Where does Humphries really rank?

Originally Published: March 5, 2004
By Jeff Shelman | Special to ESPN.com

The offensive production has been impressive. A player who can average 22 points and 10.1 rebounds per game is good regardless of their collegiate class.

But for a freshman? Those are phenomenal numbers for a player only a year removed from high school. They are nearly identical to those put up a year ago by then-Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony (22.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg) as he led the Orangemen to the 2003 national championship.

Yes, Minnesota freshman Kris Humphries has had quite a freshman season. The one-time Duke signee enters the final game of the regular season with a chance to become the first freshman to ever lead the league in both scoring and rebounding. Freshmen have previously led the Big Ten in scoring (former Ohio State guard Michael Redd was the most recent in 1998) and former Michigan Fab Five member Chris Webber lead the league in rebounds as a freshman in 1992.

Glenn Robinson was the last player regardless of class to lead the Big Ten in both categories, accomplishing the feat while earning national player of the year honors in 1994.

But even with Humphries' performance this season, he presents something of a quandary for the folks who dole out postseason honors. Is he the national freshman of the year?

Because while Humphries is 13th nationally and first among freshmen when it comes to scoring and 10th nationally and second among freshmen in rebounding, there are two other statistics to ponder.

10-17 and 11th.

The first is the Gophers record this season. The second is Minnesota's current position in the Big Ten standings.

So what's a voter to do? Pick the guy with the gaudy statistics, but the bad team? Or vote for someone like Duke's Luol Deng or Wake Forest's Chris Paul? Neither Deng (14.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) nor Paul (13.7 ppg, 5.7 apg) have produced the way Humphries has, but both are on teams that are going to play in the NCAA Tournament.

"He ranks up there; he can do a lot of things," Gophers coach Dan Monson said of Humphries. "I know we haven't won as many games as a lot of other players' teams have, but his numbers speak for themselves. To lead the Big Ten in rebounding, it doesn't matter what team you're on."

Humphries has been as dominant as any player in the Big Ten. He's been productive despite constant double- and triple-teams in conference play. He's recorded 15 double-doubles this season, including a 36-point, 12-rebound performance in a Gophers victory at Indiana.

While opposing Big Ten coaches are impressed with Humphries' physical tools -- he has a great combination of size, strength and athleticism -- some have quietly whispered that he's a little too concerned with his own production.

Because of that, it will be interesting to see how Humphries fares in the All-Big Ten balloting. When Redd led the league in scoring while playing for a Buckeyes team that went 1-15 in conference play, he was not a first team all conference selection. How will the coaches handle a frontcourt player who is shooting 40.8 percent from the floor in Big Ten play and has recorded 11 assists in 487 minutes of conference action?

Will they vote him as one of the league's five best players? Or will they knock him down because they perceive this season to be little more than an audition for the NBA? By the way, no player from last-place team has been first-team All-Big Ten since Northwestern big man Evan Eschmeyer in 1997.

If Humphries ends up declaring for the NBA draft after this season -- all signs appear as if that will be the case -- then the move to Minnesota will be a good one.

Humphries (who sat out last Saturday's loss at Iowa with an ankle injury) is averaging 34.8 minutes and more than 17 field goal attempts per game. Humphries, who is projected as mid-first-round pick if he comes out, would not have gotten that kind of playing time or that number of shots had he stayed at Duke.

Is that enough to make him the national freshman of the year? We'll see.

Is OU odd team out?

The past two weeks have not gone at all as planned for Oklahoma. Once 16-5 overall and 6-4 in the Big 12, Kelvin Sampson's team has lost four of five games entering their regular season finale against Baylor.

Instead of locking up a NCAA Tournament berth, an Oklahoma team that was expected to be among the contenders for the Big 12 title has made a constant slide toward the NIT.

At 17-9 overall and 7-8 in league play, the Sooners can't finish higher than tied for sixth in the conference. For that to happen, Oklahoma needs to beat Baylor and Texas Tech lose to Iowa State. Regardless of what happens over the weekend, the Sooners will not receive a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament for the first time since 1997.

To make things more difficult, the Sooners are making off-the-court news. Sampson is trying to decide what to do with center Jabahri Brown, who is facing two misdemeanor drug charges -- possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Brown did not play in the victory over the Aggies and it is unclear when or if he'll play again. The senior was arrested on similar charges in May 2003 and faces a late March court date.

While Brown doesn't produce great offensive numbers, he's a good shot-blocker and gives Oklahoma a body inside. The Sooners previously lost big man Kevin Bookout to shoulder surgery.

Games to Watch
Illinois at Ohio State, Sunday
With Wednesday's victory at Purdue, Illinois now controls its own destiny in the Big Ten race. Beat the Buckeyes and the Illini win the title outright. Lose and they will share with at least Michigan State.
Wisconsin at Indiana, Sunday
The Badgers still have a chance to claim a share of the Big Ten title, but they need to win at Assembly Hall to have a chance. If that happens, the Badgers will be cheering for the Buckeyes to upset the Illini.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State, Saturday
Like the Illini, Oklahoma State controls its own destiny in regards to winning an outright conference title. The Cowboys job appears to be a little easier as the finale will be played at Gallagher-Iba Arena -- a place where Eddie Sutton's team 15-0 this season -- and the opponent has yet to win a conference game.
Kansas at Missouri, Sunday
Let's see, hate might not be too strong of a word to describethe feelings each side's fans have for the other. Then throw in that this will be the last game at Missouri's Hearnes Center. Yep, this one should be pretty good.
Around the Midwest

  • If there's any sense of justice in college basketball this season, Northwestern guard Jitim Young will be a first team All-Big Ten selection. Because what he's done with the Wildcats has been pretty much amazing.

    With Wednesday's victory over Iowa, Northwestern improved to 8-7 in conference play. That means the Wildcats -- the only major conference program that has never played in the NCAA Tournament -- will finish conference play with a .500 or better record for the first time since going 8-6 in 1968.

    Young is much of the reason why. His 16.9 points per game in league games is fourth in the conference. Even though he stands 6-2, Young is 13th in the conference in rebounding, grabbing 5.7 boards per game.

  • While Southern Illinois coach Matt Painter should be the runaway choice for Missouri Valley coach of the year, another guy who has done a very good job is Northern Iowa's Greg McDermott. After going 11-17 a year ago, Northern Iowa enters the Valley tournament as the No. 2 seed and an 18-9 record.

    On Monday, the Panthers won its seventh game in eight tries by defeating Valley regular season champ Southern Illinois.

    This might be a first: a college basketball player saying that the punishment he received wasn't harsh enough. But that's exactly what Purdue big man Ivan Kartelo told reporters after Sunday's game with Wisconsin.

    Kartelo sat for the first half after being arrested after an incident at a West Lafayette, Ind. bar. Kartelo, who faces misdemeanor charges of battery and public intoxication, told the Indianapolis Star that his punishment wasn't enough.

    "I think I should have sat a minimum of a whole game," Kartelo said. "I made a mistake that probably cost us the game. I should pay more than I did."

    On Monday, Keady attended a press conference in Indianapolis promoting the men's and women's Big Ten tournaments at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    "My wife read in the paper this morning that Ivan Kartelo said I wasn't tough enough on him," Keady said. "Well, that will be fixed. That was a dumb comment."

  • For much of this season, the Mid-American Conference has looked like a two-bid league. If Western Michigan and Kent State both reached the MAC title game, it seemed that both would be invited to the NCAA Tournament.

    That's certainly changed of late. As a result, the MAC again appears to be a one-bid league.

    Kent State enters its regular season finale having lost three in a row, falling to Buffalo, Akron and Miami (Ohio). Western Michigan is in better position (RPI 50), but a recent loss at Toledo certainly didn't help.

  • It seems Tuesday's Michigan State-Wisconsin game set some sort of television record for most shots of a rolled up banner in the rafters. The premature banner hanging didn't work that well for the Spartans.

  • Speaking of the Spartans, the creative minds at Michigan State are working again. The school that pulled off an outdoor hockey game against Michigan that was then copied by the NHL and a basketball game against Kentucky that drew 78,129 fans to Detroit's Ford Field is now working on battleship basketball.

    While the whole plan still needs approval from the U.S. Defense Department, Michigan State is reportedly one of four teams that would play a basketball doubleheader atop an aircraft carrier next season. The set up, naturally, would mean that the games would be played outdoors and wind could certainly be a factor.

    The Spartans would play Navy while North Carolina would face Air Force. Portable bleachers would be set up that could hold about 8,000 fans and proceeds from the game would go to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Where the game would be played is still undecided.

  • Apparently, former Iowa and current Drake coach is still popular. According to the Des Moines Register, Drake's average attendance is higher than every season save one since the 7,002-seat Knapp Center opened. The on-the-court product has certainly been more attractive. The Bulldogs finished the regular season 12-15 overall and 7-11 in the Valley. They'll have a bye in the first round of the Missouri Valley tournament.

  • After starting the season with a voice problem that didn't allow him to talk in much more than a whisper, Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien is doing much better. His voice is much stronger and it has improved to the point where he doesn't think surgery will be necessary.

    While he's able to yell -- he could be heard across the court in recent games -- he's trying not to put too much strain on his vocal cords.

    "I'm just hoping it continues to get better," O'Brien said.

  • Is Illinois-Chicago suddenly the favorite in the Horizon League? There's little question that the Flames are playing well. The popular preseason pick to win the league, UIC struggled early. But Jimmy Collins' team has won 10 consecutive games since a Jan. 21 loss at Wright State.

  • Last year's Mid-Continent tournament saw IUPUI coach Ron Hunter wreck some sweet threads with a slide across the floor in celebration. What will this season's bring? Who knows. Four teams finished within a game of first place in the regular season. Valparaiso is the tournament's No. 1 seed, but Centenary, IUPUI and Oral Roberts all tied for second in the regular season.

    Valpo won 10 of 12 conference games after a 1-3 start to league play.

    Quote to Note

    "I could care less about the Big Ten. I hope Illinois wins it. I don't want to win a championship backing in. If Illinois can win out, they flat-out deserve it."
    -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo after his team missed out a chance to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title with Tuesday's overtime loss to Wisconsin.

    Jeff Shelman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (www.startribune.com) is a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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