With two-thirds of conference play finished, I think it's safe to start speculating on who's taking home the coveted AAC player of the year trophy. I made a brief, unapologetic case for Sean Kilpatrick in a Q&A on SBNation earlier this week.
Spoiler alert: I don't think the race is all that close at this point in the season. The question is whether Kilpatrick and the Bearcats can sustain this level of success until the end of the season. If so, the beloved shooting guard goes out as the AAC player of the year.
Based on current statistics and team standings, though, It looks like the only threats to SK for conference player of the year are Russ Smith and Shabazz Napier.
In the interest of fairness, here's a quick rundown of each players' statistics as of today:
Yes, each player fills a slightly different role on their respective teams. SK obviously leads in the all important "points" column, and does great in protecting the ball. That might not seem surprising to an outsider when you consider he's just a shooting guard, but anyone that's watched the Bearcats this year knows how much Kilpatrick handles the ball during a game.
Russ Smith is a slightly more efficient offensive player, and he has SK in field goal percentage (by about 4%) - but Smith turns the ball over more in less minutes on the floor and Kilpatrick crashes the boards much more effectively.
When it comes to head-to-head competition, Kilpatrick took it to both Smith and Napier earlier this year - outscoring each by double digits while also outrebounding both Smith and Napier.
And I hate to argue points that don't "show up on the stat sheet," but you can't play for Mick Cronin without dedicating yourself to defense. Kilpatrick's tireless work on that end of the floor has contributed to the Bearcats being 4th in the country in defensive efficiency.
Finally, SK has the Bearcats atop the AAC conference standings - by 2 whole games!
If Kilpatrick and the 'Cats maintain this level of play/success through the final 6 games of the regular season, he'll run away with conference player of the year. Disagree?