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Ahead of the NCAA Tournament, Tim Preston offers his take on Texas Basketball’s 2020-21 regular season MVP, defensive player of the year, and most improved player.
MVP: Matt Coleman
Jericho Sims made a heck of a run at this over the last three weeks and Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey have had their moments of brilliance this season, but Matt’s the play here.
From late game heroics (UNC, OU) to exorcising demons (Tech) to knowing when to defer (@WVU) and when to take over (Big 12 Tourney), Matt’s been just what Shaka Smart needed in this most important and difficult of seasons.
Texas’ most complete player gets the nod here from me.
Defensive POY: Jericho Sims
Matt’s been terrific on the defensive end all season and Brock Cunningham is a special defensive player, but no player set the stage for how Texas could play on defense like Sims.
Texas has been spoiled by bigs who could capably handle switching onto smaller guards in one-on-one situations (Thompson, Turner, Allen, Bamba, Hayes), but nobody has done it as expertly and consistently as Jericho this season. Heck, there were a number of times where I was glad when Jericho switched with Matt’s assignment (think Reaves or McClung or Garrett).
That’s remarkable for a player who also led Texas in rebounding and blocked shots.
Sims’ defense has been a revelation and a significant reason Texas has been as good as they have this year.
Most Improved: Kai Jones
Kai’s emergence from uber-talented freshman to dependable (and occasionally game-changing) sophomore has been awesome to watch. When you look at last year’s numbers, Kai’s production this season has been up in basically every single category. And, in most cases, he’s doubled last year’s numbers.
While Greg Brown III got a lot of the early love from fans and critics alike, it’s been Jones’ ability to stay productive down the stretch that has spurred Texas’ great run of form: five of the last seven games in double figures scoring; over five rebounds and one block per game over that same timespan; even stepping up and hitting clutch free throws late against the Sooners.
Yes, he’s still just scratching the surface and, yes, his time as a Longhorn is almost certainly running very short. But he’s been a difference maker for this team and could well be our biggest mismatch moving into March Madness.
Photo courtesy of Texas Basketball