A season ago, Kentucky's Anthony Davis produced the lowest scoring average (14.2 ppg) for any national player of the year since major individual awards were introduced to college basketball in 1955.
Despite his inability to attain status as a dominant scorer, Davis brought home the hardware in impressive fashion, easily garnering every national player of the year honor before ultimately being selected as the first pick in June's NBA Draft. The freshman was universally lauded for his ability to "affect the game without scoring," the trait most-referenced as justification for him sweeping college basketball's individual honors.
If the unabashed love for Davis was warranted (and it was), then it's time for Kansas' Jeff Withey to start receiving at least a modicum of the same buzz. He doesn't possess anywhere near the same pro potential, but he's doing for the Jayhawks exactly what Davis did for Kentucky a season ago.
In a narrative that had already been readily accepted 12 months ago, Davis was built up to be the ultimate shot-blocking machine; a force in the paint who wouldn't let the ball get to the rim, but who also wouldn't foul in the process. It was a justified rep, but for whatever reason, Withey isn't receiving the same treatment despite doing what Davis did, only better.
The numbers don't lie. Withey is a full 10 blocks ahead of where Davis was at the same point last season. And the ability to contest so many shots without fouling? Withey is averaging an absurdly low 1.7 fouls per 40 minutes. Davis finished his player of the year season averaging 2.4.
Of course Withey's defensive prowess isn't exactly breaking news. He set the record for blocks in an NCAA Tournament with 31 during KU's run to the 2012 national title game. It's his continued domination in that area, coupled with vast improvements in the other facets of his game that should have him hearing Naismith buzz.
For the first time in his college career, Withey is a double-figure scorer. He's become a threat to score in the paint with either hand, a skill that has played a large part in him heading into Big 12 play as Kansas' second-leading scorer at 13.2 ppg. He's also averaging career-bests in rebounds (8.2) and made field goals (5.2).
In the waning moments of last season's championship game, more than one national media member referred to Anthony Davis as giving the "greatest 1-for-10 performance in the history of college basketball." The man who forced him into that mark deserved more credit then, and he deserves more credit now.