The University of Washington announced the Husky Classic All-Tournament Team yesterday evening after the Huskies’ loss to Sacramento State in the finale. It’s worth noting that although the team was selected "positionally", three of the teams in the field started three guards and only two started a center.
The following is a breakdown of the All-Tournament Team, including a selection for MVP and honorable mention based on my observations of the games and David Sparks’ "MVP" metric for assigning individual credit for game outcomes. The MVP metric (described here) was designed for the NBA, but is generally a reasonable measure of the WNBA and women’s college basketball as well (though I may make some adjustments after working with more women’s statistics).
As always, given the obvious imperfections of basketball statistics, the numbers are used to complement observations and add a means by which to compare performances across the field. Together, hopefully the imperfections of "objective" statistics and "subjective" observations can be minimized.
MVP – Brittany Carter, G, Sophomore, Memphis (MVP: 34)
Scoring 49 points in a game during a two day tournament against a Sacramento State team that turned around and upset the host is pretty strong warrant for the honor of MVP. Although Carter was not quite as brilliant in Memphis’ 58-54 loss to Eastern Washington University yesterday, she was still quite obviously the best athlete in the field.
Most impressive is that although she "only" scored 18 points in her second game, she shot an outstanding 52% over the two games, both by getting to the basket and creating mid-range shots in a number of ways.
Carter started the EWU game looking like she would pick up where she left off against Sacramento State, as she was responsible for the first seven points of the game. The first score of the game – a layup in the post by Memphis center Savannah Ellis -- was the result of a nice entry pass from Carter.
In consecutive plays just before a EWU 30 second timeout with 18:00 left, Carter scored on two consecutive drives to the basket down the right side of the lane – one elevating over defenders for the layup and a second blowing by defenders down the right side of the lane on a fast break to put Memphis up 6-0 early. With 16:56 left, she again drove down the right side of the lane, drew contact from EWU guard Brianne Ryan, was still strong enough to get the ball to the basket and earn a trip to the free thrown line.
However, after that she seemed to stop attacking the basket as much in the halfcourt, often settling for contested jumpers – which she can certainly make – or having mental lapses, such as picking up a travel on a fast break simply from rushing to make a move before putting the ball on the floor.
In some ways, the difference between the two games illustrates a problem that Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin says she is working on with Carter – staying focused.
"That’s Brittany Carter’s job," said McFerrin of staying focused more consistently after the 49 point performance against Sacramento State. "It’s my job to point it out. We’ve talked about it. I tell Brittany, ‘Brittany I will never lie to you, I won’t tell you’re playing hard if you aren’t. I won’t tell you that you’re not playing focused if you are. I’m not gonna lie to you. But when I recognize it, you gotta trust me that it’s really happening.’ And she does."
On Sunday, that lack of focus manifested itself in multiple ways, including five turnovers and only one second half rebound despite her relative efficiency from the field. Part of that was certainly that Eastern Washington keyed in on her, forcing her into jumpers rather than allowing penetration and keeping her off the glass for the most part.
On the other hand, part of that was visibly less intensity than she showed against Sacramento State. She could often be seen jogging up court and there were times when she seemed to settle for jumpers or hesitate in going all the way to the rim as she did against Sacramento State.
Nevertheless, none of this is to criticize Carter for not scoring 49 points every game – games like that are rare as evidenced by the fact that nobody men’s or women’s has beaten it in the history of Bank of America Arena. To the contrary, as a sophomore, it’s clear that Carter has a bright future and she probably isn’t close to reaching her full potential but can do so simply by continuing to stay aggressive every minute she’s in the game. Thus far, McFerrin is optimistic about having Carter’s willingness to learn.
"She really does her best to try to do exactly what we asked her to do," said McFerrin.
MVP runner-up: Sami Whitcomb, G, Senior, Washington (MVP: 33)
Similar to Carter, Whitcomb was better in her first game than her second. However, in contrast to Carter, the fact that she averaged 15 points per game on 26% shooting might say more about her as a player than the 49 point performance says about Carter.
Whitcomb is a player that finds ways to contribute even when she’s not shooting well, which is always an asset. Against Sacramento State, that came in the form of getting 12 free throw attempts on aggressive drives to the basket and grabbing 5 offensive rebounds. Although she took only 6 shots in the win against EWU, she had 5 assists and 3 steals in addition to five rebounds. That’s not to mention the role she plays on the team as a leader.
"I’m so confident in passing her the ball – I know she’s going to get the job done," said Washington sophomore point guard Sarah Morton prior the tournament. "I have faith that she will do what we need. It’s amazing just having that confidence in a player and being on the court with them."
Regina Rogers, C, Sophomore, Washington (25)
Rogers’ improvement has been a bright spot for the last few games. Not only has she been more patient in the post, but she’s also getting better at establishing position in spots where she can get herself good shots. With her increasing comfort in working in the paint has come increasing confidence.
"Now that I’m in better shape I’m able to be more patient – be aware, slow myself down," said Rogers after her 12 point, 6 rebound performance against EWU. "When I’m out of shape I move too fast.
She finished the Sacramento State game with 13 points and 9 rebounds – one of her best performances to date in a Husky uniform – but could be producing more. The reason she isn’t producing even more is two-fold, according to Jackson: double teams from the defense and conditioning.
"Sacramento State was smart – they almost triple-teamed her sometimes," said Jackson. "We re-emphasized do not put the ball down on the floor to make a move because they’re there and they were swarming to her."
While it’s true that defenses are starting to swarm her, it’s also true that her guards need to get used to recognizing her the moment she gets open instead of hesitating. With just under 16 minutes left in the second half against Sacramento State, she got open and established herself in the paint on single coverage, giving a prospective target a wide target to pass to. She called for the ball with a quick double clap to grab her teammates’ attention, but by the time they got it into her, the double team had already come resulting in a missed shot. Multiple teammates compliment her on her hands; the key now is just getting her the ball more frequently when she pops open.
As for conditioning, it’s a problem that Rogers acknowledged and is working on with the coaching staff.
"I feel more comfortable and every game I’m getting in better shape, every practice I’m getting in better shape," said Rogers after the win against EWU in which she scored 12 points on 5-12 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. "That was the big thing with me playing and me being able to score ‘cause if I’m not in shape I can’t score – I can’t stay out there to score."
Charday Hunt, F, Senior, Sacramento State (23)
While Sacramento State’s victory over Washington certainly a team effort, the 5’10" Charday Hunt stood out as their most dynamic player, scoring 19 against Washington and averaging 20.3 points and 7.6 rebounds during their three game trip to Seattle (including last Wednesday’s win over Seattle University).
After watching her play in three games, it’s pretty clear what we can expect from Hunt when she’s in the game: she’s focused on scoring every time she touches the ball and has a beautiful stroke with which to accomplish the task. Yet, teams still seem to have difficulty stopping her.
"I expect Charday to do big things every time she’s on the court," said Sacramento State coach Jamie Craighead. "You know, I believe that she could play in the Pac-10 conference and I hope that she carries a little chip on her shoulder because of that. I thought today she proved that she was one of the best players on the court, for either team. And she’s been stepping up the last two games for us and I expect it all year."
Against both Memphis and Washington, she certainly proved that she can play with the best. The question is whether she’ll be able to keep up the hot scoring with more attention from defenses.
Brianne Ryan, G/F, Sophomore, Eastern Washington University (23)
There is certainly an argument for Washington’s Sara Mosiman to get the nod as a member of the All-Tournament Team over Ryan (see below), but Ryan was a large part of why EWU was able to defeat Memphis 58-54, both offensively and defensively.
Although it was a team effort to contain Carter, the 6’0" Ryan often had the primary responsibility of doing so and did an admirable job not only defending Carter with the ball in her hands, but also limiting her opportunities to be effective. As mentioned previously, Carter scored 5 of her 18 points in the first 3 minutes and 11 in the first half. After catalyzing a Memphis comeback with a jumper that cut EWU’s lead to 11 points, Carter didn’t score at all in the final five minutes.
Part of that was certainly that Carter seemed to coast for stretches of the game, but Ryan’s defense had a noticeable effect on Carter’s ability to get the shots she wanted. Offensively, Ryan’s biggest contribution was her 6 offensive rebounds and 7 rebounds overall in both games. Though she struggled with her scoring, she certainly found other ways to contribute, definitely the best all-around player on her team in the tournament.
Sara Mosiman, G, Senior, University of Washington (27)
Statistically, there’s a strong argument for Mosiman to be included among the All-Tournament team. She shot 10-19 (52%) over Washington’s two games and had 9 assists to just 3 turnovers, although all three turnovers came against Sacramento State. With Morton struggling in the two game tournament with only 4 assists and 12 turnovers, Whitcomb and Mosiman were both responsible for creating offense for others.
Similar to Whitcomb, she does a little bit of everything, much of which does not show up in the stat sheet: initiating the offense, creating scoring opportunities for others, rebounding, and defending either guard spot. However, one reason for her not to be included among the All-Tournament Team (as a third guard or "wing") is the performance of Ryan – who helped her team immensely on defense. With Whitcomb arguably the top performer against EWU and Rogers the top performer against Sacramento State, it would be difficult to add a third UW player to the list when Ryan meant so much to her team’s success in both games. In a tournament in which everyone went 1-1, it’s difficult to make the argument for a third UW player.
Nevertheless, Mosiman is a talented player who could be a force in the Pac-10 if she can continue to shoot the way she did against Sacramento State (6-12).
Alex Winchell, G, Junior, Memphis (20)
It would be easy to lose track of a player like Winchell considering the attention giving to Carter both during and after her 49 point performance. However, her steady play directing her team made her arguably the best point guard in the field. Although her assist rate wasn’t quite as high as one might expect (12.95% in the second game), she had 7 assists and 1 turnover over the two games. As evidenced by the low turnover rate, she generally made good decisions with the ball, both passing and scoring.
Chene Cooper, G, Sophomore, Eastern Washington (18)
Cooper was rather ineffective in EWU’s first game against Washington, but was quite impressive as a spark off the bench to help EWU to a win over Memphis.
Standing only 5’0" Cooper relied primarily on speed and guts to score 17 points and grab 4 rebounds against Memphis. Constantly looking to attack the basket, she also earned herself 11 free throw attempts.
"We expect her to be a spark like she was today," said coach Wendy Schuller. "She’s a great point guard…she really gave us a nice spark today off the bench."
Jasmine Cannady, G, Junior, Sacramento State (17)
Cannady was certainly more impressive in the first game than the second, scoring a career-high 20 points on 6-11 shooting to go with five boards. Cannady played a role in bringing the Hornets back from down 10 in the second half against Memphis. She went a perfect 8-8 from the line in the Memphis game and her energy and tough defense were crucial in the win against Washington, recording 5 steals.
Emily Christensen, F, Junior, Sacramento State (17)
The 5’11" Christensen is another player who does a little bit of everything from all over the court. In the first game against Memphis, she recorded 13 points and 7 rebounds in addition to two three pointers. In the win against Washington, she didn’t score as much but grabbed another 6 rebounds, in addition to two threes, two assists, 1 block and 1 steal. While Christensen is not the type of dynamic player that seems to jump out at you, she does a little bit of everything needed to help her team win.
- Carter was also named Conference USA player of the week.
- An interesting analysis of the flaws of assigning MVP awards that is relevant to any All-Tournament type selection as well. One poster summarized the article in the comments:
"If we are going to award an MVP trophy, "stat-geek stats" like PER and adjusted +/- are the most useful guidelines for determining the winner. If so, I would definitely agree with you that they should play a bigger role. Leadership-based or other less tangible arguments may have a place in the debate, but not really a central one."
Ironically, Sparks’ metrics are some of the best for analyzing player value (meaning they often fit what reasonable people subjectively observe) despite the fact that the author disagrees with Sparks’ assertion that players on sub-500 teams should not be considered for MVP.