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No doubt about top player

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Posted: Thursday March 08, 2001 10:55 AM
Updated: Monday March 12, 2001 8:12 AM


SEATTLE -- I want to get something off my chest, and I can thank Jay of Chapel Hill, N.C., for helping me do it. Jay wants to know who my Player of the Year is, and I ... can't ... hold ... back ... any ... longer.

It's Jason Williams. And it's not even close.

How can anyone with half a brain call Shane Battier Player of the Year? Sure, Battier is a fine, fine player. But forget the stats, forget that Battier may be the future President of the United States, and forget that not even Duke is promoting Williams as POY.

Ponder this scenario instead: You're down by 10 with 10 minutes to go in a game you have to win. You can have your pick of any player in the country to get you out of your hole. Who would it be?

It has to be Williams -- for his explosiveness, for his shooting, and, yes, for his defense, too (which isn't as big a drop-off from Battier as people would have you think). For all those reasons, Williams fits my definition of the best player in the nation.

Might as well clean out the cupboard ...


Jason Williams, Duke
Joseph Forte, North Carolina
Casey Jacobsen, Stanford
Shane Battier, Duke
Troy Murphy, Notre Dame


Jamaal Tinsley, Iowa State
Troy Bell, Boston College
Jason Richardson, Michigan State
Casey Calvary, Gonzaga
Jason Collins, Stanford


I'll be stubborn and stick with my preseason picks, which means Stanford (West), Duke (East), Arizona (Midwest) and Illinois (South) can punch their tickets to Minneapolis. (Subject to rejiggering, of course, if those four don't end up in separate regions.)

Before we get to this week's 'Bag, I wanted to thank the dozens of folks who responded to my query w/r/t the great Dukie/Dookie debate. We don't have space for all the messages, but here's the gist of what I heard: "Dookie" is a pejorative term for Duke fans, one that often originates with UNC supporters and can also refer to a slang term for excrement (not in my neighborhood, but apparently in many others). "Dukie" just seems kind of lame to me, and several Duke fans pointed out they'd rather be called "Crazies" anyway. So "Crazies" it is in this column from here on out.

Also, some of the vitriolic response to my favorite arenas was just plain mean. Play nice, everybody. I didn't include Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena simply because, while I've been there several times, I have never witnessed a game there. And for those of you lamenting my omission of Cameron Indoor Stadium, read the caveat again: I only included places where I've seen games.


As great as the atmosphere in college hoops arenas may be, you haven't heard nothin' 'til you've been to a rocking soccer stadium. In the spirit of last week's raucous U.S. win over Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, here are the 10 loudest soccer shrines where I've seen games. Check them out if you're ever traveling abroad:

1. La Bombonera (Buenos Aires). When Boca Juniors' bosteros do the human wave (not your father's wave), head for cover.

2. Parkhead (Glasgow). Sectarian hatred of crosstown rival Rangers makes Duke-Carolina look like a garden party.

3. Maracana (Rio de Janeiro). World's largest stadium is deafening during a Flamengo match.

4. Estadio Azteca (Mexico City). Pollution, altitude can't keep our southern neighbors from having a good time.

5. Estadio Monumental (Buenos Aires). My back's still aching from River Plate fans hugging me after a '95 Superclasico win.

6. Stade Velodrome (Marseille). Home of France's real soccer fans. Architecture strangely resembles the dearly departed Sombrero in Tampa.

7. Stamford Bridge (London). It gets loud in the Shed.

8. Stade de France (Paris). Sure, Les Parisiens aren't the most gung-ho soccer fans. But when you win a World Cup it's hard not to get excited.

9. Estadio Jalisco (Guadalajara). Whistles during the American national anthem are louder than most U.S. soccer crowds.

10. De Kuip Stadium (Rotterdam). Home of Feyenoord did a most excellent job at Euro 2000.

I'm getting all misty-eyed for the last 'Bag of the season. Here we go ...

What seed do you think the Ivy League champ should get? While none of the teams have had stellar seasons, are they good enough to avoid the dreaded 16 seed simply because of history?
—Clark Thiemann, Princeton, N.J.

Well, Clark, the fans in Princeton Tuesday night were heard cheering "We want Stanford" after the Tigers beat Penn to win the Ivy title. So I say, let's give them Stanford. The Cardinal has been ducking Princeton for years when it comes time to schedule games, so why not set it up? That, of course, would require the 16-10 Tigers to get a No. 16 seed, which I don't really see happening. I'll bet a Hoagie Haven chicken parm that Princeton is looking at a 15 seed at worst.

Now that we are near the end of the regular season, I am coming to the conclusion that Stanford point guard Mike McDonald is the hands-down winner of the most improved and overlooked player in the nation. While he is not a scoring PG in the mold of Jason Williams, his vital point guard stats are as good, if not better, than any of the big-time point guards in the major conferences. This is especially so with his assist-to-turnover ratio. Below is a comparison among McDonald and several of these more celebrated point men (stats are updated through March 1). I would like your comments:

1. Mike McDonald: 5.1 APG; 3.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio; 54% 3-pt. FG
2. Jason Williams: 6.3 APG; 1.6-to-1 A/T ratio; 45% 3-pt. FG
3. Frank Williams: 4.1 APG; 1.5-to-1 A/T ratio; 34% 3-pt. FG
4. Jason Gardner: 4.4 APG; 2.3-to-1 A/T ratio; 40% 3-pt. FG
5. Earl Watson: 5.4 APG; 1.7-to-1 A/T ratio; 37% 3-pt. FG
6. Jamaal Tinsley: 6.1 APG; 1.6-to-1 A/T ratio; 38% 3-pt. FG

—Marcus, Gilroy, Calif.

Thanks for the stats, Marcus, and you're right. Even though he's on the nation's No. 1 team, McDonald is the most underrated player in the country. I was at the UCLA-Stanford game last Saturday, and time and again McDonald silenced the crowd with a 3-pointer or an exquisitely timed pass. Given Jason Collins' dramatic rise this season, it's remarkable that McDonald is Stanford's most improved player, but it's true. No longer is there a weak link at the Cardinal's point-guard position, which is the main reason why I think Stanford is the team to beat heading into March Madness.

Why don't non-major conferences have a playoff between the regular-season winner and the postseason-tournament winner (should the two be different) to decide who goes to the Big Dance?
—T. J. Park, Seoul, Korea

Not enough time, my friend, though it could be a money-maker, so I'm surprised no conference has tried it yet. This way, at least, the regular season would mean something. (Though I did get a long note from Ron Loghry at the Big Sky Conference in response to my rant last week against conference tournaments. Ron pointed out that in the Big Sky, the team that wins the regular season gets to host the tournament, and only the top six teams from the regular season qualify for it. I like that idea a lot and wish other conferences would follow suit.)

Another one to mix your favorite sports: Which team in orange pulls the bigger perennial choke job, Tennessee or the Netherlands?
—Jerry, Dadeville, Ala.

Excellent question, Jerry. The Vols and the Oranje have many similarities. Both teams have annoying yappers ( Ron Slay and Ed van der Sar ), overrated choke artists ( Tony Harris and Frank De Boer ) and players who have never fulfilled their unlimited potential ( Vincent Yarbrough and Patrick Kluivert ). But at least the Dutch make the semis and finals of tournaments on occasion, which never happens with Tennessee. So I'll give the advantage to the Vols.

That's all, folks. Thanks for taking part in the 'Bag this season. We'll just have to do it again next year, too.

Enjoy the tournament!

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Grant Wahl's College Basketball Mailbag Archive
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