Photo – Boston Globe
The analysts over at CBSSports.com have updated their race for college basketball player of the year and Louisville’s Russ Smith is still in the hunt. Smith checks in at #4 behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Michigan’s Trey Burke and Duke’s Mason Plumlee. Now, I love Russ as much as the next man, but to say he’s an enigma wrapped inside of a riddle is a huge understatement. I don’t know, maybe it was last night’s game or just a firm realization that suddenly hit me, but I’m not sure how Smith – who’s not even the most valuable player on his own team – deserves to be so high on this list. The reason? Re-watch the first half of last night’s game and you’ll know why.
He was selfish, took bad shots (though, to his credit, he was making a lot of them) played just ok defense and had zero assists playing the point guard spot. With Russ running the team, the Cards were down by as many as 10 in the first half against UConn and went into the locker room down by 6. When Peyton Siva re-entered the game in the second half, the Cards were + 21 points, shot over 60% from the field as a team and played sweltering defense. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Now, all that said, I’m still incredibly happy for Russ and all the attention and accolades he’s receiving. He’s worked incredibly hard and his game has obviously improved a great deal from last year. He’s turned himself into one of the best on-ball defenders in the entire country and a lethal scorer. And maybe I’ve become jaded and expect too much from these kids. I guess I’ve seen how much he’s improved in certain areas, now I want to see him take it to the next level. More quality passes, better shot selection, getting his teammates involved in the halfcourt offense, etc. Show me more of that, and I’ll happily buy into this whole POY race stuff. Until then, being #1 and having a bunch of great players – including Russdiculous – will have to suffice.