Especially since it is more fun to do so when we're coming off a beat down of Duke. The casually funny folks at Casual Hoya threw down the gauntlet and so it's high noon for the affections of the Hoya fan base as we tackle the most important questions of this era (this era being this week), blog against blog.
(In other words, they'll have a post on this, too.)
So, without further ado, we'll take the rational look at...
Who is the Hoyas' MVP so far?
I don't really like MVP discussions. Before you even get to the intended discussion, you need to decide what "Most Valuable" means. For some, it is "best player on the best team" or "most fun to watch" or "X-factor" or "veteran who taught his team how to win."
For me, it's either one of two things, depending on the situation: the player who, if you removed them from their team, the team who would suffer the most and lose more games; or, the player who, if you removed them from any (or the average) team, the team who would suffer the most and lose more games.
The game is about winning and losing. So the player that changes that the most is the MVP. In our case, if we looked at the Hoyas, the answer to the first definition is clearly Greg Monroe. It isn't close. If Chris Wright or Austin Freeman were to leave the team, the team would be worse but would slide Hollis right into the three and still have a strong guard rotation.
If Monroe left, Vaughn and his 26 minutes would be the front-court star. Henry Sims and Jerelle Benimon would be getting 50+ combined minutes a game or we'd be playing really small.
Since I'm not in favor of easy answers here, we'll go with the second definition. Ignoring the fact that the Hoyas' bench is weak and especially thin up front, what player contributes most to wins and losses?
With all apologies to Spare Change, there's really only three options. And at first I thought it was just two. But while the offense doesn't seem to collapse when he isn't out there, Austin Freeman is having just too good a season to leave him out of this discussion.
Offensive Stats (Only versus KenPom Top 100 Teams) Player Usage ORating Shot% TS% ARate Austin 23% 116 26% 66% 17% Chris 22% 112 24% 60% 26% Greg 25% 100 25% 53% 17%
There's no doubt that Chris and Greg play a more central role to the offense in terms of ball movement and flow. It's just observational and not particularly quantifiable this year. It's not quantifiable because, from the Washington game through the Rutgers game, Chris Wright had been out of the game for 30 non-garbage time offensive possessions, Austin Freeman 60 and Greg Monroe 12. That's right. 12. Not exactly a stunning sample size.
So we're just going to have to trust our eyes that Greg and Chris are more vital to the team running.
Here's the thing: Austin seems to be the most vital element of the offense running really good.
He's taking more shots than anyone on the floor in our tougher games. And he's our most efficient player. Those offensive numbers are Roy Hibbert as a senior or Jeff Green as a junior-style numbers.
If you haven't watched the team recently, Austin's a guard. And he's posting low-post style efficiency and shooting numbers.
Austin's not thought of as much of a creator -- and he's not Chris in that respect -- but in our tougher games he's assisting on the same percent of teammate's FGs as Greg. For a guy who really hasn't been an assist man for much of his career, that element of his game seems to be blossoming.
Chris also has an impressive resume, with less shooting and more passing than Austin. Add in observational items and the fact that we can't win when he's off (though that's more of an X-factor thing than an MVP) and offensively, he's got to be right there with Austin. Still, a lot of Chris' value comes on the break, and while his speed is a skill, I think some of that benefit should go to the players with the steals (which is often Chris, to be fair).
Numbers-wise, Greg doesn't measure up quite as well offensively. His inability to finish strong down low and his mediocre free throw stroke makes him less efficient than Chris and Austin, both of whom have been great at finishing in the lane, outside the arc and from the line.
That should be mitigated by how the team seems to perform without him in the lineup (not well) and by the fact that opposing coaches definitely seem to game plan for Greg. He's the only player on the team that sees double teams, for example. Still, I'd leave the offensive edge to the guards.
Defensive Stats (or where Greg comes storming back) Player DReb% Stl/Blk% DRating Austin 10% 2%/1% 100 Chris 7% 3%/2% 98 Greg 24% 3%/5% 88
The stats are somewhat redundant because Brian's Def. Rating is partially based on the first three stats, but it just demonstrates the split here. I have a certain defensive bias to big men, but when your big is a very strong defensive rebounder, generates more steals than either of your guards and also blocks shots, well, I have to give Monroe the edge.
Chris is a stronger defensive player than Austin, but the gap is really between Greg and the guards.
One last pair of stats:
Conference Play Only . Net +/- Net Points Player per 40 min per 100 poss Austin +7 +7 Chris +20 +5 Greg +11 +7
So, umm, do I need to come up with a conclusion here? Really? I don't trust +/-/40 enough to make that a tie-breaker, frankly, and everything else boils down to a really, really lame cop out.
This Big 3 is really a Big 3. There's no clear cut MVP. You could pick any and I'd be okay with it.
So I'm going to have to go all subjective on you. Each has their own "intangible" -- Greg is the player you game plan for and the center of the defense; Austin is the efficient killer who may have saved the season with his incredible second half against Connecticut.
Wright has created our fast break out of nothing; he is a one man press break; and he can most often be seen directing traffic on offense and defense.
He's also my mid-season MVP.