LAWRENCE, Kan. — The way Kansas coach Bill Self sees it, there’s really no choice when it comes to the Big 12 Player of the Year.
It has to be his star freshman, Andrew Wiggins.
Naturally, Self would think that way. But he does make a good point that is sometimes overlooked when it comes to postseason honors: The best teams are fueled by the best players, regardless of what the statistics say, and those players should be recognized.
"I’m biased," Self said. "I don’t think there’s a clear-cut guy. You can make a case for (Iowa State’s Deandre) Kane. You can make a case for (Iowa State’s Melvin) Ejim. But if you do that, you’re making a case for two guys (on a team) that isn’t having the same success we’ve had.
"To me, with us being 14-3 and the next-best team being 11-6, it’s almost a logical no-brainer. I know (Wiggins’) numbers aren’t blowing anyone away, because that’s not who he is. To be the best player on the best team in the league, I’d have a hard time going in any other direction."
Indeed, Wiggins is just ninth in the league in scoring (16.2 points per game), well behind Ejim, who is second at 18.7, and Kane, who is fourth at 17.9. West Virginia’s Juwan Staten leads the Big 12 in scoring at 19.7 and is second in assists (5.47 average).
The fact that Andrew Wiggins (center) was happy to let the spotlight shine on the KU seniors Wednesday night speaks volumes about his mindset.
But, as Self points out, Wiggins’ focus each night tends to be on whatever is necessary to win, and he’s not about to pad his stats during blowouts.
Case in point: Wednesday night in the 82-57 romp over Texas Tech, Wiggins focused on his defense and also seemed eager to let the light shine on his teammates in an emotional Senior Night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Knowing it also was his last game in Lawrence, Wiggins could have tried to go out in a personal scoring flurry just to make headlines. He didn’t.
"If the kid was nervous or wanted to really make a statement, he surely didn’t act like it," Self said. "Here’s a kid who took only seven shots and his whole mindset was, ‘Hey, we’re fine. We’re winning big. It doesn’t make any difference.’
"I think a lot of times guys win postseason awards by putting up numbers in games that don’t matter, just to add to their statistics. But in a game like this, with the game in hand, it doesn’t matter to Andrew to do that.
"With no clear-cut player out there (for Player of the Year) … the best player on the best team … certainly, that’s the case with us and him."
Wiggins likely has bigger goals on his mind anyway, such as an NCAA title and then, of course, getting filthy rich after the NBA Draft.
But he still was a bit sentimental about playing his final game at Allen Fieldhouse.
"I don’t think it has hit me yet," he said. "It feels like just yesterday we had ‘Late Night,’ so I know it hasn’t hit me yet.
"I think it is all bundled up right now. I’m happy, yet sad it is my last game (here). I have enjoyed my time here. I have been blessed with a good team, great coaches and the best fans anyone could ever ask for."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.