Henry Elllenson is going to be voted the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. This is going to happen, and anyone who's watched the BIG EAST regularly this season could've told you that weeks ago. But what if I told you that was the wrong choice?
Sure, Ellenson is great. But he hasn't provided near the spark for his team this season that Edmond Sumner has for Chris Mack's Xavier Musketeers.
Sumner's presence and leadership have helped the Musketeers become one of the best teams in the conference this season, and he should be rewarded as such with the BIG EAST Freshman of the year award.
On the surface, the raw numbers looking damning for the Musketeers' freshman. Ellenson is averaging seven more points, seven more rebounds, and one more assists than Sumner. But let's dig a bit deeper.
Ellenson was the focal point of a Marquette team that many would agree greatly under-performed this season. Ellenson was given the lion's share of the touches on offense and while winning was always at the forefront, many of Marquette's sets were designed to display Ellenson's offensive creativity. The Marquette's freshman had an astonishingly high 26.7 usage rate and often was operating late in the shot clock. Much like Jahlil Okafor, now of the Sixers, Ellenson is a ball-dominant big who can occasionally cause teammates to stop and stand around him why he works in the post or at the elbow.
Sumner, however, was tasked with getting Xavier into sets and initiating one of the nation's best offenses. His play helped Mack's ball club to one of the best records in the country, as evidenced by the .150 win shares per 40, as opposed to the .144 of Ellenson. And while scoring less, Sumner was the more efficient shooter with a true shooting percent of .544 to Ellenson's .527.
Sumner's game and toughness was on full display on the defensive end of the court each night. The BIG EAST features what some would call the best guard play in the country with names like Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Isaiah Whitehead coming at you each night.
Sumner anchored the Musketeers' in your face, pressure defense and was an absolute nightmare for opposing guards, coming up with 1.3 steals per game.
While Ellenson did a stout job as well, there's arguing that the BIG EAST was light on dominant front court players in the '15-16 season. His offensive numbers were boosted greatly by the ability to be hidden on defense and get some rest.
Xavier went 26-4 this season. Raise your hand if you expected Xavier to go 26-4 this season (put it back down, liar). Edmond Sumner was the heart and soul of this ball club. We witnessed it when he went down with a severe concussion at Villanova, they're just not the same without him.
While Ellenson had an incredible season, gaudy numbers and all, he didn't lead his team to victories the way Sumner did. He didn't act as the heartbeat of his team, and he didn't go out and put the team on his back and win big ball games.
Edmond Sumner is an integral part of an Xavier team that could win a national title, and Edmond Sumner should be your BIG EAST Freshman of the year.
*All numbers via Sports Reference