Harrison deserves MVP title


Guard Andrew Harrison of the Kentucky Wildcats drives down the court during the game against the Florida Gators at Rupp Arena on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Florida 67-50 to complete a undefeated regular season. Photo by Michael Reaves

By Kyle Arensdorf

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With so many players in head coach John Calipari’s rotation, and essentially two separate teams splitting minutes, keying on one particular player as the most valuable seems like a boondoggle.

Every player in UK’s rotation has had their ups and downs this season. And each player has been the key reason for one or two victories along the way. But if there’s one player who’s made a case for being the Cats’ MVP, it’s Andrew Harrison.

Obviously, Harrison isn’t the best player on the team, he hasn’t played the best this season, and he isn’t even playing the best basketball on the team right now. One of those distinctions, if not all of them, belongs to Karl-Anthony Towns.

If you ask anyone who’s watched UK closely this season, especially the latter portion of it, they’d say definitively that Towns is the best player on the team. He’s peaking at the right time and looks to be an unstoppable force in the paint as he attempts to make a case for being the No. 1 overall pick in the coming NBA draft.

But the award isn’t for the team’s best player, it’s for the team’s most valuable. And there’s no one on the Cats’ roster that more positively affects the team’s play when he’s at his best than Harrison does.

Every game in which Harrison played well this season, the Cats dominate their opponent. The 12 games in which he scored double-digit points, UK defeated its opponents by an average of 20 points. And Harrison’s five best games in the assist column come when UK steamrolls its opponents.

In his five top-assisted games this season – nine against Auburn, eight against UCLA, seven against Georgia, and six against South Carolina and Eastern Kentucky – the Cats won by an average of 30 points.

Conversely, when Harrison struggles, UK seems to struggle as well. In the back-to-back overtime games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, Harrison made only four of his 17 field goal attempts. During the Cats’ scare in Gainesville, Fla. – perhaps his worst performance to date – Harrison failed to attempt a shot in 24 minutes of play and finished with one point and three turnovers.

The tangible evidence is there. But when you look at the demeanor of the team when Harrison attacks the defense, you can see a confidence that you don’t see when he’s off his game.

Towns, Aaron Harrison or perhaps even Trey Lyles may be the best player on the team right now, but the Cats don’t play at a higher level than they do when their floor general is at his best.