One of the great things about sports is the debate.
We form opinions, pick sides, dig our heels in and fight. Expand the NCAA tournament or keep it at 65? Move forward with the BCS or create a college football playoff? If it's the latter, do you want eight or 16 teams? You take Kobe, I'll take LeBron. And I've always believed Peyton was better than Brady or Brees, and you're crazy if you think one ill-timed interception is going to make me switch sides.
|Evan Turner is averaging 19.5 points, just two more than John Wall. (Getty Images)|
That's the stuff that gets us through our days.
Like Wednesday, for instance, when a bunch of basketball writers -- myself included -- went back and forth on Twitter, debating the National Player of the Year race 140 characters at a time. Understand, we are all grown men with jobs, and we're busy. Hell, some of us have two or three jobs. And yet there we were, early afternoon, going mostly in circles.
Jonathan Givony and Jeff Goodman had Evan Turner. Seth Davis had John Wall. Mike DeCourcy was with Turner. Me? I've been on Wall since October, and I'm not changing now. But lots of people have changed, which is the impetus of this column.
Mike Rothstein at AnnArbor.com has been conducting a Player of the Year poll with a panel of college basketball writers. He updates it every two weeks, and Wall led the first two (released Jan. 20 and Feb. 4) by significant margins. The results of the third poll were released Wednesday. To my surprise, Turner got 30 of 49 first-place votes compared to Wall's 13, meaning 12 people who voted Wall No. 1 two weeks ago dropped him in this poll and switched to Turner.
And I can't figure out why.
It's not because Kentucky is struggling; the Wildcats are 25-1 overall, 10-1 in the SEC, and the lone loss came way back on Jan. 26. So Wall is still leading what most believe is one of the nation's top two teams, still making big plays when they matter -- the most recent example being a conventional three-point play that broke a tie with 1:31 left in overtime of Tuesday night's win at Mississippi State.
Is it the statistics?
That's the argument I hear most often, that Turner's stats are unreal. And they are. But they're not that much better than Wall's, not when you compare them and use some common sense. Turner is averaging 19.5 points and 5.8 assists while Wall is at 17.0 points and 6.5 assists per game. So Turner is getting 2.5 more points per game than Wall, and Wall is getting 0.7 more assists per game than Turner.
But it should be noted that Turner is averaging those 19.5 points on 13.8 field goal attempts per game while Wall is getting his 17.0 points on 11.8 field goal attempts. And when you consider that Wall is averaging one point per field goal attempt, it's reasonable to assume he'd average 19.0 points (right there with Turner) if he just took the same number of field goal attempts Turner takes.
But Wall turns it over too much!
And Turner doesn't?
Wall averages 4.0 turnovers.
Turner averages 3.8.
Let's agree to ignore this stat.
It's probably best for both.
Yeah, but Turner rebounds much better!
No doubt, Turner does rebound better than Wall. He gets 9.2 rebounds per game as opposed to Wall's 4.1. That's a huge difference. But should we really care that Wall, a 6-foot-4 natural point guard, doesn't rebound as well as Turner, a 6-foot-7 makeshift point guard? Either way, doesn't everybody understand the reason Turner rebounds like that is because he has to rebound like that for Ohio State to succeed? How many rebounds do you think Turner would average if he played with DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson? It would probably be more than the 4.1 Wall is averaging, but it wouldn't be anywhere close to the 9.2 Turner is averaging now.
But that just proves Turner does more for his team!
Yes, it's true, Ohio State leans on Turner more than Kentucky leans on Wall, that Turner is more crucial to the success of Ohio State than Wall is to the success of Kentucky. Take Turner away, and OSU is headed for the NIT. Take Wall away, and John Calipari would put the ball in the hands of Eric Bledsoe, tell him to feed Cousins and Patterson, and Kentucky would still be a top 10 team. Would the Wildcats win the national championship without Wall? No. But they'd still be awfully good.
So Turner means more to Ohio State than Wall means to Kentucky.
I concede the point.
But Devan Downey means more to South Carolina than Wall means to UK, too, and where would Memphis be without Elliot Williams? What about Syracuse without Wesley Johnson? BYU without Jimmer Fredette? Baylor without Ekpe Udoh? Virginia Tech without Malcolm Delaney? South Florida without Dominique Jones? Notre Dame is 0-2 without Luke Harangody, you know? Who means more to his team than that guy?
Point is, this shouldn't be about who means more to which team.
That approach penalizes Wall for playing with other great players.
Why should he be penalized for that?
Bottom line, the Player of the Year should still be Wall.
He's still the best in the country.
He's still leading a No. 1 seed.
Plus, his numbers aren't really any different than they were Jan. 20 when he was running away with the same Player of the Year poll in which he's now trailing Turner. Back then, Wall was averaging 17.1 points, 6.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds, and everybody thought he was terrific. Now he's averaging 17.0 points, 6.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds, and he's getting 19 fewer first-place votes.
So what happened?
What happened is people got tired of hearing about the greatness of Wall, and they looked for somebody new. It happens all the time in sports when there starts to be a consensus on something. Just watch, in a few years when the Kobe-LeBron debate is done and everybody labels LeBron the best in the world, people will start making a case for Kevin Durant because it's no fun to be in total agreement.
That's what happened here. One person moved from Wall to Turner to mix things up, then another, then another. Next thing you know, Turner is leading the Player of the Year race, and now I'm spending my afternoons arguing on Twitter, my nights writing 1,100 words in an attempt to restore proper order.
That proper order?
1. John Wall
2. Evan Turner
3. Wesley Johnson/Scottie Reynolds/Sherron Collins/Whatever
Honestly, I don't care who you put third.
But if you had Wall No. 1 a month ago, why not now?