Not that it’s the sole standard for determining NCAA Player of the Year, but no player has meant more to their team this season than 6-foot-8 Baylor Lady Bears superstar center Brittney Griner.
For her efforts this season, Griner has been awarded with the AP’s women’s college basketball Player of the Year while Baylor coach Kim Mulkey received the Coach of the Year award.
Statistically, Griner has accounted for an impressive 31% of the Lady Bears overall statistical production. However, it’s obviously the unquantifiable defensive impact that’s made Griner a truly game-changing player.
Name Team PVC Delle Donne, Elena Delaware 40.5% Griner, Brittney Baylor 30.9% Ogwumike, Nneka Stanford 28.2% Ogwumike, Chiney Stanford 22.3% Diggins, Skylar Notre Dame 22.2% Hayes, Tiffany Connecticut 19.1%
Top Percent Valuable Contributions in the 2012 NCAA women’s Final Four in addition to Elena Delle Donne.
Although Griner’s shot blocking prowess is the most concrete evidence of her defensive impact statistically, Oklahoma State Cowgirls coach Jim Littell has described her tactical impact on the defensive end, as reported by Jessica Lantz earlier this season.
“They’re allowed to do some things defensively and really cheat and get on the high side and deny things because they know they’ve got the big one waiting back at the hole,” Littell said. “They’re hard to play because they do a lot of things that are unconventional and they’re allowed to do it because of Brittney.”
Clearly the athleticism and strength of Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims helps them on the perimeter as well, but their defensive prowess clearly begins with Griner’s presence in the middle, as described by Full Court’s Bob Corwin who calls her the greatest interior defensive force the women’s college game has seen.
What she has done and continues to do is be the greatest defensive force in the key that the women’s college game has ever seen. This Baylor forward-center not only largely nullifies the in-paint attack of the opposition’s low-post players, with her long arms and shot-altering ability, she also causes the opposition guards to develop false reads as to what looks open in driving toward the rim.
To Corwin’s point, Baylor allowed one of the lowest free throw rates in the nation (19.38%), which is generally a good proxy for an offensive team’s aggressiveness in attacking the basket. While the 3-point shooting tendencies of Baylor opponents is most often cited as evidence of a fear of venturing into the paint, the free throw rate is an equally telling sign.
For bringing that defensive scheme together around Griner and keeping the team focused in the midst of an undefeated season, Mulkey had to be a top candidate for Coach of the Year.
Of course, determining the top coach in the nation is always tough – should it go to the coach of the best team or the coach who got the most out of their talent regardless of wins or record-breaking pace? Either way, Baylor’s growth over the past three years with Griner on the roster is a testament to coaching and Mulkey is well-deserving of the honor.