February 12, 2009

Evaluating Nebraska and the Big 12 thus far

With just seven games remaining on Nebraska's regular season schedule and its Big 12 Conference season now more than halfway done, HuskersIllustrated.com decided to take a look at where the Huskers are to this point and how they stack up with the rest of the conference.

(NOTE: In the defensive MVP category, my first thought was to put down Nebraska as a team as opposed to just one player. But, for the sake of consistency, I kept it on an individual basis.)

Offensive MVP so far

Nebraska: Cookie Miller

While his 7.4 points per game rank just fifth on the team, Nebraska's offense takes on an almost completely different identity with Miller running the point. Along with making sometimes jaw-dropping shots and passes, his 3.7 assists per game lead the team by a long shot and rank eighth in the Big 12. The sophomore has also hit 40 of his 50 free throws (80 percent) this season, giving him the highest free throw percentage of any Husker with 20 or more attempts.

Big 12: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Hard to argue this one, as Griffin leads the league scoring (22.3 ppg), offensive rebounds (82) and field goal percentage (63.3 percent). Likely the national player of the year, Griffin has more than lived up to the preseason hype, as he's by far the best player in the Big 12's best and arguably the country.

Defensive MVP so far

Nebraska: Ade Dagunduro

Dagunduro leads the team in rebounding (4.0 per game) and ranks fourth on the team in steals (27), but it's the plays they don't have stats for that make him so good defensively. Along with being Nebraska's best team motivator, the senior guard has often times been matched up against players significantly taller and bigger than him, and aside from maybe Griffin at Oklahoma, as more than held his own. Throw in the constant hustle plays he makes whenever he's on the floor (i.e. the Texas game), and he's done as much as Doc Sadler could ask of him.

Big 12: Blake Griffin

Again, the numbers simply make it tough to pick anyone else. Along with leading the league in overall rebounding, Griffin has 73 more defensive boards than any other player in the Big 12. He also ranks fourth in the conference in blocked shots with 32.

Overall MVP so far

Nebraska: Dagunduro

No player has done more in every aspect of the game for Nebraska than Dagunduro. Along with his previously noted contributions on the defensive end, he leads the Huskers in scoring (11.8 ppg) and has shot a team-high 53.4 percent from the field. He ranks second on the team with 10 blocks, and his 66 made free throws on the year are 18 more than any other Husker. Simply put, Dagunduro has done it all.

Big 12: Griffin

See above.

Coaches of the Year

Jeff Capel, Oklahoma and Doc Sadler, Nebraska

Obviously Capel has the luxury of sending Blake Griffin onto the court each game, but that's far from the only reason the Sooners have become a national power this season. Capel has not only assembled on of the most all-around talented rosters in the country, he's also been able to keep OU's offense balanced enough that teams can't solely focus on stopping Griffin without getting burned. Barring a complete meltdown to end the regular season, Oklahoma will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and likely one of the favorites to win it all.

On the other end is Sadler, who doesn't have a player taller than 6-foot-8 on his roster let alone a player of the year candidate. Despite being undersized and overmatched on paper, Sadler has guided the Huskers to 15 wins this season with a small chance to sneak their way into the Big Dance. No team in the league plays better defense than Nebraska, and arguably no team in the country plays harder. For those two reasons, the Huskers appear on their way back to national legitimacy.

All-Big 12 first team

G Byron Eaton, Oklahoma State

G Sherron Collins, Kansas

F Craig Brackins, Iowa State

F Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

C Cole Aldrich, Kansas

All-Big 12 second team

G A.J. Abrams, Texas

G Willie Warren, Oklahoma

G DeMarre Carroll, Missouri

G Curtis Jerrells, Baylor

F Damion James, Texas

Projected final Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma 23-1 (Final record: 28-3 overall, 14-2 Big 12)*

2. Kansas 19-5 (25-5, 14-2)*

3. Missouri 21-4 (26-5, 13-3)*

4. Texas 16-7 (22-8, 11-5)*

5. Nebraska 15-7 (20-9, 10-6)#

6. Kansas State 16-7 (20-11, 8-8)#

7. Oklahoma State 14-9 (18-13, 7-9)#

8. Baylor 15-8 (18-12, 6-10)#

9. Texas A&M 17-7 (19-12, 5-11)

10. Iowa State 12-11 (14-17, 3-13)

11. Texas Tech 12-11 (13-18, 3-13)

12. Colorado 9-13 (10-20, 2-14)

* - NCAA Tournament

# - National Invitation Tournament

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