On Saturday, I was stunned to see a list of candidates for Pac-12 defensive player of the year that didn't include CU junior forward Andre Roberson. The nation's leading rebounder, and the Pac-12's #1 ball thief, seemed a necessary inclusion, and I proceeded to tell anyone and everyone my thoughts.
The list had been provided by Fox Sports' commentator Marques Johnson, who was actually pretty cool about the whole thing. He admitted that he had overlooked 'Dre, primarily because he hasn't covered any CU games this year. Given a DirecTV fueled blackout of most Pac-12 games, that means he has very few chances to catch the non-scoring plays that most highlights overlook - i.e. the things that define a great defender.
That got me thinking: what are the chances that there is a similar coverage bias (unintended) in the minds of more than just Mr. Johnson? How many CU games has Bill Walton, for example, actually seen? Has the master of hyperbole any appreciation for the skills of Andre Roberson beyond what little is written about him? Walton will be on the call Wednesday night, which is great, but the point remains. BuffNation was shocked when Roberson was denied the award last year; maybe this coverage bias is a reason.
That's why I bristle when I hear people talk about 'Dre "taking a step backwards this season." I read things like this, and roll my eyes. For those of you who don't have a Rivals subscription, allow me to summarize. Two writers out of a panel of three say that Roberson has underachieved this year, citing offensive numbers below what they perceive to be his potential. This is not an isolated example, and I've heard plenty of Buff fans say that they feel similarly.
'Dre's primary value, both as a Buff, and as a NBA prospect, is derived from his defensive prowess. He rips boards, disrupts passing lanes, protects the rim, and neutralizes offensive threats like none other in the region, yet we're still complaining that his 11 points per game aren't enough! Those outside of BuffNation hear this, and assume he's having a down year, when that's simply not the case. No one else in the conference can claim the distinction of averaging a
double-double each night, and I can count at least four games this year that
Andre almost single-handedly won through his rebounding and defense
alone. Without him, CU loses to Fresno St, Stanford, Oregon, and Utah,
and might as well start printing NIT tickets this afternoon.
We BasketBuffs should be shouting from the rooftops that Andre is not only the conference's defensive player of the year - possibly the best defender in the whole country - but a candidate for overall Pac-12 player of the year, as well. The kid is special, and we need to make sure that everyone associated with this conference understands that.