Almost every award that is given out to athletes is based on the opinion of a group of voters. Whether it be the Heisman or Player of the Year in any number of sports, a group of supposedly impartial voters picks a winner based on their own personal criteria.
No matter who this group chooses, there will inevitably be people who feel that the award should have gone to someone else. This happens every year, and in every sport.
The Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honor is no different.
Going into the final weeks of the season, it became a two horse race between Jimmer Fredette of BYU and Darington Hobson of New Mexico. Hobson ultimately won the award, though it was very close.
If you look at it all objectively, Jimmer didn’t get robbed because Hobson had a great season as well. In fact, it was probably Jimmer’s illnesses over the past month that cost him the award. It isn’t his fault that he got sick, but that is just the reality of sports: injuries happen.
What makes this whole situation interesting is that this morning Jimmer earned the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Player of the Year award for District Eight. He was also named a third team All-American by The Sporting News.
So when the decision was placed before the people that have theoretically watched Jimmer and Hobson all year, the nod went to Hobson (though some say he is not even the most valuable player on his own team, but that is a different discussion).
When the decision is placed before a national audience, the nod goes to Jimmer.
As I mentioned before, both players were worthy of the award, and neither player got robbed. What I think is interesting is what this says about the national perception of these players and their respective teams.
It is highly likely that Jimmer’s 49 point explosion against Arizona is what won him the national accolades. As a member of the Mountain West, neither player gets much attention from the national media because they don’t play on ESPN. But a 49 point effort against a historically strong basketball team will always get you some press.
Hobson probably got the nod from the local group because his team won the regular season conference title. Neither reason is better than the other, but merely reflects what each group puts as a priority.
I also can’t help but think that BYU’s better national exposure has to help Jimmer. They have their ups and their downs just like any team, but BYU is far and away the most well known university in the Mountain West.
UNLV had their time as an elite basketball team when Jerry Tarkanian was there. Utah and TCU have gotten great publicity for football in recent years, but as an overall group, BYU is the team everyone wants to beat, and the school that draws the national attention.
It doesn’t hurt that BYU has a built-in nationwide, and really worldwide, audience because of their religious affiliation. It’s an advantage that no other school in the conference has, and I have to believe it helps when it comes to voters that haven’t really followed the conference closely.
Jimmer may have also benefited from his East coast roots. He has his own little fan club in New York that goes back to his days as one of the best high school basketball players in the state. We all know that rooting for the home team, or home player, is something we all do.
As far as I am concerned, I couldn’t care less who wins the awards: I want the TEAM to win in the tournament. It should be a fun tournament, and both players should show their worth, but you never know how these things will play out.
We should all cross our fingers that the seeding holds and we are rewarded with a rematch between BYU and UNM on Saturday night. This would give Jimmer and Hobson one last chance to square off before they go before a national audience next week.