Few predictions were closer to being forged in steel at the beginning of this season than this one: Kris Dunn would win Big East Player of the Year. When Providence was 14-1 and No. 8 in the country in early January, the engraving on the trophy might as well have been made. Later in the month, after the Friars toppled conference big shot Villanova, you would be crazy to think anyone else had a shot (unless you were leaning towards Dunn's teammate Ben Bentil).
After January, things went sideways for Providence. A 2-6 stretch from Jan. 26 to Feb. 25 pushed the Friars out of the natjonal rankings and the Big East title chase, while forcing them to the brink of losing their NCAA Tournament berth, a position they had been set up in for months. With such dark storm clouds swirling, doubters crept forward and with them, a number of other candidates for POTY emerged.
Well, the time has come to remind everyone just who Dunn is: the best player in this whole damn conference. He not only should win Big East POTY, he will, and here are a few reasons why.
1. He's adjusted his offensive game to fit his team
Some may point to Dunn's dip in assists per game (6.4 in 2016 from 7.5 in 2015) or his point drop in PER (24.5 to 23.5) and say he has regressed in his senior season. That is taking a couple of numbers and using them to fit a narrative. There are far more numbers that can be used to fit the opposite narrative, which leads to the conclusion that Dunn has been better this season than he was a year ago.
It starts with how much more of an all-around offensive threat he has been. While Bentil's development as a top flight scorer has done wonders for the Friars, Dunn still knows he is the man to make the big shots and to dole out the scoring load. He heaps plenty onto his own plate, but has done so while expanding his artillery. Fueling a career-high mark of 16.3 points per game has been a willingness to let it fly from 3-point range. He made 0.8 triples per game last season and had attempted only 19.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Those numbers have jumped to 1.2 and 26.5 percent, respectively. Taking more long range shots is a testament to Dunn's understanding of the team around him. Bentil makes a living on the inside so clogging the lane with unecessary drives would be a negative. So, instead, Dunn has taken to working the ball to Bentil in the paint, while polishing his own ability from long distance.
On top of figuring out how best to score himself, Dunn is still blessed with the vision and selflessness to get the ball to the player with the best chance to put points on the board. Yes, he only ranks second in the Big East in assists (186). That's right, a mere second! Can you believe it!? What a down year. Sarcasm aside, he leads the Big East in assist percentage (42.9) and he isn't just good at moving the ball around, he's stellar at holding onto it. With just 102 turnovers all season, Dunn is the league leader in that regard.
So, in all, you have a major scoring threat that runs an offense as well as anyone and doesn't fumble the ball all over the place. Is that something you might be interested in, voters for Big East POTY?
2. Defense anyone?
On Monday, Dunn was crowned the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year. He now has two of those, as he secured the prize last season as well. Dunn is easily the best defensive player in the conference and to be honest, it isn't really that close. It all comes down to his ability to anticipate passing lanes and to strike at just the right moment. He ensnares would-be passers into throwing or dribbling the ball into enemy hands frequently. He leads the Big East in steals (79) and steal percentage (4.7), a feat he also accomplished last season. He is also fourth in the Big East in defensive rating (92.7) and second in defensive win shares (2.2). In a league littered with talented guards such as Isaiah Whitehead, Maurice Watson and Ryan Arcidiacono, it is extremely important that the guards on your own team can keep them in check. Dunn does just that.
Take, for example, what Dunn's efforts helped accomplish against Creighton just last week. Dunn helped the Friars limit Watson to six points on 2-of-9 shooting as well as four turnovers. Dunn only had one steal in that contest, and he has not always been able to strangle an opposing star into nothing, but there are few other players on the planet, let alone in the Big East, that can threaten to put up a triple-double with points, assists and steals, something Dunn has flirted with a few times this season, grabbing at least six thefts in four games.
3. Video evidence
Perhaps you don't need words or fancy stats or facts to make up your mind. Perhaps you yearn for a simpler way to evaluate a player. A more visual and visceral appreciation of his many skills. Something you can't plug into a spreadsheet or type on your calculator. Well, for that I have you covered. Feast your eyes, and your ears if you decide to turn the sound up, on some of the exceptional highlights of Dunn's season.
First up, Dunn slices his way through traffic like Vin Diesel in a "Fast and Furious" movie and then slams the ball through the hoop while St. John's defenders pitifully attempt to impede his progress.
Remember that whole ability to jump passing lanes thing I mentioned before? Here's an example at the hands of some team called Xavier.
I'm not sure Tom Brady could make the type of pass that Dunn let loose below.
What other point guard is banging in the post, embarrassing forwards and centers alike and slamming in put-back jams?
Warning: Throwing a ball up in the air is a bad idea against a guy that covers ground like a gazelle.
Lastly, why don't we ask the folks over at Creighton how they feel about Kris Dunn? After all, he more or less ripped the entire university's heart out and crushed it beneath the heel of his Nikes.
In closing, Kris Dunn is the best point guard in the conference. He is the best play-maker in the conference. He is the best defender in the conference and on Wednesday, he should be recognized as the best player in the conference.