Let’s get it out of the way.
Romeo Langford was named second team All-Big Ten by the coaches and third team by the media. He finished second in the Big Ten Freshman of the Year voting.
Juwan Morgan was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches and third team by the media.
Those are nice achievements for two great players.
But this whole thing has gotten way out of hand.
Here’s the problem. They already have a team award.
It’s called the Big Ten Championship.
The whole idea that individual awards are somehow tied up with wins and losses is ridiculous. Pick the best players, and give them the awards.
It’s really just that simple.
And yet somehow it isn’t.
Somehow we believe that by focusing on the players on the best teams, we have somehow divined certain intangible qualities that those players have contributed to the winning formula, irrespective of what the numbers or our eyes tell us.
But is that really the right way to think about it?
What if that player on the good team looks better because they are surrounded by better talent? What if they are never the focus of an opposing coach’s game plan and thus can operate more freely?
Let’s face it. Picking a player merely because he was on a better team is just lazy. It’s a way to not have to think too hard about who the best players actually are, at a deeper X’s and O’s level.
Some will say ahhhh, but those are just empty stats on a losing team, right? Okay now seriously, even if that somehow ever made sense, which it doesn’t, can you point me to an empty possession for Indiana during this Big Ten season?
Like anyone, there were a few games that got out of hand, but by and large IU competed in some incredibly fierce games all the way through the Big Ten slate. Every single stat was undeniably earned, irrespective of who won the game.
Was Cassius Winston less of a player when he averaged 23 points and 9 assists in two LOSSES to Indiana? Were those somehow merely empty stats because they were accumulated in a loss? Of course not. He was every bit of the stud in those games that he was throughout the season.
If you put up numbers in this Big Ten, where every team is ranked in the KenPom top 80, then irrespective of wins and losses, you earned every single one of them.
So put Ignas Brazdeikis on your ballot as the Big Ten freshman of the year. He’s a very good player. That’s fine. But it just cannot be because of wins and losses. And quite frankly, that’s all he has over Romeo Langford.
The Hoosier freshman outperformed Brazdeikis by just about every conceivable measure (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks) except in the standings. And he did it as the number one focus of defenses night in and night out. Sorry, Brazdeikis never faced that. You’d be insane to give any kind of special focus to him with Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole and Zavier Simpson on the floor.
Oh now to be fair, Brazdeikis did shoot a slightly better percentage from the field, but it’s on the margin, and again, he was not receiving any special attention from defenses. Romeo Langford was one of the most efficient players in the country before coaches realized that they had to throw the kitchen sink at him.
Langford hasn’t since had the luxury of operating freely in space. With Indiana struggling to knock down perimeter shots, it was just all too easy to help on all of the screens set for him while his defender recovered underneath and the rest of the defense sagged into the paint. That same sagging gameplan also effectively took away IU’s other primary threat — Juwan Morgan at the rim.
In effect, voters held it against Langford because his teammates couldn’t make shots.
On the rare occassion when someone else started knocking down perimeter shots — like Justin Smith and Devonte Green against Michigan State, the Hoosiers magically started winning, and apparently Langford’s stats became relevant, if only for a day.
As one Michigan State writer (that had Langford on his 5th team All-Big Ten!) put it:
“Brazdeikis is the Big Ten’s top freshman, in my opinion. His scoring, all-around offensive game and swagger is critical to Michigan.”
As we have already stated, there is nothing about Brazdeikis’ numbers that suggest a better offensive game than Langford, especially in light of the extra attention Langford received all year.
But what about swagger? We had no idea that was part of the criteria. One must wonder if the same writer considered swagger when likely voting for Jaren Jackson the year prior.
Langford is quiet though. Yep, swagger must be it.
Ladies and gentlemen, your Big Ten Freshman of the Year —
ARCHIE MILLER AGREES
There’s nothing like bolstering one biased take with another, but this is what Indiana head coach Archie Miller said on Monday night on his radio show regarding the Freshman of the Year results.
“Romeo, I thought, should’ve probably won Freshman of the Year, based on his numbers,” Miller said. “But Michigan had a fantastic year and (Brazdeikis) was a big difference maker on a team that competed for the Big Ten title. Winning probably helped that cause.”
So there it is again — Langford is the better player, but what the hell, give it someone else because he happened to be part of a better team.
If we change the name of the award to “Freshman of the Year on One of the Better Teams” or FOTYOOOTBT if you prefer, then I’ve got no problem here.
JUWAN MORGAN SNUBBED AS WELL
There is no reason to go back through all of the same arguments that we’ve already discussed here. They all equally apply to Morgan.
Somehow, some way, the same Big Ten coaches that doubled or trapped the post every time Morgan touched the ball could not even find the common sense to put him on even the third team All-Big Ten.
If all of that attention had effectively neutralized Morgan, then we’d have no argument here.
But this is the same player that was the only guy in the league to finish in the top 15 in scoring, top 5 in rebounds, top 10 in blocks and top 10 in steals per game in conference contests.
That’s one impressive statistical profile and perfectly illustrates what a complete basketball talent looks like.
But he didn’t have a snappy shtick.
And apparently Indiana didn’t win enough.
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