. Get it done or don't but don't make excuses. It's difficult, of course, when you have to spend time cheering for legacy generating all-time talents like Wiggins, (toss in the towel) Embiid, don't hurt yourself on a loose ball Oubre, mr. academic Selby and so many others.

Bill has won at historic levels. But it's the only thing he's done. Charm sucks. Give me a guy who believes in what he's doing. Here's guessing the T Boone will give you a job and a raise tomorrow. I'm tired of the stink around this program and pretend journalists who won't call it out because they are afraid to do their stinking jobs.

Dirk Medema 5 months, 1 week ago

Just amazing. If Bill stays will you leave? You could choose another school to cheer for. Just a thought.

David Friend 5 months, 1 week ago

I am sorry Matt but in this case you are wrong although I respect your opinion. We really exceeded what we should of done considering we lost Doke SDS and LaGerald. The fact that we were in the title hunt until the last week says volumes for what Dedric meant to the team. He gets injured and we are not even a tournament team. I would say he was easily the MVP of the league and the player of the year.

Joe Joseph 5 months, 1 week ago

Like Brett, I'm a bit stunned Self didn't sell Dedric a little harder. Or at all, really.

Do we know what the vote tally was among the coaches? I'm guessing Self and Squeaks voted for Culver. Maybe a random vote for Barry Brown?

I actually think the AP will be more likely to vote Dedric as POY.

Edward Daub 5 months, 1 week ago

I will bet you a Culver's Wisconsin butter burger and milk shake, the coaches vote was a Tie! Fran Fraschilla was asked to cast the tie-breaking vote (just kidding)! Fran has been commenting that both Culver and Brown trump Lawson for POY.

Dane Pratt 5 months, 1 week ago

He doesn't sound too upset but if it's important enough to return next season he can win B12 POY and possibly the Naismith Award.

Dirk Medema 5 months, 1 week ago

My guess Coach is already lobbying with Dedric to get hardware this year. He knows that Dedric can dominate, and even more than 20/10, and lead the team to greater achievements. If KU wins this week, or any of the next weeks, there's a good chance it's because Dedric steps up his game, and those around him as well. He has the MVP's as a carrot before him. It too will almost undoubtedly go to the best player on the winning team.

Creg Bohrer 5 months, 1 week ago

That maybe the way they do it, but it doesn't make any sense to me. The player that played the best in conference should be poy.

Michael Leiker 5 months, 1 week ago

Ok, I'll admit to just posting based upon the title of the article and some of the posts, but Come On!

One is a guy who you pretty much can go to any gym in town and watch a mid-high level pick up game and see a player who is basically the same skill set/level who just doesn't happen to be 6'9" with exceedingly long arms. The other is a guy who is a ridiculous athlete with almost the same skill set and can posterize pretty much any player in the college game whenever he wants to.

Simply no comparison. You can't win championships with a Lawson type player as your #1 guy. Guy killed KU on the defensive end all year.

Armen Kurdian 5 months, 1 week ago

Culver's numbers may be lower because he had a better overall supporting cast? Maybe that entered into it.

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