West Virginia University and its fans knew the contentious move to the Big XII would come with a hefty price-tag. A nice fat check to the Big East it was leaving, a handful of generations-long rivalries and a touch of bad PR. All damaging in the short term but nothing they weren’t prepared to give up in order to gain the long-term stability that remaining competitive in high-level football required. The cost was weighed, the benefit analyzed – the decision made…..and ultimately finalized. A hefty price but a price worth paying.
But when will it stop?
When can we just sign the damn check and leave this godforsaken restaurant. ’Cause the food sucks.
On Monday night news leaked that WVU forward Kevin Jones, despite becoming just the 3rd player in the illustrious three-decades-long history of the Big East to lead the conference in both points and rebounds, was snubbed for the conference player of the year in favor of Marquette’s Jae Crowder. It was an almighty screwing matched in its magnitude (seriously – three guys. thirty years. seriously) only by it’s audaciousness.
For weeks WVU fans, nerves and emotions raw from a mounting series of perceived slights at the hands of refs employed by the conference as well as those who bestow season-ending awards, have been forecasting this very thing. Hell I was one of them. Here’s what I tweeted out on February 11th on the heels of a gut-wrenching WVU loss to Louisville:
Gonna say it right now: Kevin Jones will get screwed out of BE POY even if he does lead conf in scoring /boards #GenoSmith
Kevin Jones was very Kevin Jones-ey again, killing it on the offensive glass, getting big buckets, filling up the stat sheet and basically demonstrating why there can be no debate that he is the conference player of the year. Honestly I don’t see how any of his teammates (or guys refereeing his games for that matter) can look him in the eye. The guy is having one of the more brilliant individual seasons in the history of WVU basketball and getting ZERO help. It’s sad. But watching KJ is one of my greatest joys in a quarter century of Mountaineer fandom so I’ll be damned if I’ll give up on this group just yet and neither should you.(Quick note on KJ: he’s got a chance to become just the third player to lead the Big East in points and rebounds in the same season. The other two were Walter Berry of St John’s and Troy Murphy of Notre Dame. They both won the league’s Player Of The Year award. Remember that when some player not named Kevin Jones is strolling across that stage to accept the award. The Big East has proven itself nothing if not petty. *cough* *Geno Smith* *cough*)
Truth be told, when I wrote that I honestly didn’t think it would happen. I was being cute. First I thought Jones would run out of gas having to carry this team so far. If he did pull off the masterful statistic double, no way did I think a conference – even one that has demonstrated itself to be so petty from top to bottom as the Big East – would so blatantly screw a kid out of an award that he had so clearly earned.
But the fear persisted – right in the back of my mind, and in the backs of many minds of the blue and gold faithful. On Saturday the anxiety got a healthy does of fuel with the news that Jones was not a unanimous selection to the all-Big East first team but Marquette guard Crowder was. A hefty round of “will they really do it?” talk began and for the first time I began to wonder if it could actually happen. I had the following exchange with WVU beat writer (and aspiring author) Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail via Twitter:
I asked him:
@mikecasazza if he gets shafted, is this a bigger screwing than the one Geno took? I say yes.
I don’t put this out there to take a shot at Mike – he does excellent work. I use it to simply illustrate that rational people who are as far from rabid and biased fans as you can find didn’t feel that there was going to be a debate here. Didn’t even think it worth the energy to get worked up over.
Today Mike seemed as shocked as anyone and looked to maybe even consider going a little crazy with us:
Can’t believe what I just heard about news tomorrow. Wanted to enjoy night in NYC, but must sharpen pitchforks and light torches instead.
Score one for “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you” I guess.
(For the record I wasn’t kidding about the Oliver Luck stuff. As the man at the center of WVU’s dramatic break from the conference I’ve got to believe the guy who said this and this completely unprompted may clear his guns when one of his own student athletes is on the receiving end of juvenile “payback.” At least I hope he will.)Normally I love being right. I’m one of those obnoxious people who isn’t happy by just BEING right. I need people to KNOW I was right. I’m sure in a moment of absolute honestly my beyond-sweet wife would acknowledge it’s one of the not so great things about me. But it’s how I’m built – who I am. I like being right.
Not this time.
Mostly because I never DREAMED I would wind up being right. At some level I think I was attempting a sort of double reverse secret jinx, knowing if I came out so over the top with a wild-eyed conspiratorial prediction, no WAY could it be proven true.
It appears I was mistaken.
This is just wrong. It was wrong when it happened to Geno Smith and it is wrong that it’s happened to Kevin Jones. “Wronger” if I may be permitted such liberties with the language of Mr. Webster.
Kevin Jones is every single damn thing that is right with collegiate athletics. He has an amazing attitude and is a wonderful young man who’s never given a hint of trouble off the floor – no small feat in this age of eyes everywhere. And aside from all that, he’s GOOD. Hell, he’s GREAT. Playing for a WVU team that is exceedingly thin on the front lines he’s fought and clawed his way through and around every front court in one of the most competitive leagues in America to get his 20 and 10 every. Freaking. Night. It’s a level of production historic in its consistency. It’s a performance made all the more amazing when you consider that this WVU team spent most of February playing itself out of an NCAA Tournament berth with every single player at one time or another pulling a disappearing act. Every one but Jones. He kept them together and now they’re on the brink of winning that bid to the Dance floor.
Chris Anderson over at www.eersports.com was spouting some serious knowledge this evening, throwing out numbers that made the decision by Big East coaches all the more inexplicable:
While only 4 other players in 33 years of BE did what Kevin Jones did this season, 28 had same or better #’s as Crowder in last 15 yrs #WVU
Hard to argue with those numbers. So maybe it was something else.
I’ll be the first to admit KJ is no athletic specimen. He’s not terribly quick off the floor and doesn’t possess the type of high-flying above the rim game many folks have come to associate with upper-echelon Big East basketball. Maybe that’s why a collection of conference coaches saw fit to deny him the award. Maybe that’s why CBS’s Jeff Goodman called Crowder a better “all-around better player” on Monday night via Twitter. But what Jones has done is no less amazing. He’s manufactured himself into a top tier D1 basketball player through smarts, desire and hard work. And done it all while wearing what has to be the most infectious 1000 watt smile in the game.
And for those like Goodman who want to argue that Crowder‘s team was better that line of logic is total crap. It’s an argument normally reserved for instances where the comparison is between one player stacking up stats in often non-competitive games while another puts up lower numbers, but does so while contributing to a winning team under much more meaningful circumstances. Think Brooks of Providence last year. While it is true that Jones’ WVU team finished 5 games behind Crowder‘s Golden Eagles in the conference standings, the games Jones played in were far from unimportant and non-competitive. WVU has spent the season in a collection of tight affairs, many of which they’ve been unable to finish off; hence the record. Jones’ contributions are even more impressive when one considers they come amid plodding games that have ended in scores like 55-51 and 50-44. His numbers were compiled in hard-fought games where his team played with the very best of the conference – to suggest otherwise is a willful suspension of reality.
But it’s all one big frustration – with the biggest frustration being that there’s seemingly no recourse. Would I like some sort of silent protest where WVU honorees like Truck Bryant (3rd team all-conference) and Jones (1st team) refused to receive their honors in person? Or a dream scenario where the entire team was able to make a magical run to the title and simply didn’t come to pick up the hardware a la the 1972 US Olympic team? Hell yes – but it would deny these young men their special moment in the World’s Most Famous Arena and certainly wouldn’t right any wrongs.
I think former WVU player John Flowers struck at the part of this that bugs me the most with a tweet that said simply (if somewhat profanely):
kj aint get POY! wooooowwww! this is crazy ….the big east be fuggin wit peoples lives
It’s true. The Big East Player of the Year is nothing to scoff at. It’s a resume builder that would be an invaluable addition to the resume of any aspiring pro basketball player. If the Jeremy Lin saga has taught us anything it’s that the subjectivity of talent evaluation shuts out many young men who could very well find themselves a place in the league. Would that high POY honor catch the eye of some scout or front office executive in the League and give Jones an opportunity he might not have otherwise? Could it be that razor-thin distinction between sleeping on a friend’s couch and leading off SportsCenter? We’ll never know, and hopefully it won’t matter. Jones could very well carve out a niche in the NBA the same way he has the most respected league in college basketball. I hope he does. I love watching the kid play and certainly would love the opportunity to do it past the month of March.
But those coaches of the Big East who determine these awards would do well to remember that their responsibility lies far beyond the realm of short-term feuds and lawsuits. That the supposed settling of petty scores counts as a loss for everyone when it’s done at the expense of young men who have put every ounce of their fiber into being the very best that they can be. Here’s hoping that KJ, Truck, Deniz and the rest of the Mountaineer hoop team can channel any frustrations and pay the league back in the only way possible. Storm the court and seize the only trophy they can’t be denied.
So if you’ll indulge me in one final piece of profanity, I’ll turn it over to my good buddy Jake Taylor:
2 Responses to “If You Can’t Beat ‘em – Screw ‘em.”
The Big East is about as petty as one can imagine. I would guess that Meatball is able to influence the vote at Providence. I’m sure Buzz voted for his guy. Calhoun and Pitino probably voted for Crowder, because they are nothing if not petty jerks. I just don’t get the rest.
I feel bad for KJ, but I just hope the boys rally and kick some other team’s butts for payback.
Calhoun publically stated that KJ should be POY. Williams cannot vote for his own player. I’m sure its deeper than that. I bet Marinatto talked with the ADs of the schools and told them to eff over WVU. Simple as that.