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March 22, 2008
Back and Forth
All-American Edition

by John Gasaway and Ken Pomeroy

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John: Yo, hoops nation! John and Ken here, resplendent in our formal wear and itching to give out some hardware. It's awards time here at Basketball Prospectus and as befitting an occasion of this magnitude, Ken's all decked out: Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award t-shirt, Chuck Taylors, the works! Ken, you certainly clean up good.

Ken: Clean up? There's no time for hygiene in March, John. Hey, I have an idea. Let's name the best player at each position. We could call it an "All-American" team. I think it could catch on. Heck, let's be forward thinking and make non-Americans eligible also, provided they played D-I college hoops this season. What do you think?

John: Well, personally I like "Pomaway All-American Team," but, yeah, that's the general idea. Let's start down low. Who's our big man?

Ken: Make that big men: Kevin Love and Tyler Hansbrough. I know your Love-for-POY stance was wildly popular on Tobacco Road, but I think that if Love and Hansbrough traded geographic locations and TV networks, there would be real discussion about the two. While Hansbrough gets bonus points for manning up when his team lost its point guard for seven games, Love has played well in a similar number of key games in which either his starting point guard or power forward was missing. Well, he laid an egg at Washington, but the point is it's not like UCLA has been a bastion of good health this season.

John: The weird thing about your thought experiment, of course, is that in any other universe besides college hoops, L.A. isn't exactly what you'd call an obscure and overlooked hinterland. Be that as it may, Hansbrough has Pomaway written all over him. It's true I gave my POY nod to Love, but Psycho T and one Michael Beasley made that a very tough call.

Ken: I'm not sure what else can be said about Mr. Hansbrough that hasn't already been said. In the year of the freshman, Tyler has still managed to get plenty of coverage. I feel like if I don't proclaim him as the second coming, I'm going to get ripped. In all seriousness, anyone not including him on an All-American team has some sort of vendetta against the Tar Heels, and I've never been accused of that.

John: No, not much left to say here, but let me add one quick note anyway. I've heard it suggested that Hansbrough gets the coverage and the hardware in part or even mainly because he's white. Really? I realize this is a century ago in college hoops time, but think all the way back to 2005, when another unquestionably outstanding junior with iffy near-term draft prospects was getting Hansbrough-esque wall-to-wall 24/7 coverage. His name was Dee Brown, and through no fault of his own you couldn't swing a cat three years ago this week without knocking over yet another clip of him and his orange headband. In fact, Brown, incredibly, can still be glimpsed on the NCAA's ads for 2009 Final Four tickets.

I think Hansbrough gets the ink because he's a stellar performer on a national championship contender that happens to be coached by a famously amiable and unusually accessible elder statesman. Just one dude's read.

Ken: You know who else we have to put on this team to prevent uproarious laughter from the audience? That Beasley guy you mentioned. Beasley is why I stay out of POY discussions as much as I can. The only reason he's not in the running is because his teammates were so much worse this year than they would've been if he played for UCLA or UNC. Strictly speaking, I guess you could say that Beasley chose his teammates. Still, this guy put up incredible numbers against high-level competition with only Bill Walker to occasionally occupy opposing defenses' attention.

The other point with Beasley is that among the big three, I'd guess he is a distant third in dunks this season. He has great touch from all over the floor. Anyway, Beasley would be my POY. K-State wouldn't have been in any postseason event without him, would they?

John: Certainly not. Beasley was the only player I saw this year who gave me the palpable sense that he can pretty much do whatever he wants. Watching him reminded me of the first time I saw LeBron James play, in the McDonald's All-American game after his senior year in high school. I sat down at the TV ready to pick nits on this over-hyped phenom I'd already been hearing about for two years. Instead, I came away a fan. Watching that game you had the feeling that on any offensive possession where he didn't touch the ball, King James was merely being charitable to teammates and opponents. Beasley gives me that same vibe at times. I'm not sure I've yet seen the MJ-brand lion-hearted hunger from Beasley, but then again that's what made MJ the original article.

Now, we need a point guard. I nominate D.J. Augustin.

Ken: Yeah, I guess we're not exactly picking a surprise here, either. I do think there's a case for Virginia's Sean Singletary, though. Their stats are nearly identical. However, Augustin has been the floor leader for a team that rarely commits turnovers and doesn't have a who's who of great finishers either. There's a reasonable case that the Longhorns' offense is the best in the country, and Augustin deserves a ton of credit for making that happen after losing one of the most dynamic offense players in the game from last season.

We still need a shooting guard. Most AA teams I see have Chris Douglas-Roberts as their pick, but I'm not so sure he's the best choice.

John: Right, CDR was a tough omission for me here. In the end I think it came down to the fact that I don't know how to alphabetize his name. Well, that and shaky free-throw shooting (from a Memphis player--it's true!). Think I'll go with Jerryd Bayless. This year JB was able to achieve results on offense that were similar to CDR's, but Bayless did it as a freshman and with a supporting cast that was a notch below the one around Mr. Douglas-Roberts.

Ken: The other thing to keep in mind here is that Bayless played against the toughest opposition in the nation. His game is more well-rounded--he can score more consistently from the perimeter and also has the toughness to score off penetration. Lastly, Bayless rates as a very good distributor. True, CDR can't really do that, since his team's offensive scheme basically prohibits such actions.

Honorable mention here goes to Davidson's Stephen Curry, for reasons made plain enough over the past few days. This year Curry made 55 percent of his twos and 44 percent of his threes all while taking a whopping 566 shots and not exactly being a secret to opposing head coaches.

John: Alright, then: Augustin, Bayless, Beasley, Hansbrough, Love. Got it.

Yes, Curry's game against Gonzaga will surely go down in the tournament annals. It was like a time capsule from the Pete Maravich/Austin Carr era: total individual domination by a not terribly tall guy.

Speaking of guys not known for their vertical inclination, I know you keep a close eye on the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award every year. For anyone just tuning in, Ken is obsessed with this particular doorstop because it combines his last name with that of the sport's founder in an actual award, given to the nation's best senior who stands no taller than six feet. Anyway, that announcement should be forthcoming soon, right? Who's out front?

Ken: Thanks for asking, John. The Pomeroy Naismith Award is one shrouded in secrecy. There could be a press release any day announcing the winner. If that winner is anyone but Singletary, I'll petition the NABC to remove my name from the award.

I've also had many e-mails asking me who will be the pre-season favorite for next season's honor. I can't respond to each one individually, so I'd like to announce right now that next year's favorite is Texas' A.J. Abrams.

John: Well, you're not the only one with an award that puts your name alongside Naismith's, pal. I'm pleased to announce the first-ever Ashley Alexandra Dupre Gasaway Naismith Award, presented annually to the player who executes the best intentionally missed free throw. As you know, Ken, intentionally missed free throws in last-second situations are something of a passion of mine. For years it's bothered me that players in such situations actually bounce the ball before shooting, just like on a normal free throw.

To such players I offer the following meticulously crafted and exhaustively researched statement: Aaaiiieee! You're trying to miss! The plan should be this: shoot immediately when the ref gives you the ball. Your teammates will have been alerted to this plan and they will flood the lane the instant the ball leaves your hands. This will occur in the next couple seasons and it will work.

Nevertheless, I did see a beautiful old-school ball-bouncing intentionally missed freebie this year. Congratulations to Indiana's Eric Gordon, for missing the second of two free throws against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament with 3.4 seconds remaining and his team trailing by two. No, that game didn't end well for the Hoosiers, but Gordon improbably put his team in a position to win. He didn't just throw the ball at the front of the rim, he lofted a perfect sand wedge onto the back iron, resulting in no less than four (!) bounces on the rim and a put-back by D.J. White.

Keep in mind hitting the back iron is actually more difficult than simply making the free throw. It's true that Gordon was mired in a Rick Ankiel-level horrific three-point shooting slump from Valentine's Day on, but that missed free throw alone indicates his true abilities as a marksman.

Ken: I give you credit for finding a backdoor way to work Eric Gordon into this piece. There was a time during the season where one might have predicted he would have received major consideration for anyone's All-American team. Along those lines, can I have a few minutes to make up an award for Luke Harangody?

John: Nope. Out of time.

Ken: Oh. Well, sorry Luke. Catch you next time.

John: Congrats to all our Pomaways! The statuettes are in the mail. Mostly they're trophies I won as a 10-year-old at Putt-Putt. Treasure them!

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.
Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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Back and Forth (02/18)
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Back and Forth (04/04)
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Bracket Breakdown (03/22)

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