Sports fans love to engage in debate, and we're no different here at CBS blog central. Player of the Year arguments, along with bracket discussions, are always the best barroom (or national podcast) fodder for college hoops fans. I touched on one yesterday when I considered Ben Hansbrough vs. Kemba Walker in the Big East. That post touched off a bit of a Twitter debate (which can be hard to follow as the posts whiz by) about a couple of other candidates, most notably Pitt's Ashton Gibbs (right).
We learned last night that Gibbs will be back from a short injury time out in time for Saturday's trip to Madison Square Garden, where the Panthers will face a St. John's team that is on the rise. It seems as good a time as any to see how he stacks up against his fellow Big East stars.
Here are a couple of tweets, from @bracks7, that encapsulate the frustration some fans feel when Gibbs is overlooked in the media.
@stfhoops Is it the fact #Pitt has more options that #Gibbs is really left of BE POY? #Hansbrough really better than him?Then, New Jersey-based hoops writer Mike Vorkunov, without having seen my post, threw out his own list of BE POY candidates. He listed Hansbrough, Walker, Georgetown's Austin Freeman and Marshon Brooks of Providence as his top four. It got me wondering if bracks7 was right: is Gibbs criminally underrated by us Typing Heads because his team as a whole is so good?
@stfhoops I mean I saw a guy on SNY leave him off 1st team All BE. I almost threw something @ the TV!!
Let's go to the numbers. I'll use Vorkunov's list, plus Gibbs, to get a feel for where each player stands.
Based on traditional metrics alone, I have to disqualify Brooks. He's an amazing scorer, but he's doing it with volume because he has to. He's his team's runaway MVP, and an exciting player to watch, but he's no league POY. Freeman's fantastic shooting percentages across the board prove his worth to the Hoyas beyond a shadow of a doubt, and make him a solid candidate.
So, Gibbs. I'm trying to avoid confirmation bias here, but I think bracks7 has basically answered his own question. Yes, Gibbs is an extremely valuable part of an elite team. He has scored 18.93 percent of the Panthers' points when he's on the floor, but his teammates Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Nasir Robinson are all above ten percent in the team impact metric as well. This is a good thing.
Unfortunately for Gibbs' case, Pitt chugged right along without him while he was out. Sophomore Travon Woodall certainly didn't replace Gibbs' production, but he kept the machine humming just fine. Again, this is a good thing.
Leaving Gibbs off the All-Big East first team seems like a mistake, but I don't know who the unnamed SNY pundit chose in his place, so I can't really judge that. As a potential Big East POY, however, I don't think Gibbs has enough of a case. He's a great player on a great team, and yes, he may be underrated by the media and even fans. But when it comes to what really counts, bracks7 sounds the right note of conciliation in his final tweet on the matter:
I guess the last laugh will be Gibbs will be the only 1 playing in the Final 4If he's right about that, I'm pretty sure Gibbs will enjoy a trip to Houston a great deal more than any old league trophy.