April 20, 2012

Coyne v. Censer: Player of the Year Qualifications

by Jac Coyne and Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Joel leads us off this week...

If the Iroquois National award went to a de facto Division III MVP, Sam Bradman's might have some competition. But since it is designated for the outstanding player of the year, the Salisbury middie is a slam dunk for the award.
© Greg Wall

The Iroquois National Award for the Outstanding Player of the Year in Division III seems like a one-horse race.

Salisbury senior Sam Bradman has been the leader of the Sea Gull buzzsaw and a dominant force all season. After Salisbury throttled Lynchburg, 16-7 early on, Hornets coach Steve Koudelka marveled to Jac: "Even going back to Gettysburg when I was an assistant, he is the best player I've coached against."

Historically, "the best player" coming from the Eastern Shore is par for the course: Martin, Murray, Hartzell, Gonzalez, Dasinger, Berkman. The list goes on.

If the award is about who is the most talented, then Bradman, a box-trained offensive savant (who has dealt with quick double-teams, detailed game plans and persistent shut-offs all year) should win.

But should that be the criteria? Or should the outstanding player award be less about recognizing talent, and more about finding the kid who is most important to his team? It's a question that's hashed and rehashed by pundits every NBA spring.

If the Stevenson game taught us anything, it's that even when Bradman has an off game (just one goal) Salisbury is still scary. Yes, Bradman makes the Gulls particularly electric, but even without him, Ryan Clarke, Tony Mendes and Matt Cannone would still be putting the Gulls in the national title conversation.

On those merits, could you consider someone like Union goaltender Sean Aaron and his other-worldly 67 percent save percentage? Union doesn't win many face-offs, doesn't really have much for offensive dynamos, and yet still played Cortland tight and can give anyone in the country a game on any given day.

But without Aaron patrolling the pipes? Well, I don't think the Dutchmen would want to consider that alternate reality.

So Jac, is there any case at all to be made for the inevitable Bradman coronation?

COYNE: Bradman will be receiving the Iroquois Award at the conclusion of the season. And as the award is constituted – for the Outstanding Player of the Year – he is the right pick for it. He's the best player in the division this spring, and I don't think many fans, coaches or players would contest this assertion.

For the purposes of Division III, it's best to go with this definition for the award as opposed to the title of "Most Valuable Player," which opens the pool of candidates to a wider group of players. Bradman would certainly be in the discussion if the language was changed, as well, but he wouldn't be the slam dunk he is now.

It boils down to the definitions of "outstanding" versus "valuable." While we can all agree that Bradman is the most outstanding player, his value on this particular Salisbury team that is loaded with premium offensive players is debatable. The usual test for an MVP, as you mentioned with Sean Aaron, is if you take him off the team, does it substantially alter what the team is capable of.

Using this paradigm, I'd argue Salisbury's faceoff middie Tyler Granelli would be more of an MVP for the Sea Gulls than Bradman. Without Granelli, Salisbury would have lost to Stevenson, and would have had much more problems with Lynchburg. With all due respect to FOGOs, this is one of the reasons the division's highest award is not based on value, but rather overall excellence.

The only potential drawback in the quest to name an outstanding player of the year is the tendency to lean more on reputation that actual production. In Bradman's case, he won this year's award while ringing up seven on Tufts in the national championship game in Baltimore last spring. It was clear at the conclusion of that game that it would be a one-horse race for the top prize in 2012. Even players on his own team like Matt Cannone, who have the numbers to be in the discussion, weren't operating on the same plane. Barring an injury, it didn't really matter what Bradman did this year – he was going to be the guy (granted, his numbers this year will surpass last year's marks).

That's why when the NCAA postseason concludes this year, we'll probably have a pretty good idea of who is going to win the award in 2013. Let the hype begin.

To the games (it was a 5-0 week for Censer, so it's Jac at 35-15 and Joel posting a 34-16 mark)...

Middlebury (3-8) at Colby (7-4) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: Middlebury finally snapped its epic, seven-game losing streak with a beatdown of Skidmore midweek, but now the Panthers attention turns to making the NESCAC tournament – a playoff that used to be the Middlebury Invitational for nearly a decade. Not only will the Panthers have to win their final two games of the season (Colby, Williams), but they'll also need a little help.

First things first, however, because the White Mules could make it a moot point. Not only is Colby playing at home, where it is 4-0 this season including wins over Hamilton, Wesleyan and Trinity (all teams that beat Middlebury), but wins in the last two contests could get the Mules a home seed in the NESCAC tourney. The stakes are high for both squads.

I think the faceoff dot will be a push, but Colby has the better offense at this point (the Panthers win over Skidmore notwithstanding) and that will be the difference. White Fools, 13-12.

CENSER: Who would have thought that a midweek beatdown of Skidmore would be cause for celebration amongst the Panther faithful?

Still, I've had to roll my eyes at some of the chirping going on about the Midds. A program in arguably the most competitive conference in the country and one that gets every team's best effort should be allowed at least one ho-hum season. And having graduated their two offensive stars and goalie (not to mention having preseason AA defenseman Matt Rayner hobbled all season), the Panthers have plenty of reasons to excuse the nosedive.

These past few weeks, Middlebury has been within painful striking distance, losing one goal games to Tufts, Amherst and Trinity. Most encouraging, the Panthers seem to have a little more punch on the offensive end.

I think table setter Mike Giordano, Stew Kerr and Tim Cahill will score enough, (while the Panther defense puts the clamps on Ian Deveau) to set the stage for the Midd kids sneaking into the conference tourney. 'Bury, 10-8.

No. 20 St. Lawrence (11-1) at RPI (9-3) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: It seems kind of hard to fathom for a team as talented as RPI and one boasting the kind of record the Engineers have, but this game is for all the marbles. If RPI loses to St. Lawrence, and Clarkson beats Vassar next Saturday (which it almost certainly will), then the Engineers will be on the outside of the four-team Liberty League tournament.

While it has this added impetus, as well as home field advantage, RPI will be entertaining one of the surprise teams of the 2012 season. Fresh off a dismal '11 campaign, the Saints are a one-goal loss to Union from a perfect season and have won the last five.

The Engineers know they can win this game because they've defeated No. 8 RIT at home, but will they be able to match the feat against a rugged defensive team like SLU? I don't think so. Saints, 8-7.

CENSER: What Jac forgot to mention is that St. Lawrence is unlikely to light up the scoreboard, either. Especially since RPI netminder Alex Castronova, since being inserted into the starting lineup mid-season, has been top-notch (67 percent).

When a team's back is against the wall, you never really know how they'll respond. Maybe RPI flexes some Liberty muscle. Maybe they play tight and get spit out on the other end by a grinding Saints squad.

I'll take a flyer that the Engineers seize the moment. RPI, 7-4.

Wesleyan (9-3) at No. 5 Tufts (11-2) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: With Wesleyan not showing up in the NCAA regional rankings on Wednesday, they'll either need a signature win or a deep run in the NESCAC playoffs. They can accomplish the former this weekend when they head to Medford in hopes of taking down the Jumbos. If it is going to happen, it's going to be on the back of goalie Grant Covington and the Cardinal defense.

Covington has been spectacular this year with a 5.00 goals against average and 68.6 save percentage as the last line of defense in the Wesleyan zone, and he might just have to match those numbers against Tufts to give the Cards a chance. For as good as the defense is, the Wesleyan offense can be plodding at times, and averages just a shade over eight goals a game. Tufts averages over 11.

John Raba's zone is good this year, but not as tight as it has been in the past. Tufts will find just enough holes to post the victory. 'Bos, 10-7.

CENSER: There's no secret to beating Tufts. Stop the transition friendly, Kevin McCormick-led shooting gallery and turn the game into grinding half-field slugfest.

As Jac mentioned, with Covington running the show and that tried-and-true pesky zone defense, Wes seems primed for the upset.

But Tufts faceoff technician Nick Rhoads has quietly been having a solid season (even without Bialosky), and got back on track against Amherst after a couple sub-par performances. If the senior bulldozer can keep it going here (and I think he will), Jumbos steamroll, 14-6.

Coyne's Pick

FDU-Florham (5-6) at Misericordia (11-1) – Saturday, 4 p.m.

COYNE: This one will surely blow Joel's mind, as he doesn't know the difference between the MAC and MAAC. But this is an interesting showdown in the MAC Freedom. It's also a classic case of two very different approaches to scheduling.

Misericordia (which is located in Dallas, Pa.), has the gaudy record and a 10-game winning streak, but the strength of schedule is suspect. The Cougars' only loss of the season came to D-II Tampa, but the best win on the schedule might just be the last one against DeSales (6-6). Meanwhile, FDU-Florham has an ugly record, but it has come against a far stiffer schedule.

Misericordia has Lee Blair, the second-leading scorer in program history, but the Devils have the pedigree. FDU-Florham, 11-10.

CENSER: Not true, Jac. The first college game I ever played I was a wide-eyed 155 pound LSM going up against the Red Devils at their place. As I walked out to the take the face-off wing, I was met by a whole contingent of FDU students who left me emotionally scarred.

Yes, Misericordia is a nice story and it's having a solid year. But FDU always plays hard and certainly won't give away the conference keys to a team it probably still sees as a MAC bottomfeeder.

It will be closer than usual, but the Red Devils survive, 8-5.

Censer's Pick

Ursinus (5-8) at Muhlenberg (2-10) – Saturday, 7 p.m.

CENSER: Here we have two teams that have been going one direction since March: down. In Collegeville, early talk of stud freshmen and Jeff Ocampo taking this team to the conference playoffs has dissipated, as the Bears have lost their last seven games and slid back into Centennial oblivion.

Similarly, Muhlenburg hasn't won since February.

So when two teams with a combined 16 straight losses go head-to-head, something's gotta give. The Mules are a scrappy outfit that will have the advantage at the faceoff X.

And I think for Ursinus to get back on track, netminder T.J. Magnani (who has been in and out of the lineup with an injury) needs to find some of his early-season mojo. Hopefully, he gets it going here. Da Bearz, 7-5.

COYNE: Not sure what allure this game holds for Joel. Two teams with a combined 7-18 record and already out of the Centennial mix? And it's not like these teams are on the same level. Ursinus is well-ahead of the Mules, despite the sub-.500 record. Bears in walk, 12-5.

Coyne v. Censer Archive

Week Nine: The Death of a Rivalry?
Week Eight: Defining "Institutional Advantage"
Week Seven: Making a Case for the NCAC
Week Six: Whittier Still California Dreaming
Week Five: Finding the ODAC's Blueprint
Week Four: NESCAC's Degree of Difficulty
Week Three: Using Scheduling to Recruit
Week Two: The State of the Shoremen
Week One: Starting with a Must-Game

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