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March 3, 2010

From the Press Box: Missouri Valley voters snubbed Marshall

TERRE HAUTE — The Missouri Valley Conference has a pool of 40 voters who vote for the All-MVC honors at the end of the season. I am one of them.

I am a colleague of many voters (team beat writers and radio play-by-play talent), cover one-quarter of the others (the coaches) and work with the rest of the voting pool (the sports information directors) on a yearly basis. The only voting rule is that voters cannot vote for players on the teams they cover as a member of the media, coach or work for.

I count many of the voters as friends as well as colleagues and I will interview, work side-by-side, break bread and have a beer with some of them in St. Louis this weekend for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. And when I do, I will ask this …

What were you thinking?

Indiana State guard Harry Marshall was named an All-MVC Second Team selection on Tuesday.

Marshall was also named to the league’s All-Defensive Team by the league’s coaches, though he was in a four-way tie for the last spot.

Second Team is nothing to sneeze at. Marshall is the first Sycamore to be on the either All-MVC team since David Moss was a Second Team selection in 2006. Marshall, along with everyone else on the MVC teams, should be congratulated.

That said … Marshall was better than a Second Team talent in the Valley this season. He got snubbed, pure and simple. If you think I’m crying through a Sycamore blue homer mist, so be it, but the statistics and historical record present a convincing case for the Sycamore senior.

One need only look at the conference-only statistics. I am of the firm belief that only conference stats should be taken into account when determining all-conference teams. No voter should give a rip whether a player lit up a random Ohio Valley Conference school in the nonconference season and padded their overall stats. If they can’t replicate it in conference games, why does it matter? There’s no excuse for voters, the MVC does a great job making sure those stats are available to anyone who wants to consult them on their Web site.

So how good was Marshall in the Valley this season? Try this on for size … Marshall was the leading scorer in conference-only games this season at 16.2 points.

How rare is it for the conference-only scoring champion not to be First Team All-MVC? The conference went to its current format of naming a five-man First Team in 1976. Since then, only two conference-only scoring champions — Southern Illinois’ Troy Hudson in 1996 and Wichita State’s Maurice Evans in 1999 — have failed to make First Team.

It isn’t just scoring that made it a First Team-caliber season for Marshall. He was second in the free throw percentage (88.5 percent), he was fifth in assists (3.6), he was eighth in field goal percentage at 49.7 percent — second among league guards, he was eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) and ninth in steals (1.1). Marshall was also fourth in minutes at 34.6. The only MVC player ranked in more categories was Bradley’s Sam Maniscalco.

Stats make up just part of Marshall’s case. He’s also one of the best defenders in the league, as evidenced by his being named to the MVC’s All-Defensive Team. He shut down some of the players in front of him on the First Team (Drake’s Josh Young and Illinois State’s Osiris Eldridge) one-on-one. He’s also the leader of a team that improved significantly over last season.

The argument against Marshall is undoubtedly that he missed four MVC games due to his stress fracture suffered on Feb. 3 against Illinois State. I strongly disagree with that line of thinking. It’s a lazy way to eliminate a candidate from an all-conference short list. It’s an excuse.

“It is [an excuse]. He’s the leading scorer and he’s one of the top defenders in the league. I don’t know what else they’re looking at,” ISU coach Kevin McKenna said.

Marshall reached the minimum games played to be ranked in the league-only statistical categories (75 percent of MVC games), so if it’s good enough for the league, shouldn’t it be good enough for the voters too?

Moreover, Marshall came back a week early from his original stress fracture diagnosis of four-to-six weeks. Once cleared to play regular minutes (he was limited on doctor’s orders at Illinois State last Wednesday), all he did was play 40 minutes, lead ISU in scoring with 21, and hit a 33-foot buzzer-beater in overtime to help ISU prevail in its biggest game of the season against Missouri State last Saturday. Sounds like a First-Team performance to me.

Isn’t it contradictory and arbitrary to penalize Marshall for missing games, but then not reward him for having the toughness to return and help his team reach their highest league placing since 2001?

So how does Marshall feel about it? He took it in stride, but instead of letting it roll off his back, it seems likely it will be a chip to add to his shoulder in St. Louis this weekend.

“It’s definitely motivation. I’ve always had some sort type of motivation to add to each and every game I’ve played in. This is just another motivating factor for me to get some more credit,” Marshall said.

When it comes to Marshall, Valley voters drove a truckful of ballot fail over fail cliff onto jagged fail rocks. Marshall deserved First Team honors, there’s too much evidence to suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, Valley voters ignored it.

Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Check out Golden’s blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.

 

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