Some are still calling him the favorite for national player of the year. But we know better. We've actually watched basketball during the last month, thank you very much. And for as exciting as Connecticut guard Kemba Walker might be every single time he touches the ball (pipe down, Jimmer), the numbers don't lie.
Here's what we're looking at:
- Since December 27th, the Huskies are 7-2 with a pair of road losses to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.
- In that span, UConn faced six marquee schools: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Texas, Villanova, Tennessee, and Marquette. Let's go ahead and call this group the "Good Six".
- Their remaining three opponents, Rutgers, South Florida and DePaul, are arguably the three worst teams in the Big East this year. We're going to call this group the "Bad Three".
- Against the Bad Three, Walker shot 48% from the field, 33% from the arc and averaged 24.33 points on 16.67 shots per game. This is very much on par with the numbers we came to expect from him after a hot start to the year.
- But against the Good Six, things went sour. Walker hit just 33.6% from the floor and a putrid 24.3% from three-point land. His scoring average went down slightly (21/gm) despite averaging 21.33 shots in those six contests.
- Just to prove that I'm not cherry-picking stats here, Kemba is 67-178 from the field in those nine games combined. That's 111 bricks. That also means we're talking about a 37.6% shooter who's taking 19.78 shots every single night. In a college basketball world where efficiency reigns supreme, numbers like this are not very inviting.
So what does this tell us? In a way, Kemba's entire POY platform was built on his awesome performances against Michigan State and Kentucky earlier in the season. Buzzer beaters and clutch shots only strengthened his case as the year wore on. But for some reason, Walker, who was scoring at a crazy-efficient pace before, has morphed into a debilitating shooter when he's facing off against UConn's toughest opponents as of late.
Luke Winn over at SI did a great job of pointing out the emergence of Jeremy Lamb and how he has given the Huskies a much-needed boost. Without Lamb's improved play, it's very possible that Walker's shooting slump could have been a driving factor for another loss or two on UConn's schedule. The thing that is so remarkable here is that a star player can be so ice cold from the field and still help lead his team to a 7-2 record against top-notch competition. But how long can it last?