Why Trevor Releford Deserves to Be the 2014 SEC Basketball Player of the Year
Let's face it. This year's Alabama basketball season will go down as one of the most forgettable in the program's history. Barring an unrealistic 6-game winning streak to end the season, the Crimson Tide will finish with its first losing record since 1999-00. Despite being competitive against one of the nation's most difficult schedules, the team just hasn't managed to acquire the ability to win close games.
But don't be so quick to turn the page on this chapter of Alabama basketball, because you'd be overlooking one of the best players to ever come through the school. Forget about the win-loss record for a few minutes and you'll see that point guard Trevor Releford should win the SEC's Player of the Year Award.
With only three more weeks left in the 2013-14 season, the debate over who will win the conference's MVP award has already started. While media and fans will quickly look to the teams that sit atop the SEC standings when considering nominees, it's a guy that plays for a team near that bottom that's most deserving.
To understand why, you must first start by looking at Releford's numbers and how they compare with his peers. So let's see which statistics he ranks top 10 in the SEC:
- Points per game (19.0, 6th)
- Field goal percentage (50.5%, 6th)
- Free throw percentage (90.5%, 2nd)
- 3-Pt FG percentage (40.1%, 5th)
- 3-PT FG made (2.4, 7th)
- Steals (2.2, 1st)
- Minutes played (34.4, 4th)
Even his rebounding, where you'd never expect him to have much of an impact since he's usually the shortest guy on the floor, ranks third on Alabama's team at 3.5 per game. Clearly, he's made as much of an all-around impact as anyone in the league this season. This stat shared by Alabama's Twitter account backs that assertion up even more:
The only negative critics could point to is the lack of assists, but his 2.9 average per game is up from both his sophomore and junior seasons despite the lack of help around him.
That brings us to the second argument in his favor. There hasn't been a consistent scoring threat on this team outside of Releford. With only Retin Obasohan averaging double-digit points (and he hasn't scored 10 or more points since January 18), opposing teams have game planned around stopping the point guard.
Just consider that Releford has 10 games of 20+ points (4 in February alone). The rest of his team has combined for six such efforts. Night in and night out, he has to deal with the most defensive pressure on the team while trying to run the offense and put points up, and he's done so as successfully as anyone else in the SEC.
Then, of course, we've seen clutch shots in big moments like the Ole Miss win last week.
If you want to make the argument that his team hasn't won enough for him to win the award, traditionally you might be correct. But last year, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was honored despite his Georgia Bulldogs finishing with a 15-17 overall record. That has to give Alabama fans a bit of hope.
On the other hand, you might be thinking that it's obvious that Releford should be among the favorites to win the prestigious award, but we're talking about a guy that hasn't been recognized as the SEC Player of the Week once this year. Heck, he wasn't even considered one of the top 12 players in the conference by CBS before the season started.
Now we're entering the final six games of one of the greatest career's in Alabama history. With no postseason to look forward to, the Crimson Tide will be in a position to play spoiler down the stretch. To win those games, the point guard will have to lead the way once again.
Will a couple more 20-point performances be enough to gain the recognition he deserves and bring the award to Tuscaloosa for just the second time in 27 years? If so, it would be a rare bright spot in an otherwise-somber season.