On Wednesday, the Big East will put an end to one of the great mysteries of the 2014-15 college basketball season; who is the conference's Player of the Year? At different times this season it appeared that a number of candidates had pole position.In the early going D'Angelo Harrison's scoring helped St. John's surge up the national rankings.Then, Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton took turns as the frontrunner over the early part of the conference schedule, followed by Darrun Hilliard's rise to the top as it became clear that he was the best player on, easily, the most dominant team in the league.
The time for prognosticating is over, however, and it is time to recognize Dunn as the rightful heir to the POTY crown. Here's why:
1. The triple double
According to Ice Cube, Jan. 29 was a good day. With Providence facing off against DePaul, Dunn messed around and hung up a triple-double, scoring 27 points, snagging 13 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists. It was a historical feat both for the Friars, and the Big East in general. Dunn's triple-double was just the 14th in the history of the conference and the first for a player from Providence since 2006, when the immortal Geoff McDermott tallied 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against Harvard. Only 12 players in the country recorded a triple-double this season.
Dunn's showing against the Blue Demons is a pint-sized illustration of his incredible impact for the Friars. While his teammate Henton is the Big East's leading scorer, Dunn brings a lot more to the table. In fact, a lot more is underselling it, especially on the offensive end. He is scoring a healthy 15.5 points per game, but the Providence offense benefits quite a bit more from his ability to get other players in on the fun. He leads the Big East in assists (7.4 APG) and the race for that honor isn't even close. Xavier's Dee Davis is second in the league (6.2 APG), and everyone else is sitting below five dimes.
Now let's do some math. Dunn has handed out a total of 223 assists this season. Even taking the minimum points created by those helpers (two points apiece), that is still 446 points produced. If you add that total to his total points scored (465), it equates to 911 points he is responsible for. And that doesn't even take into account 3-pointers he assisted on or points from the foul line that may have come after a shot he set up. To put that in perspective, Henton is responsible for 674 points using the same calculations.
2. He's already Defensive Player of the Year
Basketball is split into two sides; offense and defense. On Monday, the powers that be in the Big East saw fit to give Dunn the League's Defensive Player of the Year award, along with co-winner Sir'Dominic Pointer. The easy thing to point at for Dunn's defensive honor is his ability to steal the ball. Whether it be by jumping passing lanes or simply taking the ball from an opposing player, he has been incredibly adept at forcing mistakes from the opposition. He leads the Big East in steals (2.8 SPG) and steal percentage (5.1).
Here's another statistic that illustrates how dynamic Dunn is on defense. He is fourth in the Big East in defensive win shares (2.1) and the leader in the category among the seven finalists for Big East POTY.
But enough with the numbers, they can only tell so much. Dunn deserved Defensive Player of the Year because he plays at such a high level on the defensive end against some of the best guards in the country. There is no question that the Big East has an embarrassment of riches in the backcourt department. There's Kellen Dunham, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, D'Angelo Harrison, Darrun Hilliard, Matt Carlino, Sterling Gibbs, Ryan Arcidiacono, and I'll stop there, before this becomes a thousand word treatise listing Big East guards.
3. He made us forget about Bryce Cotton (well, kind of)
Aside from the spot on the roster left by Doug McDermott at Creighton, no team in the Big East had bigger shoes to fill than those of the 6-foot-1 dynamo at Providence. Cotton pushed Providence to just its second Big East title and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years last season.
Dunn was not a big part of that team, unfortunately. He played in all of four games before undergoing season ending surgery in December. Coming into this season, Dunn had played in a total of 29 games across two injury plagued campaigns in Providence and his numbers were nothing special (5.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.4 APG). Prior to this season, expectations were that the Friars were in for some major regressing, as they were hoping for Cotton-esque output from a player who, although a 2012 McDonald's All-American, had not shown such star power in the college ranks.
Obviously those expectations were wrong. Dunn's numbers have taken a gigantic leap this season as has his ability to say on the court. He is playing 34 minutes per game and has missed only one contest all season. With Dunn leading the charge, the Friars have reached the 20-win plateau yet again and appear to be a lock for another NCAA Tournament appearance.
Has Henton's scoring helped? For sure. Are there other very talented players in this POTY discussion? Of course. But none of them make the type of impact that Dunn does. That's why the 6-foot-3 sophomore should win this award and probably why he's the only Big East player consistently projected to go in this year's NBA Draft.