Tim Frazier and Player Rankings

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

With no objectivity, is Tim Frazier destined to be forgotten on the national landscape?

Sports fans of all kinds love to discuss sports. What a revelation, I know, but that's why there's blogs, isn't it? We analyze everything from controversial coaching decisions to stupid rules to horrendous officiating. And usually, regardless of the topic, our biased selves perceive and deliver our opinion as an all-knowing, unquestionable truth.

There's one simple sports-related argument that easily brings out the most passion in anyone who considers themselves a fan. Who's the best? Best team, coach or player it doesn't matter, but that basic desire is at the top of every sports fan's hierarchy of needs. It's rooted deep in our subconscious to crave a taste of what it's like to be a fan of the 'best team'.

Now as Penn State basketball fans, this basic need has been subdued into oblivion. Obviously, Penn State becoming 'the best' team in college basketball is a very rare possibility to put it politely. But luckily for us, this conversation isn't relegated to just the team aspect. We can replace our school's shortcomings by rallying around an individual player that we undoubtedly know is one of the best in the country. PSU hoops has had a few of these cases in the past with Geary Claxton, Jamelle Cornley, and Talor Battle, but I don't think there's been a stronger case nationally for the Nittany Lions than Tim Frazier after his season last year.

***

As major news outlets continue to crank out their preseason coverage, more and more player rankings are being published. All of these lists, of course, are fundamentally flawed, because creating anything remotely close to objective player rankings is an impossibility for team sport participants. Even just comparing point guard to point guard isn't a fair fight, because so much of a point guard's success is dependent on the quality of the teammates surrounding him. We all know how many bricks deprived Frazier of even more assists last season.

How many factors can one effectively consider when compiling comprehensive rankings? There's endless criteria that can be utilized for this kind of exercise. There's the objective data like physical characteristics, measureables, raw statistics, and advanced statistics. And there's the subjective factors like his ability to win, her performances in the clutch, his NBA potential, and everyone's favorite cliche, his ability to make his teammates better. How can one human observer consider all of these factors fairly among 4,000+ players across the Division-1 basketball landscape?

They can't. These things are hopeless practices that are just produced to generate hits, spark controversy, and start debate amongst us, the fans. No one is ever truly right or wrong, but we eat it up anyway. After all, it's our civic duty as sports fans to take arms against the immoral failings of our national sports media, since they have an overwhelming grasp on the outcomes and perceptions of every sport.

****

So let's talk about Tim Frazier.

The consensus around all of these preseason rankings is that Frazier isn't one of the 50 best players in college basketball. Apparently he's not even one of the top-10 point guards in the country. CBSSports has him at 15 in their point guard rankings. ESPN put him on the outside looking in of their top-10 PGs. NBCSports placed him at #13. As much as these don't matter, this has got to be a joke, right?

Frazier is the only returning first team All-Big Ten performer from last season after averaging 19.6 PPG, 5.6 APG, 4.1 RPG, and 2.4 SPG in conference play. He logged those gaudy numbers against a league hailed as one of the toughest in both ability and physical play. He played against three of the top-5 defenses in the country defined by KenPom's efficiency ratings. And he did it all on a team woefully short on experience, talent, and scoring ability.

There's no way to know for sure, but I highly doubt anyone in the country had to bear a humongous role similar to the one Frazier had to last year. Coming into the year, PSU was returning less than 10% of their non-Frazier production in points, rebounds, and assists from the 2010-2011 season. That is how inexperienced last year's squad was, but he balled out of his mind anyway against the number-1 rated conference in America. The transformation he underwent from Talor Battle's set-up man to All-American caliber point guard was astonishing.

Nobody likes a loser though, and Penn State finished last in the conference through no fault of his own. They received the bare-minimum exposure throughout the year on national networks, and Frazier is still just a faceless name to many fans across the country.

Remember how he is the only returning first team All-Big Ten performer (and an all-defensive team member to boot)? Well, there are currently three returning Big Ten 2nd-teamers on the AP's preseason All-American squad. A third-teamer actually received votes for the honor, too. Nobody gave Tim Frazier a sniff.

But let's get real. This isn't a campaign for Frazier as the best player in all the land. That's ridiculous. All three of those Big Ten studs deserve their spots on the preseason All-American team. Zeller is the unanimous best player in the country, Burke had a very remarkable freshman year, and Thomas will finally be unleashed as his team's go-to scorer. Congrats to them for representing the conference on the national stage. They surely will have great seasons and lucrative NBA careers down the road.

This is about Tim Frazier not being elected just once by a national media outlet as a top-10 point guard in the game. He was honored as a top-5 player in the best conference just seven months ago, but that's not worthy of being one of the ten best players at his position nationally. That just doesn't make any lick of sense.

Too bad nobody cares. These imperfect rankings were heavily weighted towards last year's March Madness anyway.

How else do you justify the unanimous higher ranking of Peyton Siva? He shot even worse than Frazier (43.0% eFG% to Tim's 44.6%) and turned the ball over more frequently on team with infinitely more talent. He had a fairly average year (9.1 PPG 5.6 APG), but was afforded the opportunity to lead the Cardinal to last year's surprising Final Four run thanks to his superior team. Clearly he's better because people have actually seen him on CBS!

***

Tim Frazier is going to have a better season this year. That doesn't mean he's going to score more points or put up even better numbers. In fact, the opposite should be expected as Jermaine Marshall and DJ Newbill prove themselves as alternative options in the offense. Frazier, who has already improved his jumper, will no longer be expected to do it all on every possession, so expect his efficiency to rise.

But the only thing that will move him up these lists are Penn State wins. That's just how this media thing is played.

So us die-hards will just have to learn to further subdue the everlasting need at the core of every fanhood. We can take Frazier's plight to the internet, but nobody's listening. We'll just have to relish the Tim Frazier experience ourselves, even if we're the only ones who know he's one of the best in the game.


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