Arguing between John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins is, to use a lame cliché, like splitting hairs. They're both awesome players deserving of the highest honors college basketball has to bestow. But hey, somebody has to force those split ends. I'll volunteer.
The Kentucky duo was both rightfully included in The Sporting News' all-freshman team, joined by Kansas' Xavier Henry, Georgia Tech's disappointing-but-promising Derrick Favors and Arizona's quietly stellar Derrick Williams. Wall and Cousins are the two slam dunks on the list, and the much-hyped Wall has lived up to his billing. He's been a player of the year candidate from the minute he stepped inside the Lexington, Ky., city limits. As such, Sporting News gave Wall its freshman of the year award.
At first glance, this seems correct. Wall is Evan Turner's only realistic competition for the player of the year award; of course he deserves the freshman honors, right? Not so much, actually. Wall has received the benefit of his much ballyhooed existence and Cousins has not. This is despite Cousins' undeniable case -- he's the more efficient, productive and important Kentucky Wildcat. Yes, you read that right. Cousins, and not Wall, deserves the freshman of the year award.
A look down the efficiency stats reveals why: Cousins has an offensive rating of 116.3. Wall's is 107.3. Cousins uses 33 percent of the Wildcats possessions, the eighth-highest ratio in the country, to Wall's 27.1. (Which is still pretty darn high, by the way.) Cousins is arguably the best rebounder in the country, grabbing the second highest number of offensive rebounds per possession in the nation, and cleaning up 26.1 percent of opponents' misses. He also draws an insane amount of fouls -- the eighth-highest in the country here, too -- while shooting around 65 percent from the free throw line. In less mathy terms, Cousins has averaged a double-double in far fewer minutes than his counterpart. If anything, that's the one knock on Cousins' case -- had he been able to (or allowed to) play more minutes, his contributions would have been even greater. That's a scary thought.
Even when you factor in the inevitable argument about intangibles -- Wall is the undisputed leader of his team, has made plenty of big-time shots and has mastered the art of collegiate point play almost immediately; Cousins, on the other hand, is known as a hothead -- DeMarcus is still the choice here. He's just that good.
Again, this is like splitting hairs; it's not a miscarriage of justice. Wall is an amazing player, one of the best freshman to come through the college game since Kevin Durant. It's just that another of those players, though considerably less famous, happens to be in the game this season, too. It doesn't mean John Wall isn't good. Quite the contrary. It just means that DeMarcus Cousins is better.
The end result of all this? Kentucky just so happens to be one of the best teams in the country, despite being one of the youngest. To use another lame cliché, look up "embarrassment of riches" in the dictionary. If Rupp Arena's picture isn't there, it should be.