With A-10 conference awards being announced on Tuesday, let’s take a look at some of the frontrunners to win player of the year honors. Here is a case for and against each top candidate.
T.J. Cline, Richmond
For: T.J. Cline is a complete player on the offensive end of the floor. His 18.6 points (5th in A-10), 8.1 rebounds (3rd in A-10), and 5.7 assists (2nd in A-10) do a pretty good job justifying that. Cline has the best assist and defensive rebounding rate in the conference. He’s also shooting an incredible 63.9% from two point range in conference play. T.J. Cline was the driving force, and at times the sole player, that propelled Richmond to a double-bye in Pittsburgh. Cline’s value to his team is unmatched by any other player in the conference, though Marquise Moore of George Mason comes close. Cline single-handedly led a decent Richmond Spiders team to a 3rd place finish in the Atlantic 10, and in doing so, he may have saved his head coach’s job as well.
Against: I mentioned that Cline is a complete player on the offensive end of the floor, but his defense has not kept up. Though he’s good at cleaning up the defensive glass, T.J. Cline is not a good on-ball defender, and that has undoubtedly hurt his stock. While it’s important to be a competitor on both ends of the floor, T.J. Cline’s offensive accomplishments might be good enough to win him the award, even without playing much defense.
Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
For: Jaylen Adams has kept the Bonnies relevant this season, despite losing Marcus Posley and Dion Wright to graduation last year. Adams is the 2nd leading scorer in the conference at 20.8 points per game, and he’s leading the A-10 in assists per game at 6.6. Adams is great at getting to the free throw line, as he draws the second most fouls per 40 minutes in conference play. When he gets to the charity stripe, he knocks down 81.6% of his attempts. The most improved area of his game from last season is his defense. Jaylen Adams’ steal percentage has gone up from 2.1% his sophomore season to 3.1% this season. He ranks 4th in the A-10 in that metric.
Against: While Adams is one of the best scoring guards in the Atlantic 10, he shares a lot of production with Matt Mobley who averages nearly 19 points per contest. While that’s not necessarily an issue, Adams is not the sole star on his team like T.J. Cline is on Richmond. Adams’ three point shooting percentage in conference play has gone way down from 44.5% last year to 32.1% this year. While he’s improved his game in a number of areas, his offensive rating according to Kenpom has gone down, and he’s not shooting the ball with as much efficiency.
Marquise Moore, George Mason
For: Like T.J. Cline, Marquise Moore has the “star of the show” factor going for him. Averaging 17.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, he leads the Patriots in both statistical categories, and he leads the entire conference in rebounds. As a guard who can score and crash the glass at such a high level, Marquise Moore is definitely being considered for player of the year. Moore isn’t too shabby when it comes to passing the ball as well, as he ranks 11th in the conference with 3.5 assists per game. Moore is unique in the way he plays much bigger than he actually is. Rebounding and scoring in traffic, Marquise Moore is more like a power forward than a guard.
Against: My concern for Moore’s chances is that he’s too similar to T.J. Cline with slightly less impressive accolades. Cline is a better scorer and passer who arguably means a bit more to his team than Moore does. While George Mason’s stud senior is a better rebounder than Cline, I’m not sure if that’s going to be enough to give him the edge. Also, a player like T.J. Cline or Jaylen Adams whose teams finished 3rd and 5th in the conference is more likely to win the player of the year honors than a player from the Patriots who placed 7th.
Jack Gibbs, Davidson
For: Jack Gibbs is the conference’s leading scorer at 22.0 points per game, and he’s been a big time performer throughout his career at Davidson. This year has been no different. Gibbs leads the conference in percentage of possessions utilized and percentage of shots taken. There’s no denying that Jack Gibbs has the green light whenever he’s on the floor, and even with Peyton Aldridge in the mix, Jack Gibbs is still Davidson’s rock. Gibbs is shooting the ball at a 39.8% rate from three, which is more than 6% better than last year. Jack Gibbs also has the 8th best assist rate in the Atlantic 10, and he’s the 12th best in the conference at limiting turnovers.
Against: Just like Marquise Moore, it’s difficult to argue for a player whose team finished 9th in the conference. Davidson hasn’t been having a good year, considering it was picked to finish 4th in the conference, and because of that, it may be tough for Gibbs to take the title. Also, Gibbs is clearly the go-to guy on Davidson, but the rise of Peyton Aldridge makes Gibbs a bit less distinguishable. Unlike Marquise Moore or T.J. Cline, Jack Gibbs has had very good support in the conference’s 3rd leading scorer, and Davidson still lost 10 conference games this year.
Charles Cooke, Dayton
For: Charles Cooke came back to Dayton and is having exactly the kind of senior season Flyer fans expected from him. Cooke’s 16.2 points per game weigh in 10th in the A-10, and his 3.0 assists per game rank him 21st. Cooke is one of two true stars on the conference’s regular season champion team, and he’s been Dayton’s biggest playmaker all season long. Cooke is also shooting 41.5% from three in conference play which ranks 6th.
Against: It becomes tough to make a case for Charles Cooke when Scoochie Smith has arguably been just as valuable to this Dayton team. When you add the efforts of Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis, you realize that Dayton’s success has really been a team effort and not due to any individual player. While Cooke has certainly been impressive all season, he’s not at the top of the list in any statistical category, and his offensive production is great but probably not good enough to win him the award.
Hassan Martin, Rhode Island
For: Hassan Martin has, once again, been one of the best defenders in the league, and he should be the frontrunner to win A-10 defensive player of the year. Martin’s 2.6 blocks per game and 8.8% block percentage lead the conference, and his 10.8% block percentage overall ranks 13th in the nation. Martin is a force to be reckoned with on the interior, and that’s really translated over to the offensive side of the ball as well. The senior ranks 17th in the league with 14.0 points per game, and his 59.2% field goal percentage ranks 4th. In addition, Hassan Martin has been good on the glass. His 7.1 rebounds per game rank 8th in the Atlantic 10.
Against: Martin seems to be more fit for defensive player of the year rather than overall player of the year. While defense has been an important consideration for the award in years past, it seems that offense has ruled king nevertheless. I don’t think Martin has the offensive numbers to win player of the year, especially when he’s not even the leading scorer on his team. Again, I think Rhode Island has too many weapons to produce the POY.