Kyle Collinsworth is one of the greatest players in BYU Basketball history. Fans are well acquainted with Collinsworth's accolades. BYU's all-time leader in assists. BYU's all-time leaders in rebounds. Top 15 in points. 2nd all-time in steals. Top 20 in blocks. Despite an ACL injury, Collinsworth is on track to finish 3rd all-time in minutes played. And, of course, Collinsworth's NCAA career record for 10 triple doubles.
Should Collinsworth collect another 43 rebounds, he'd be the 1st BYU player to join the 1,000 rebound club. He would do so as a point guard. Only 1 other guard has collected 1,000 rebounds in a career in the past 22 years joining Wofford's Tim Johnson. Collinsworth has a chance to be the first player to ever have 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in his career.
Despite his tremendous career, and his very good senior season, there is a good chance that Kyle Collinsworth will not be named Conference Player of the Year. A noticeable absence on his legacy resumé.
11 BYU players have won CPOY honors. It is a who's who list. John Fairchild (64-65), Danny Ainge (80-81), Devin Durrant (82-83)*, Timo Saarelainen (84-85), Michael Smith (87-88), Mekeli Wesley (00-01), Rafael Araujo (03-04)*, Keena Young (06-07), Lee Cummard (07-08)*, Jimmer Fredette (10-11), Tyler Haws (13-14).
*Co-Conference Player of the Year. Durrant shared the honor with San Diego State's Michael Cage and Utah's Pace Mannion, Araujo shared the honor with Air Force's Nick Welch. Cummard split the accolade with New Mexico's J.R. Giddens.
I began looking into the details -- history, preferences, tendencies, team performance, etc.-- of winning the WCC Player of the Year award to investigate if Collinsworth would be able to win it this season. Here is what I found.
Being on the championship team matters. In the last 15 years, West Coast Conference Player of the Year has been awarded to a member of a regular season championship team 13 of 15 years. Tyler Haws was able to win the award by averaging a league best 23.2 points per game for the Cougars in the 2013-14 team that was tied for 2nd in conference play. Santa Clara's John Bryant won in 2008-09 on his 7-7 record, 4th place team. Bryant was a monster in the middle for the Broncos and a nightmare for WCC opponents. He was 2nd in scoring per game (18.1), 1st in rebounds per game(14.2), and 1st in blocks per game (2.5). It took that awesome season to overcome his team finishing 4th to win the honor. In 2006-07, Sean Denison was allowed to share the award with champions Gonzaga's Derek Raivio despite his Santa Clara team finishing 2nd in WCC play. Furthermore, if a team finishes the season ranked, a member of that team is awarded 100% of the time. So despite the WCC Player of the Year being an individual award, it has more often than not been a product of team achievement.
Upperclassmen only please. In the history of this accolade, a freshman has never been honored and only 5 sophomores have been selected in 62 seasons it has been awarded. The last time a sophomore was selected was in 1980-81.
Savvy veteran leadership. Perhaps one of the reasons why underclassmen have been overlooked is that voters award players who have years of very good, savvy play over another player who has perhaps had a better season statistically.
For instance, last year Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos was selected despite his teammate Kyle Wiltjer outperforming him in the stat book. When nationally voted upon, Wiltjer was a consensus 2nd team All-American, while Pangos was a 3rd team All-American. But the local voters knew Pangos. He was the familiar Canadian leader that texted Steve Nash. Kyle Wiltjer was the transfer newcomer from Kentucky. So, Pangos.
So again, only players from the top 4 teams in the standings, upperclassmen preference, and the leader/"we know this guy"/intangibles factor. With those three aspects in mind, I set out to create a list of potential West Coast Conference Players of the Year winners for 2015-16.
One of the problems I ran into was making a decision on a representative of St. Mary's College. So, lets take a moment and play, "Pick a Gael."
|Player||Year||Points/g||Rebounds/g||Assists/g||Steals/g||Blocks/g||PER (Player Efficiency Rating)||FG%||3FG%||FT%|
Rahon and Naar are almost repeat players. So, I'll take the better shooter in Naar.
Past that, it is difficult to decide between Naar and Pineau. In reality, neither of these players is going to be able to stand up to the statistical presences of other candidates. Given the amount of new players the WCC has been introduced to by St. Mary's, without a real standout star, don't be surprised if Randy Bennett is WCC Coach of the Year. Still, to select a player going forward for St. Mary's, I'll go with the sophomore Naar.
Now onto the rest of the contenders based on best player or players from the top 4 WCC teams:
|Lamond Murray Jr.||Pepperdine||Junior||15.7||5.2||0.8||1.0||0.5||20.6||46.6||39.6||77.8|
|Emmitt Naar||St. Mary's||Sophomore||13.3||3.8||6.2||1.3||0.1||21.9||50.5||51.2||84.1|
For me, this is a 3-man race between Collinsworth and the Gonzaga duo of Sabonis and Wiltjer.
However, based upon history, the WCC Player of the Year voters are going to favor the contributions of Wiltjer over Sabonis. Simply because Wiltjer is the Senior. The assumption being that Sabonis can be honored in future years. Even though, it is VERY arguable that Sabonis is having the best season of all WCC performers. It is now or never with Wiltjer. He will benefit now from what cost him a year ago with Pangos.
Leaving a pair of Kyles. Collinsworth and Wiltjer. Given Gonzaga's 1st position in the WCC standings, the favorite to win between the two has to be Wiltjer.
Collinsworth has the better career statistically. Wiltjer only has Collinsworth in two statistical category -- points (approx. 200 more), and blocks (16 more). Collinsworth has about 350 more rebounds, 450 more assists, and 150 more steals.
Collinsworth also has the better season statistically. Wiltjer leads in points by 150. Blocks are a draw. KC leads by around 40 more rebounds, 50 more steals, and over 160 assists.
However, Wiltjer's teams have won championships. As a freshman, he contributed to a National Championship and SEC Title at Kentucky. Last year, He won a WCC regular season and tournament title on the way to a Elite 8. With a couple more weeks to play, Wiltjer's Bulldogs are once again in the drivers seat for a conference championship.
Wiltjer clearly owns the "being on a championship team" part of the comparison. Meanwhile, Collinsworth may lay more claim to the "savvy veteran leadership" piece of the puzzle. The wizardry of Collinsworth has led 6 of his WCC foes (LMU twice for 7 total in WCC play!) to getting triple-doubled. The talent depth of Gonzaga perhaps allows Wiltjer (again, Sabonis may be the Zags best player) more margin for error than Collinsworth. It is a tight race. The voters have a tough choice.
To close out the 2015-16 regular season will be a February 27th clash between Wiltjer and Collinsworth in the Marriott Center. In a game that could very well hold weight in voters decisions for Conference Player of the Year.
With two weeks left to play, I feel the award should go to Collinsworth (inherit bias noted).
Wiltjer is a very good basketball player. His ability to score is impressive, but it isn't all that rare. Next season, there will be another WCC player that will score 21 points per game -- maybe Santa Clara's Jared Brownridge, San Francisco's Devin Watson, BYU's Nick Emery, or Gonzaga's Sabonis. While on Sabonis, lets again mention, that it isn't exactly clear is Wiltjer is even the best player on his own team.
Collinsworth is a one-of-a-kind player in NCAA basketball history. The volume and depth of responsibilities he is tasked to handle for BYU is outrageous. Collinsworth is looked upon to orchestrate the WCC's top scoring offense, while also defending his opponent's best perimeter player. On top of that, Collinsworth nearly leads the Cougars in rebounding. Collinsworth has the athletic ability and basketball skill to give the Cougars whatever they need in every area of the basketball floor. It is hard to imagine another player coming along in the WCC that will duplicate Collinsworth's efforts.
Collinsworth is the best player in the West Coast Conference. As such, his awesome and unique way of playing the game of basketball should be recognized or awarded to reflect that. With BYU's last 3 WCC games coming in the Marriott Center, it is the time for Cougar fans to let WCC Player of the Year voter know just who they should choose -- the best player, not the best senior on the best team.