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Dakota Mathias: Done Wrong

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The junior was left off all-B10 teams. That’s not okay. I wrote him a letter.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Dear Dakota,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you didn’t make an All-B10 team this year. I know that this will be read as a loving homage from a homer to his player, but I don’t care. It has to be said. I’m sorry. You don’t deserve to not be recognized.

Maybe it’s an Indiana thing. Maybe as someone who was born in this state, who has breathed and played and loved basketball as much as any family member my whole life, it is just second nature for me to appreciate what you do on a basketball court. Maybe it’s something you only notice when you watch almost every minute of your play this year - I admit, I didn’t really find myself stuck to the television when we played Rutgers. It must be an Indiana thing because the B10 as a collective - coaches and media alike - did not deem it pertinent to place you on their all B10 ballots.

Caleb Swanigan went and got himself the player of the year trophy. Good for him. He was excellent. He turned himself into one hell of a star after an up and down freshman campaign, but do people not even realize that he’s not even the most improved player on his own basketball team? Have they not seen what you’ve become?

It’s extraordinary, really, almost unfathomable. They must have seen some of it because they voted you to the first-team all-defensive team. They agreed, you were one of the top 5 defensive players in the conference. You weren’t a top 5 defensive player on your own team last year. And yet, you don’t deserve an All-B10 recommendation?

I’m at a loss for comprehension. What didn’t they like? That you didn’t score a bunch of points? Sure, you only averaged 10.1 points a game. But I thought as a basketball collective we moved on from simple counting stats. Do the coaches, the rest of the media not pay the 20$ to have a kenpom subscription? You weren’t just one of the five best defensive players in the conference, you were also had the 9th best offensive rating in conference play and 59th in the entire country. You were the second most efficient shooter in the conference.

Dakota, you took 136 threes this year. Your .478% from deep was the 16th best percentage IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. Not only that, but you shot better from inside the arc than Nigel Hayes, Tai Webster, Bronson Koenig, and Scottie Lindsey. You did all this, while being the guy who guarded the best perimeter guy on the opposing team. You did this, while leading a team without any shot blockers, to one of the best defenses in the conference.

But it’s more than numbers. Watch any Purdue game and you see the subtle brilliance that is your game. You fill in every gap. You averaged 10.1 points while grabbing 3.8 rebounds and assisting on 3.6 baskets a game. Your spacing provided room for the big men to work inside on almost every possession. You did the small things that don’t show up. That’s why you had the 7th best +/- in the conference at 9.5 according to sports-reference.com. You had the second best shooting efficiency in the conference according to the same site because you’re a dead eye, but also because you know when to pick your spots. You don’t take bad shots. You could shoot more, but you don’t. You defer, but that’s not the right word. You make the players around you better.

You played 44% of your team’s minutes last year. This year, it’s up an incredible 30.4% to 74.4%. You’ve went from playing 19 minutes a night, to 31 minutes, all while assuming the role as main defender and most dangerous perimeter threat and best creator on the team. That’s almost unheard of.

And yet, none of that really explains the nuanced beauty of your game. The way you see a play happen before it reveals itself to us mortals. The way you pull attention from the defense like a giant star, creating an orbit of defenders around you. The way your hands work on defense, always in the way, always cleanly getting to balls they shouldn’t. The way you fill in the gaps where need be. You rebound better than you should. You defend better than you should. I’ve still never seen you dunk.

You’ve turned into one of the B10 best players. The media and coaches combined to name 16 players to their all B10 teams. They didn’t name you. It’s bullshit.

I don’t know what happened. But if all those players, all those coaches had to pick a team from every player in the conference, and they had to win it, there’s no way they wouldn’t pick you. I don’t know why that didn’t translate to you getting the recognition you deserved. I’m sorry for that.

It defies all logic. The same body that designated you a top-5 defensive player - you, efficiency king and all-around basketball genius - also says that you aren’t a top-15 player in the conference.

But just know. To me, you’re an All-B10 player. You should have been a second team pick and I know I’m not alone. Ask any Boiler fan, anybody that’s really watched you. You’re one of the best 10 players in the conference.

And Purdue won the B10 by two games because of you. The rest of the B10 might not see the impact you have, but we do.

We wouldn’t trade you for anyone in the conference.

Love,

Every Purdue Fan