You are all going to hate me for this. When the season began, my pick for Big East POY was Gerogetown Hoya, Otto Porter.
(Ducks rotten fruit).
Porter is the prototypical NBA prospect. He big, long, athletic. He can play inside and out. He's got a well defined NBA position. He's young enough that NBA scouts can drool over his potential. Draft express has him projected to be a top 20 pick in the 2013 draft. And after watching him during a strong freshman campaign last season, I thought Porter was going to break out and run away with POY honors. And, in a way, he has. Porter leads the Hoyas in scoring and rebounding while shooting 50% from the field
Enough Hoya slurping before I make myself sick.
You know who else has put together a solid case for Big East POY? Syracuse's own C.J. Fair. As the game against Seton Hall was winding down, I texted my good friend StrawHatGuy this message,"CJ with the quietest 19/10 ever". That sums up Fair's season pretty well. He's quietly been Syracuse's most dependable player, capable of dropping 20+ when it's needed and rarely putting up an unproductive line. And yet, when Big East POY candidates are discussed, CJ's name rarely comes up. It's all about the Otto Porter Jrs and the Jack Cooleys. If you look at the numbers, though, CJ deserves to be in that discussion.
CJ is averaging 14 PPG, second on the team and 17th in the conference. He averages 7.2 RPG, leading the Orange and good for 7th in the BE. His 2.2 ORPG is 11th in the conference. He shoots .478 from the floor, good for 15th in the conference. His .832 FT percentage places him 6th in conference and his .412 3-pt% would put him 8th if he had enough attempts to qualify (he's only shot 34 this season).
For those not keeping count, that's six statistical categories in which CJ Fair is among the top 20 in the league (five if you disqualify 3pt%). He's in the top 10 in three of those (two, again, discounting 3pt%). Who else has those kind of numbers? Let's take a look.
Otto Porter Jr is in the top 10 in the BEast in five categories: PPG, RPG, FG%, SPG and 3pt%.
Shabazz Napier is in the top 20 in the conference in seven categories: PPG, APG, FT%, SPG, 3pt%, 3PT/G and AST/TO ratio. All of which, except 3pt% (12th) are in the top 10.
Ryan Boatright is in the top 20 in six categories: PPG, APG, SPG, 3pt% and AST/TO ratio. He's only in the top 10 in scoring and assists per game, though.
Jack Cooley (a.k.a. Luke Harangody 2.0) is only in the top 20 in four categories, PPS, RPG, FG% and OREB/G. Though he does lead the league in rebounding by a wide margin (3.2 RPG) and is 1 for 1 in getting viciously rejected by Jerami Grant.
There are other players, like Kadeem Batts and Fair's Orange teammates James Southerland, Brandon Triche and Micheal Carter-Williams who are also among the statistical leaders in several categories. With the possible exceptions of Batts and Southerland, these players are in the same category as Porter, Napier, Boatright and Cooley. Very good, high profile players with the reputation to go with their numbers.
Fair, on the other hand, is the very definition of a dark horse candidate. He's got the numbers, but not the notoriety. Perhaps a player like Porter, a legit pick for POY, is deserving by virtue of the fact that he's so highly ranked in so many different categories. But I'd like to think that numbers are only a part of the equation. I'd like to think that memorable performances carry weight too. Syracuse and Georgetown are scheduled to play twice over the last six conference games. Let's say CJ drops the same 19/11 on the Hoyas as he did on Seton Hall. Does a top notch performance on the big stage against Syracuse's most hated rival put him over the top? If so, does the fact that Porter would likely be guarding him give CJ an additional edge?
I'll be the first to admit that CJ has the most outside of outside chances to be the 2013 Big East Player of the Year. Such awards are popularity contests more than anything else. And on a team where he's always overshadowed by Triche, the senior leader, Southerland, the three-point sniper, and MCW, the rising star, even his spectacular production hasn't been able to move CJ into the limelight. Still, he's as deserving a candidate as any and should be the front-runner next season even if he doesn't get his reward this year.