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I'm going with Travis Releford... McLemore has the sexy offensive game, Withey is getting all the blocks... but Travis is shutting down the opponents best scorers, hitting big shots and putting up over 90% from the charity stripe.
I said right after the NC game that Releford was going to have a big season for us... so far he's proving me right
Live to love, love to live
Man, that's a really tough one. McLemore, Withey, and Releford are all having huge seasons in different ways. I have been telling Matt for a while now to stop calling Craft the best perimeter defender in college basketball and use that title for Releford. He's so versatile defensively, he can literally stop fours to point guards. His five years in the program have earned him a great shot at a long, lucrative professional career, likely in Europe.
I am on the record on this forum as saying McLemore deserves serious NPOY consideration, and I do believe that. I don't, however, necessarily believe that NPOY and team MVP are always the same thing.
All of that said, I have to go with Withey as team MVP at this point. His post moves look a little stiff and robotic at times still, but he's become much closer to a go-to post scorer with his back to the basket than I ever thought he would be. He's blocking 5.4 shots per game (and getting them both as a primary defender and a help defender), and averaging only 1.1 fouls. I'm not even sure exactly how absurd that is because I can't think of anyone who's ever done anything close. I think he can rebound better, but we currently gain possession on something like 75% of his blocks. Davis's shot-block-possession-retention last year was "astronomically high..." at around 56%. Furthermore, Jeff's ability to block shots significantly changes how our guards can cover their assignments, allowing them to funnel dribble drives to the big guy when they get beat, which means they can play closer to shooters. We almost never have three-point shots even taken against us right now by guys we have to back off who are guarded because our guards are good defenders AND Jeff allows them to take more chances up close on guys. Heck, the last three opponents have barely attempted shots inside the arc after the first few minutes of the first half.
I agree with Aaron. I really like what Releford has done for us this year and I think he's moved beyond just a "glue guy" to a player we count on for production on both ends of the court. However, I think the MVP has to be Withey. Other teams change their entire offensive game plan when he's in the game. I know Belmont and Richmond are perimeter oriented teams anyway, but they basically refused to attack the lane because of the mere presence of Jeff Withey. Plus, Jeff has developed a much more diverse offensive game with the addition of some good drop steps and reverse pivots. He's definitely not smooth with those techinques yet but they are effective. As we've seen the past couple of games too, he's extending his defensive ability to the perimeter more. He's hegding ball screens better and not picking up fouls out there. He's also blocked a couple of 3 point attempts this year and had those steals last game where he shot the passing lane and led the fast break for a Releford layup. I know McLemore will go higher in the draft and Releford may be a bit more versitle, but Withey (and I hate to use this term) is a "game changer" with his defensive ability.
Withey with Mclemore a bit behind and everyone else well back. This two make our defense and offense go more than anyone else. Right now Withey is a better offensive player than Ben is defense. And Withey is more exceptional on D than Ben is on O, though at times it is pretty close there.
Right now I'd say it depends on the game as the obvious 3 (Releford, Withey, and McLemore) all leave their mark on the game in their own way. Withey's presence inside allows for the team to apply outstanding pressure on the perimeter and has become competent offensively. McLemore gives the team a scorer it so desperately needed. Releford has been nails on defending the opponents top perimeter player, hitting free throws, getting to the goal, and hitting the open jumper. Tough call but if I'm voting on December 20th I think I go
Two things to add:
1) Belmont and Richmond clearly are more perimeter oriented than a lot of teams and, thus, were destined to chuck a bunch of threes regardless. But they attempted a combined 57% of their shots from behind the arc. The national leader is at 47% on the season. I can't help but think this is in large part because of Jeff.
2) Jeff has become a much better offensive player...at the same time that the defensive post players have become significantly worse. Now, a lot of big guys struggle when they have significantly undersized guys guarding them, but it's not inconceivable that Jeff's offensive repertoire has improved in part because of the competition being weak. Also, his offense has improved in part because of the opposite of what happens on defense - with our smalls shooting so well right now, opponents can't just sag off them into the lane, which has given Jeff a lot more room to operate the last few weeks than he had early on.
Agree on both points. Belmont and Richmond weren't going to do anything in the paint against Kansas so they had to play to their strength...the 3pt shot. Even when they got into the paint they were kicking the ball out. This is a result of Withey's presence and a big part of the reason why I think he's the MVP of this team.
Again, I do like Craft as a defender in the backcourt, but Releford is a more versatile defender. Throw Withey in there and three of the top five defensive players in the country are going to be playing in Saturday's game. I think we can all agree on that one.
In my mind Withey is the most valuable player on this team but McLemore is the player with the most upside who could very well turn into the best player by season's end. While I really like Releford and what he's doing, he is still a role player who is just exceptionally good at his job. Think about this...he has the 3rd best perimeter defender on the opposing team covering him every game. Again, a great player who does his job but not the MVP at this point.
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