Taking Stock of the NEC Player of the Year Race
On Monday, Central Connecticut’s Tyler Kohl won the NEC Player of the Week Award for a single-season record sixth time in 2018-19. According to NEC Senior Associate Commissioner Ron Ratner, seven of the eight players to win the Player of the Week Award five times in a season went on to win the NEC Player of the Year Award. So should Tyler Kohl be considered the frontrunner to win?
Dating back to 2002, which happens to be this author’s freshman year at Central Connecticut St., 11 of the 17 NEC POY’s came from teams that won the regular season title, while exactly zero players came from teams below .500. The closest comparable to Tyler Kohl possibly winning the award this year is Central’s Ron Robinson, who was the 2004 NEC Player of the Year despite playing on a team that finished 9-9 in the NEC. More often than not, this award goes to the best player on the best team.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Kohl can’t win it. Taking a look at most of the teams currently at (or near) the top of the standings, there aren’t a lot of clear cut candidates (all stats during conference play only):
Robert Morris (8-4)- Four players average between 10.8 ppg and 12.8 ppg, led by Josh Williams (12.8 ppg) and Malik Petteway (11.8 ppg and 6.3 rpg).
Fairleigh Dickinson (7-5)- Five players average double-digit in points, led by Darnell Edge (15.6 ppg and 4.5 rpg) and Jahlil Jenkins (13.7 ppg and 5.3 apg).
Sacred Heart (7-5)- Sean Hoehn and E.J. Anosike both average greater than 15 ppg (16.1 ppg and 15.3 ppg, respectively), while Anosike leads the team with 7.8 rpg. Hoehn won the weekly award zero times, while Anosike won it once.
While all of the players listed above have had great seasons so far, none of them feel like Players of the Year. What do the computer metrics say?
Kenpom’s All-NEC team, right now looks like this (in order):
Raiquan Clark, LIU
Romone Saunders, Wagner
Tyler Kohl, CCSU
Keith Braxton, SFU
Malik Petteway, RMU
The first three players listed are on teams no better than .500. But look at that guy listed at #4.
Keith Braxton is currently 4th in the league in scoring (16.8 ppg), 1st in rebounding (9.8 rpg), and 7th in assists (4.4 apg). Those numbers are quite close to Tyler Kohl’s (19.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 5.7 apg), and he also plays for a team that is currently 8-4. Plus, Braxton has been much more efficient, holding a 109.9 O-Rating and 49.3% eFG%.
Guys like Kohl, Raiquan Clark and Romone Saunders are so imperative to the success of their teams; in fact, one could argue that if you took either of those guys away from their teams, that they may be nowhere near the NEC Tournament hunt.
At this point in the season, Keith Braxton should probably be considered the frontrunner given the success of the Red Flash. But the season is far from over, and any of Clark, Saunders or Kohl have the opportunity to close the season strong and get their teams higher in the standings.