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2011 Big East Final: Who Should Be the Defensive Player of the Year?

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<em>Devereaux Peters (Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletic Dept)</em>
Devereaux Peters (Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletic Dept)

Devereaux Peters is the 2011 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, that there is no denying, and congratulations to Ms. Peters, an outstanding defender.

There has been debate in some of the media and in message board circles of late regarding the award; the question is not that of the prowess of Peters, clearly one of the best defenders in the conference, but more whether she deserved the award. Is even Notre Dame's best defender instead of Brittany Mallory, and are either of those two in fact better than Connecticut's Kelly Faris?

Defense is of course, is extremely hard to quantify. There are variables such as styles of play, non-common opponents and of course, size and position played of each person. Then you have to consider the end result of the play. For example, with a steal, you know which team ended up with the ball. On a block shot, who did? Did it go out of bounce? Did the other team pick up the loose ball and score? You can't tell just by the statistical category.

I have been having this discussion also, with Notre Dame SID Chris Masters, and I even discussed it a bit with Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. Needless to say, those two favor Peters and Mallory, Coach McGraw making sure to emphasize to me that it is Mallory that is entrusted with defending the other team’s best player, regardless of position most times. The same can be said for Faris on Connecticut. So to begin the discussion, it’s safe to say that Mallory and Faris are more on ball defenders, and Peters more of a help defender. Peters, being the taller post player, is entrusted to help when someone gets by the guards, or to double team in the low post. She does both extremely well, but the other two are more often “left on an island” to have to fend for themselves.

Again, keep in mind when watching the game tonight and looking at these stats, styles of play of both these teams and their opponents is a huge variable. The other factor of course, is minutes played. As the purpose of this is just to get you thinking and to look at a different facet of the game, I'm not going to factor into the numbers the difference in minutes played. Faris, with UConn not having a lot of players, and her ability to avoid foul trouble (only got 4 fouls once all season) averages 32.4 minutes per game. Notre Dame on the other hand, has a slightly deeper bench, and their players had a little more tendency to foul trouble (Mallory has 4 games with 4 fouls, Peters though has 8 games with 4 or more fouls). Obviously more time on the court means more stats. So Faris' numbers may be slightly inflated by her playing time, much like you would think Peters' "big girl" stat numbers would be inflated by her size and position.

Looking at steals, for example, Notre Dame through 30 games, as a team has 409 steals. Connecticut on the other hand, through 30 games, has 282. Individually Mallory has 64 and Peters 56, while Faris has 59. Mallory, over 40 minutes, averages 3.61 steals. Peters, comes out to 3.29 steals per 40 minutes. Faris, on the other hand, comes out to 2.43 steals per 40 minutes.

Now let’s look at the “big girl” categories, blocked shots and defensive rebounds. As you would expect, Peters does well in these categories, but not by as much as you may have expected. Peters has 49 of Notre Dame’s 134 blocks. Faris has 17 of UConn’s 130 'blocks. Mallory has 1 block, as that is not her role in the Notre Dame defense; she is strictly perimeter oriented. Again breaking this down on a "per 40 minute basis" finds that Peters blocked 2.878 shots per 40 minutes. Faris blocked .0.70 shots per 40 minutes. We won't bother computing Mallory's.

Peters pulled down 120 of Notre Dame’s 774 defensive rebounds, a "per 40 minute" average of 7.05 per game, while Mallory pulled down 39, or 2.20 per 40 minutes.. Faris racked up 150 defensive rebounds, or 6.17 per 40 minutes, impressive when you consider her size compared to Peters. .

The other factor we will look at is fouls committed. This is significant for Faris and Mallory, because as on ball defenders, they have a higher risk of getting in foul trouble. Peters commits 4 fouls per 40 minutes, Mallory 3.05 per 40. Faris is the best here by far, averaging only 2.06 fouls per 40 minutes. Significant when you consider she frequently guards the best player on the other team, similar to Mallory, per Coach McGraw.

So what does all this mean? I have no idea. Like I said at the beginning we don't have in front of us stats for tipped balls, stepping in the lane, denying the ball from their man, going around and through picks as apporpriate, and so on..

In my opinion, the bottom line is what you see, is what you see. I see Connecticut all the time. I see what Kelly Faris does game in, game out, on the defensive end. Chris Masters and Muffet McGraw see Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory every game. They appreciate what they do for the Irish, game in and game out. I’m sure if we talked to Doug Bruno, he could tell us about the defensive prowess of his players, and the same for C.Vivian Stringer of the members of her Rutgers team.

Enjoy tonight’s Big East Championship game. But while you are watching Maya Moore and Skylar Diggins do their thing, try to keep one eye on Kelly Faris, Devereaux Peters, and Brittany Mallory. Maybe by the end of the game you will decide who you think should have won the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.