When the Big Ten released the names of its first team honorees on Monday, one thing in particular stuck out. Of the five spots on the all-Big Ten first team, four were unanimous between the media and the coaches of the conference. However, at the last guard spot, there was a difference of opinion. The media selected Penn State standout Tim Frazier, while the coaches selected Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor.
Let’s look at what both sides saw.
The media most likely selected Frazier because of his statistics. Frazier is obviously one of the most athletic and explosive guards the conference has. With a lightening first step and a smooth floater in the lane, it’s no surprise that Frazier is the second best scorer in the conference. Posting 18.6 points per game, Frazier’s average only trails behind unanimous first team all-Big Ten honoree John Shurna of Northwestern (19.8). Frazier’s aggressive driving style has also led to the junior guard leading the conference in free throws made, connecting on 155-of-197 attempts (78 percent). He also posts a conference best 6.3 assists per contest.
Frazier contributes the greatest percentage of any Big Ten player to a team’s total offense. Penn State currently ranks second- to-last in the Big Ten with a total offensive output of 61.9, meaning Frazier’s 18.6 points per game account for 30 percent of Penn State’s scoring on average per night (that’s not even attributing total offense with Frazier’s assists). And don’t worry about his defense; Frazier’s got PSU covered with 2.3 steals per game, good for second best in the conference.
With all of those terrific numbers, it seems easy to understand what the media saw in the Penn State standout. But, the coaches differed from the media and selected Taylor, most likely for different reasons.
Taylor’s stats are down from last year. While Frazier is tops in most offensive categories, the Wisconsin point guard’s average points per game output is down to 14.6 from the 18.1 he averaged just a year ago. Last year, Taylor had the nation’s highest assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.83. Now, Taylor currently ranks 15th in the nation with a ratio of 2.63. His productivity has fallen statistically, which is probably what the media saw when they voted Frazier over him for first team honors. However, they didn’t take in a few of the stats that matter most.
Taylor inherited a team that graduated three starters from the previous year. Keaton Nankivil, Jon Leuer and Tim Jarmusz combined to average 31.9 points a game. When looking at total offense (in 2011 the Badgers averaged 67.9 points per game) these three senior starters made up almost 47 percent of the total offense per game just a year ago. Besides replacing that scoring, Taylor had to lead a team that groomed three new starters this year, while the departure of his entire starting frontcourt (especially the NBA talent of Leuer) allowed opposing teams to focus primarily on shutting him down.
The job of a point guard is to lead his team, and Taylor undeniably has done that. While the Badgers struggled early in the conference season – losing three straight at one point in Big Ten play, including two consecutive home losses to Iowa and Michigan State -Taylor led the Badgers to a fourth place finish in the Big Ten. Taylor’s continued greatness with the ball helped bolster Wisconsin against the conference, as his assist-to-turnover ratio this season is the Big Ten’s best, while Frazier’s is currently eighth in the league.
From a point guard standpoint, Taylor is probably the best of any in the conference, and thinking about the Badgers this year without the star on the floor is stomach churning. Badger fans and coaches throughout the Big Ten alike can recall moments when the Wisconsin offense stalled, only to be bailed out on some amazing shots with the shot clock buzzer ringing after Taylor’s quick release.
In a year in which many doubted how the Badgers would finish, Taylor has remained consistent and helped lead this team to success in a year where the Big Ten, top to bottom, was perhaps the most competitive it has ever been. When it came down to it, the coaches recognized that Taylor is the heart that pumps the blood through this Wisconsin team’s body. Without the seasoned leadership and consistent play of Taylor, it’s safe to say the Badgers would not have finished in fourth place or with 20-plus wins.
Simply put, the difference in picks comes from two different aspects. The media tend to weigh the statistical output of Frazier at a higher importance than wins. While Frazier had a terrific season personally, that did not translate to his team’s overall success, as PSU went 12-19 overall and 4-14 in the conference. However, Taylor finished with a higher assist-to-turnover ratio than Frazier and led his team to a uncontested lock for another NCAA tournament berth (23-8, 12-6). Although his statistics are down, Taylor has his team rolling into the conference tournament courtesy of a three-game winning streak.
At a position on the floor where efficiency is everything, Taylor had the better season. In a sport where winning is everything, Taylor had more to his name. Statistics won’t put Frazier and Penn State in the tournament, but the efficient play and leadership of Taylor will put Wisconsin in the Big Dance, vindicating the coaches’ decision to pick Taylor over Frazier as the right one.
Are stats more important to you than winning? Hold on there, stats major; email Nick at [email protected] and tell him why he’s right or wrong on choosing Taylor.