Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/17/13
Marcus Smart was voted preseason Big 12 Player of the Year on Thursday by the league's coaches and it was unanimous. Andrew Wiggins was voted preseason first-team All-Big 12—the first freshman ever selected—and it wasn't unanimous you know because he hasn't proven anything yet. Never mind that college coaches do this thing called recruiting where with their eyes they watch the best high-school players compete against each other. So the only thing to conclude here is one (or more) of the Big 12's coaches recruits with his eyes closed. The coaches have a pretty good idea what they're up against in Wiggins. They knew with Smart going into last year too. And Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley probably should have been preseason selections when they were freshmen. Bravo to the coaches who at least picked Wiggins this year. But hey preseason rankings and all-league teams are meant to get us excited about the season and to spark debate and one of the best in-conference debates this season should be this: Who's the Big 12's Player of the Year—Wiggins or Smart? At this point we know they'll both be extremely valuable to their respective teams but it's a guessing game as to how productive they will be. Let's do what coaches probably don't do when they fill out their ballots let's try to project what will happen and who will be more valuable. Defensive Impact The argument could be made that Smart was the most valuable defensive player in the country last year. Before Aaron Craft or Jeff Withey or Russ Smith supporters hunt me down realize I said an "argument could be made" and hear me out. Look at where Oklahoma State ranked in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive measure (subscription needed) and other advanced defensive metrics in 2011-12 compared to 2012-13. That's what you would call a difference-maker. Smart has amazing defensive instincts—he averaged 3.0 steals per game for instance—but it's those team numbers that reflect his real impact. Smart's effort rubbed off on his teammates. Plus he's a great on-the-ball-defender a great off-the-ball defender and the best rebounder at his position in the country. So that's a pretty good argument for Smart as the most valuable defender in the country right? To hear Bill Self talk about Wiggins we might be writing similar things in a few months about KU's star.
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