Happy Friday! Click here for last week’s watch and a quick introduction to the rankings. Since the race is tightening up and there aren’t many surprises, we’ll get right to it today.
Last week, it went 1) Jaylen Adams, 2) TJ Cline, and 3) Marquise Moore. This week I’ll make it easier and say they’re all in a tie for first. You can make arguments for each of them, but ultimately the separation is miniscule and each of these guys is a strong finish away from claiming the award. Player of the Year ultimately comes down to one of these guys and everyone else is vying for a spot on the first team.
TIED FOR FIRST: Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
18.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.1 blocks
23.4 PER, 27.7% USG, 1.47 PPFGA
Last week I said Jaylen’s place at the top was shaky. Well, he went 7 of 22 shooting against GW and La Salle but posted twenty three assists combined in those two games. It also helped that he went 18 of 19 at the line, so his scoring efficiency actually increased. Jaylen has been in a brutal shooting slump since the Duquesne game, shooting 21 of 70 over that five game stretch, but he’s making up for it by getting to the line and dishing dimes. If his shot starts falling, watch out.
ALSO TIED FOR FIRST: TJ Cline, Richmond
19.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 0.2 blocks
27.7 PER, 29.9% USG, 1.47 PPFGA
I’ve given TJ plenty of grief in this column because he can’t play defense, so now I’ll argue the other side. TJ’s offensive game is so good that it dramatically outweighs his defensive shortcomings. This isn’t the NBA where teams can isolate a scorer on him over and over until the defense breaks. It’s easy enough to hide TJ on defense and feature him on offense, which is exactly what Richmond does. Cline’s defense sticks out like a sore thumb because Richmond plays so much four guard and he can’t protect the paint, but that still doesn’t come close to offsetting what he can do with the ball in his hands. As a Mason fan who was at the most recent Mason-Richmond game, I can tell you I was hoping we’d get chances to expose him on defense, but was terrified every time he had the ball. Still, despite his tremendous box score, it’ll be tough to put him ahead of the other two knowing how well they defend.
ALSO ALSO TIED FOR FIRST: Marquise Moore, George Mason
17.5 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks
24.7 PER, 27.4% USG, 1.37 PPFGA
Marquise Moore moves into the tie for first this week as he continues to lead our upstart Patriots through a season that has exceeded all expectations. After collecting 23 rebounds last week Moore is now one of two players averaging a double-double in conference, and he does it while carrying a tremendous workload for a Mason roster that’s ultimately limited. He’s the primary initiator and scorer, and he has the responsibility of guarding the other team’s best perimeter player every night. He also recently started shooting threes and making teams pay for the tendency to leave him open by eight feet when he’s outside the arc. His shot still isn’t pretty but he’s 8 of 15 from three in the past five games because he’s only shooting when teams don’t bother to contest.
DARK HORSE: Kendall Pollard, Dayton
15 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.9 blocks
25 PER, 27.1% USG, 1.72 PPFGA
Check out my post from last week arguing why Kendall Pollard is Dayton’s best Player of the Year candidate. Long story short – Charles Cooke has been quietly inefficient all year, and Pollard has Dayton’s highest usage rating. He’s scoring more points in conference than his teammates, and he’s doing it more efficiently on a larger workload.
STILL IN CONTENTION
Justin Tillman, VCU
14.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
26.9 PER, 22.9% USG, 1.41 PPFGA
Tillman is the other player averaging a double-double in conference. The problem is he averages one steal, one assist, and one block every other game. That means in a game where he gets one from one category, the next game he’ll get one from the other two categories. In all seriousness, his lack of a box score contribution outside of points and rebounds is ultimately going to cap his POY potential in what’s been a great season.
Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington
17.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks
23.3 PER, 30.7% USG, 1.34 PPFGA
Last week I said Cavanaugh was basically 80% of Peyton Aldridge. That’s less true this week after Cavanaugh closed the gap in a huge way with a 33 point, 10 rebound game against St. Bonaventure. His rebounding is also trending up (11.5 rebounds per game in the past four games, after grabbing only 6.3 per game in the previous eight games) so he could continue gaining ground on the guys ahead of him. Cavanaugh’s usage rating is the highest of anyone in contention, and that works in his favor.
Peyton Aldridge, Davidson
20.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks
25.5 PER, 26.1% USG, 1.34 PPFGA
For the second week in a row Aldridge’s numbers declined across the board. He’s playing a ton of minutes for a team that has no other scoring options aside from Gibbs, but these rankings are serious business and I don’t plan on making room for excuses. Aldridge is also no longer the Wildcat with the highest usage rating (that would be Gibbs) so he’s this week’s biggest freefaller.
SECOND OR THIRD TEAM CANDIDATES
Charles Cooke, Dayton
14 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks
20.6 PER, 25.8% USG, 1.32 PPFGA
Cooke has been a quietly inefficient scorer, but his arrow is pointing up. He defends like hell, rebounds well for a guard, and many would argue he’s the best player on Dayton.
JeQuan Lewis, VCU
15.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.2 blocks
21.2 PER, 24.4% USG, 1.39 FFPGA
After scoring 61 points on 17 of 29 shooting last week, JeQuan Lewis makes his first appearance on the watch. He’s not crushing the box score like some of the guys on this list, but he’s putting together a very solid line, and he’s a tough defender who plays a big role in VCU’s top 2 in-conference defense. He’ll keep moving up if he doesn’t cool down soon.
Matt Mobley, St. Bonaventure
18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
20.6 PER, 23.2% USG, 1.40 PPFGA
Jack Gibbs, Davidson
19.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0 blocks
21.4 PER, 29.3% USG, 1.25 PPFGA
Hassan Martin, Rhode Island
12.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.3 blocks
24.2 PER, 24.7% USG, 1.43 PPFGA
A lot of people have Hassan Martin on the first team, but I can’t and here’s why: the dude can’t rebound. According to College Basketball Reference, Martin is grabbing only 11.4% of available rebounds when he’s on the floor. That’s more along the lines of a guard who rebounds well (like De’Monte Buckingham from Richmond, or Jaire Grayer from George Mason) than it is an all-conference first team big man.
EC Matthews, Rhode Island
14.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks
16.8 PER, 27% USG, 1.29 PPFGA
Matthews is also a guy that’s going to get a lot of first and second team votes, but his poor efficiency and low assist rate scares me away.
KEEP AN EYE ON:
Scoochie Smith, Dayton
Jordan Price, La Salle
ShawnDre’ Jones, Richmond