Jae Crowder: the Big East’s best

Marquette coach Buzz Williams was not shy about his Big East player of the year selection. When asked about West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, the consensus front runner and opponent tomorrow, his answer was blunt.

“He’s the Player of the Year, period,” Williams said. “So who’s going to guard him and when are they going to guard him, and can we guard him is probably the biggest question. He’s really good.”

But with all due respect to coach Williams, who has more basketball knowledge in his thumb than this author will ever have, he has a player who is even more deserving of Big East player of the year than Jones is.

His name? Jae Crowder.

The no-name “tweener” from a small junior college has taken the Big East by storm in 2011-’12. He has dominated both ends of the floor, stepped up when called upon and turned Marquette from a nice story in the Big East to a Final Four contender.

Crowder has averaged 17. 1 points per game compared to Jones’ 20.3. However, the West Virginia forward has taken over three more shots per game than Crowder and, despite Jones’ better field goal percentage, Crowder’s effective field goal percentage (59.4 percent) is over three points higher than Jones’ (56.2 percent). Jones has made 1.1 3-pointers per game at 28.6 percent, while Crowder has averaged 1.9 3-pointers per game at a 38.5 percent rate. Jones is better inside, but Crowder is more lethal and efficient from different areas on the court.

Rebounding is the one area that Jones has Crowder, but it’s expected considering the former has two inches and 25 pounds on the latter. Jones leads the Big East in rebounding, just as he does scoring, but Crowder’s 7.7 boards per game are impressive when considering he has played out of position all year, due to Chris Otule’s and Davante Gardner’s injuries.

What’s more, Crowder’s advantage in assist rate (13.4 to 8.1) is more proof that his complete game trumps Jones’.

One area where Crowder has a significant advantage over Jones is in the turnover department.

Both are among the nation’s best at taking care of the ball. Crowder’s 9.8 turnover percentage rate is 23rd best in the country, while Jones’ 8.6 percent is 11th in the country. Both players take care of the ball and don’t give up possessions, but Crowder’s distinct advantage is taking opponent’s possessions away.

The Marquette forward is third in the Big East in steals, with a remarkable 4.2 steal percentage (4.2 out of every 100 opponent’s possessions, Crowder records a steal). Jones is no slouch defensively, but he has averaged 0.8 steals per game for a marginal 1.2 steal percentage.

Despite Jones’ added size, Crowder also has a better block rate than him. Jones has just two more blocks than Crowder while having played an additional 174 minutes. For the best rebounder in the conference, Jones’ numbers in other defensive categories would indicate that Crowder has a clear advantage.

Aside from the numbers that show Crowder is overall having a better year than Jones, the Villa Rica native is doing just as much that doesn’t show up in the box score.

There are players who dominate a box score but don’t contribute toward team wins. Then there are those whose numbers won’t wow you, but are vital to a team’s success. Crowder is both.

With a minute to go in the first half on Wednesday, Crowder drew a charge on a driving Myles Mack. Williams sprinted over to Crowder, who was sprawled out on the floor, and with a smile on his face and patted Crowder on the head with both hands. Vintage Buzz. Vintage Crowder.

He drew two charges in the win, and if that stat was kept he certainly would be at the top of list in the Big East, just like he is most other statistical categories.

“50-50” balls are more like “80-20” balls when Crowder is involved. There simply isn’t a player in the conference, Jones and Johnson-Odom included, who will work harder than Crowder.

His two turnovers on Wednesday night occurred as he attempted a pass to Juan Anderson, which hit the freshman right in the chest underneath the basket. If Anderson catches it, Crowder is looking at an assist, not a turnover.

The second occurred late in the game, with Crowder attempting to push the ball up the floor to Todd Mayo. The freshman would have had a one-on-one opportunity had the pass been more accurate. That turnover was Crowder’s fault, but one turnover in 36 minutes is hard to argue.

Friday night’s matchup between Jones and Crowder isn’t single elimination, where the “loser” will be out of the Player of the Year race. But one player can make his mark in a year where both have been exceptionally good.

Crowder said Wednesday he is more than ready for the battle.

“I’ve been wanting (Jones) for a while now,” Crowder said. “He’s a great player, I know that. My team knows that. But I’m really looking forward to the matchup and battling it out. I’ll be watching film on him and have his moves down pat.”

Crowder also said that being named to the honorable mention Big East team prior to the season has given him motivation to prove his value and capability on the court.

“When I got that accolade, I knew I was capable of more than doing that,” Crowder said. “So that has been in the back of my head.”

Crowder’s stellar performance Wednesday night can be summed up in a sequence at the 4-minute mark of the first half. Following a missed 3-pointer by Darius Johnson-Odom that caromed off the rim toward the sideline, Crowder leaped into the stands in an attempt to save the possession, knocking down an elder man sitting court side.

The next time the Golden Eagles were on that end, Crowder went over and asked the man if he was O.K.

“I’m fine,” he said. “But you’re great!”

Crowder is great. And, in the Big East this year, the best.

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  1. Daybreak Doppler: The Ryan Braun Decision Was Worth the Wait | PocketDoppler.com - February 24, 2012

    […] Paint Touches on Marquette’s Jae Crowder: the Big East’s best. […]

  2. Big East Player of the Year Race | Paint Touches - April 4, 2012

    […] We made the case for Jae Crowder last week — as has the great Cracked Sidewalks blog, Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale — while some national pundits like ESPN’s Jason King believe DJO is still ahead at the moment, with the ever present Kevin Jones lurking in the shadows with his impressive numbers. […]

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