Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Kevin Jones of West Virginia will likely end up winning the Big East Player of the Year Award.
And rightfully so.
But Pitt’s Travon Woodall may prove to be the league’s Most Valuable Player, a category for which the Big East has no actual award.
He was named the Big East Player of the Week for last week.
Consider that Pitt is 5-6 without their redshirt junior point guard this season and 10-3 with him.
After Woodall went for a career-high 29 points, including 12-for-12 from the stripe, in Sunday’s 79-70 win over Villanova, Pitt improved to 15-9 overall, 4-7 in the Big East.
Asked when the last time he scored that many points was, Woodall told SNY.tv by phone, “I [haven’t] scored 29 since maybe IS8.”
Teammate Ashton Gibbs, a fellow Garden State guard, added 25 points in the win.
After an 0-7 Big East start, the Panthers have won four in a row. Woodall has scored a combined 53 points, with 10 rebounds, eight assists and 11 turnovers in the last two games – wins at West Virginia and over Villanova.
For the season, Woodall is averaging 13.3 points and 6.8 assists, which would be good for second-best in the Big East behind Providence’s Vincent Council (8.56) if Woodall had played in the required 75 percent of his team’s games.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the idea of Pitt make the Big Dance seemed laughable.
Woodall missed 11 of 12 games between Dec. 3 and Jan. 16 because of an abdomen/groin injury. They were 5-6 during that span and actually lost their first seven Big East games, including the Notre Dame game in which Woodall returned prematurely from the injury.
“That was me being more frustrated than smart,” Woodall said. “But I’m back now and I’m leaving everything on the floor, everything that I’ve seen while I was off the floor that the defense is giving. That’s what I’m taking advantage of now.”
Now, if Pitt can go 5-2 in their final seven regular-season games, they will be 9-9 in the league and, remarkably, could end up making the NCAA Tournament. Their RPI is 67,
“I mean, our goal is just to keep playing,” said Woodall, the former St. Anthony star. “Our goal isn’t five and whatever, we gotta win all the games. We’re trying to impress to the other guys that we need to win every game, and keep focusing on the next team, the team that we’re about to play.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.