VanVleet a weakness? Far from it

My new best friend, Doug Gottlieb, said yesterday on his radio show that one of the weaknesses he perceives with Wichita State’s basketball play is the point-guard play of sophomore Fred VanVleet.

I happened to be a guest on Gottlieb’s show as we debated whether or not Wichita State deserves a strong

Wichita State sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet.

Wichita State sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet.

look as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Well, debated might be too strong of a word. We hissed at one another for 10 minutes, basically.

Anyway, the VanVleet comment almost made me drive in a ditch as I was on my way to Lawrence for the Kansas-Oklahoma game yesterday. How in the world could anyone with a basketball mind – or just a mind – believe VanVleet was a potential weakness for the Shockers?

Gottlieb went on to say that he doesn’t believe VanVleet would match up well with some of the bigger, quicker guards in the country. He believes VanVleet is a nice guard in the Missouri Valley Conference, but that the uptick in competition once the NCAA Tournament begins will show VanVleet to be average or slightly above average.

Of course, Gottlieb couldn’t be more wrong. But don’t bother telling him he’s wrong because he can’t conceive of the concept.

I went and looked at some of the top point guards in the country this season and compared VanVleet to them in several categories. I used the Bleacher Report’s list of Top 20 preseason guards, six of whom remain among the 25 players nationally on the Wooden Award list. They include Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier.

I disagree with Missouri Valley Conference analyst Mark Adams, who has been touting VanVleet and Ennis as the top two point guards in the country. I don’t think VanVleet ranks that high and part of that is the competition that Wichita State faces.

But to point him out as a potential weakness, along with lack of depth and rebounding, is crazy. He’s been Wichita State’s most valuable player this season, I believe, and if I had I vote it would be cast for VanVleet as the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year.

Yes, I know it’s only the MVC. But even in a down year, most of the point guards in the league are still able to stay on two feet and at least dribble the ball two or three times without losing it.

I ranked VanVleet against the other 20 point guards and he came out well. Very well, in fact.

He ranks tied for 14th in minutes played (31.9) and 14th in points per game (12.3). But he’s in the top five in every other category: fourth in rebounds (4.1); fourth in assists (5.3); third in field-goal percentage (.478); fifth in three-point percentage (.403); third in free-throw percentage (.835) and first in fewest turnovers per game (1.3).

VanVleet is a weakness? The comment is so absurd as to not warrant a reply. Except I have replied with statistical facts that cannot be refuted. Except by Gottlieb, who will surely find a way.

Here are the numbers in black and white, starting with the 20 the point guards deemed by Bleacher Report to be the best in college basketball before the 2013-14 season started and finishing with VanVleet.

MPG   PPG   RPG   APG   FG%   3PT%   FT%   TOPG

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (6-9, 18-10 Big 12)

31.9     17.4     5.6      4.6      .441    .293     .741     2.7

Jahii Carson, Arizona State (8-6, 19-8 Pac-12)

34.9     18.4     4.3     4.6     .428    .372     .698     3.7

Aaron Craft, Ohio State (9-6, 22-6 Big Ten)

34.5       9.5     3.4     4.6     .486     .350     .748     2.4

Shabazz Napier, Connecticut (9-5, 21-6 American)

34.5     17.8     5.9     5.4     .433     .409     .884     2.8

Andrew Harrison, Kentucky (11-3, 21-6 SEC)

31.0     11.2      3.1     3.5      .382     .364     .763     2.6

Keith Appling, Michigan State (11-4, 22-6 Big Ten)

32.0     13.6     3.4     4.8     .457     .395     .697     2.0

Semaj Christian, Xavier (Big East)

34.3     16.5     2.8     4.0     .502     .467     .660     2.3

Joe Jackson, Memphis (10-4, 21-6 American)

32.7     14.7     3.6     4.7     .454     .277     .796      2.0

Chris Jones, Louisville (122, 23-4 American)

24.8     10.2     2.1     3.0     .431     .355     .717      1.5

Kendall Williams, New Mexico (12-2, 21-5 Mountain West)

35.4     17.3     3.7     5.0     .441     .430     .795     2.0

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga (13-3, 23-6 West Coast)

34.6     14.7     3.3     4.0     .428     .412     .896     1.6

Michael Dixon, Memphis (10-4, 21-6 American)

23.0     11.6     2.3     2.4     .475     .394     .813      1.5

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State (9-5, 21-5 Big 12)

33.5     16.3     6.6     6.0     .480     .338     .628     2.7

Andre Hollins, Minnesota (6-9, 17-11 Big Ten)

30.5     14.8     3.8     2.5     .406     .380     .831      2.0

Tyler Ennis, Syracuse (13-2, 26-2 ACC)

35.2     12.0     3.5     5.6      .414     .367     .750       1.6

Kasey Hill, Florida (14-0, 25-2 (SEC)

23.3      5.6      1.8     3.1     .376      .152     .638       1.6

Quinn Cook, Duke (15-4, 22-6 ACC)

31.4     12.0     2.2     4.7     .420     .340     .817       1.7

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida (14-0, 25-2 SEC)

34.0     13.8     2.7     3.8     .395     .390     .761       1.9

Justin Cobbs, California (9-4, 18-9 Pac-12)

34.1     15.9     2.8      6.1     .468     .299     .813       2.5

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (5-8, 15-11 Big Ten)

33.0     17.7     2.8     3.8     .423     .418     .836      2.7

Fred VanVleet, Wichita State (16-0, 29-0)

31.9     12.3     4.1     5.3     .478     .403     .835       1.3