Last season, the Player of the Year award was cut and dry pretty much by the time the first month of the season was over. It was Obi Toppin, and it wasn’t close. It usually is a very close race in the Atlantic 10, but for one year, it really wasn’t.
Fast forward to this year, we are back to our annual close race for player of the year. With about 4 weeks to go into the regular season, a hop topic among the A10 community is Player of the Year. The A10 is no short of great players on almost every team. We can go on and on about who is the best, but who REALISTICALLY could win it?
First, I want to name all the best players in the A10 this year who are having a great season so far. Here’s my list:
Stick with me, folks. This is just a list of guys who are having good years. I’m going to start getting into the nitty gritty.
First we need to lay this down. If your team is not over .500, and you are having a good year, you are not going to win the POY. Sorry, it’s just the unwritten rules. It was the same as Ryan Daly last year, who led the A-10 in scoring last year.
That rule eliminates the following: James Bishop, Jamison Battle, Taylor Funk, Marcus Weathers, Jordan Miller
Next, we need to talk about some history. Since the A-10 realigned the conference to it’s current 14-team format in 2014-15, no team outside the top 4 of the conference standings at the end of the season has won the POY. Here’s the table below to prove it:
All of the players that have won the award were on teams that finished 4th or higher in the A-10 that year. In fact, 5 of the 6 years were by players that were on teams that finished 3rd or better. The only player whose team finished 4th was DeAndre Bembry of Saint Joseph’s, who was an NBA first round draft pick that year. So the odds are that the POY will be from a team that finishes 3rd or higher in the A10.
So who does that rule eliminate from who’s left? Not really anyone. The team that is the most down in the standings is Dayton, which would make Crutcher out. However, there’s still a month of season left to be played, so Crutcher is still safe for now.
Next, let’s look at scoring. Below are the last player of the year winners, their points per game average, and where they finished in scoring in the league the year they won.
2020 – Obi Toppin – 20.0 ppg, 2nd
2019 – Jon Axel Gudmundsson – 16.9 ppg, 4th
2018 – Peyton Aldridge – 21.2, 1st
2018 – Jalen Adams – 19.1 ppg, 4th
2017 – T.J. Cline – 18.5 ppg, 5th
2016 – DeAndre Bembry – 17.4 ppg, 10th
2015 – Tyler Kalinoski – 16.7 ppg, 5th
Looking at these results, winners seemed to finish top 5 in scoring in the league. Not really sure how Bembry won being 10th in the league that year, but he was an NBA draft pick so I guess it makes sense. Otherwise, I would place a sizable bet the winner this season is not below 5th in the league in scoring.
Going through this year’s list that I made, let’s look at who the top 10 scorers in the A10 are:
- Tre Mitchell – 20.0
- James Bishop – 19.8 (eliminated)
- Jalen Crutcher – 19.4
- Bones Hyland – 19.2
- Jamison Battle – 18.4 (eliminated)
- Javonte Perkins – 17.5
- Kellan Grady – 17.4
- Blake Francis – 16.6
- Taylor Funk – 16.2 (eliminated)
- Jordan Miller – 15.9 (eliminated)
So who does this eliminate? Jacob Gilyard is way down on the list in scoring, so he’s out. Plus, he is up for both A-10 and National Defensive Player of the Year, so I’m sure he’d rather have that. Grant Golden is 16th, so he is probably out as well. Jaren Holmes is 15th, so he’s probably out. The only two I am hesitant about are Jordan Goodwin, who is 11th right behind Miller, and Kyle Lofton, who is 12th. Plus, Goodwin is the top rebounder in the league this season, so he is averaging a double double. If his scoring increases a tad, he probably moves up to be one of the top three candidates. Right now, he is the only player averaging a double double in the A10, which keeps him in the POY race even though he is 11th in scoring. I would say Lofton is out for now just because there are so many players ahead of him in scoring that it will be hard for him to win unless he improves his average.
What we are down to is this group: Tre Mitchell, Jalen Crutcher, Bones Hyland, Javonte Perkins, Kellan Grady, Blake Francis, and Jordan Goodwin.
If the A10 sticks to its history of choosing a player in top 5 of scoring, then we are down to Mitchell, Crutcher, and Hyland. That’s honestly who I think it is going to come down to. So let’s see if there are any outstanding stats about each player that could win them the award.
For Tre Mitchell, he is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, which is good for 8th in the A10. He also has a player efficiency rating of 25.2, which is best in the conference. To compare, Obi Toppin’s rating was 32.5 last season. The one thing for Mitchell is that UMass might not make the top 4. If they don’t, I really don’t think he wins the crown. If the Minutemen make it, he’s got a great shot to win it. Mitchell being out with an injury for multiple games is taking away from his campaign as well.
For Jalen Crutcher, he’s 8th in the league in assists per game with 4.6. He also has the most minutes played of any player in the country, nonetheless the A10. That could help or hurt Crutcher depending on how the committee views that. They could say that he plays so many minutes so no wonder he averages 19.4 points per game. The other argument is that he’s the most important player for Dayton so he has to play the entire game. Regardless of his minutes, Crutcher leads the A10 in effective field goal percentage. Toppin won that crown last year as well. Also, Dayton is in jeopardy of not making the top 4, which could be how he doesn’t win it.
For Bones Hyland, I really think he has the best shot to win it. Other than being 4th in the league in scoring at 19.2 ppg, he is also second in the league in steals at 2.2 per game on a team that is the best in the country in steal percentage. He’s also 3rd in the A10 in three point percentage at 39.3%. His team is also in very good position to finish top 4 in the A10. His team is also in hunt for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, something UMass and Dayton are not in the hunt for anymore.
As a result, I think the player that has the best shot to win it if the season ended today is Bones Hyland. History is on his side with VCU being one of the top 4 in the A10, plus he is also top 5 in scoring and does enough other little things well to get him the edge over Mitchell and Crutcher. The dark horse candidates that could climb into that group are Jordan Goodwin, Javonte Perkins, Kyle Lofton, and Kellan Grady, depending on where their respective teams finish in the A10 and where their scoring averages end up.
Lots of season left to be played. Buckle up.