Jon Crispin, BTN men's basketball analyst, November 29, 2015

Basketball enthusiasts and hoops junkies like myself will get a chance to see two great college basketball players face off in the Wooden Legacy Tournament final at 10 p.m. ET tonight. Michigan State?s Denzel Valentine and Providence?s Kris Dunn are two of the nations best playmakers and scorers, and they alone are worth the price of admission.

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Valentine enters the title game averaging nearly a triple-double, checking in with averages of 20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 9.2 assists through the first six games. If he was a freshman, we?d be taking about him being the next LeBron James and potentially the first pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. Yet, the fact that he?s a senior and doing this at the collegiate (high-major) level brings forth more criticism and questions than praise. With two triple-doubles in the bank already this season, the questions among the ?experts? and reporters have steered away from what makes him so good and have focused on whether he translates to the next level or not.

Rather than focus on dissecting and over-analyzing Denzel?s game and NBA potential, I want to look at what makes him great at the level he?s at. Valentine has made steady and consistent improvements in production throughout the course of his career. His production has improved in every aspect from his freshman to senior seasons. Particularly when it comes to assists. Valentine has shown significant improvement in his play-making ability, which is why he has more than doubled his assists per game from last season (4.3 in 2014-15 to 9.2 in 2015-16). It?s as if the game is easier for him than it is for anyone else on the floor. This consistent improvement demonstrates the dedication, perseverance and hard work that we continue to overlook in this business. Instead, we debate whether his skill-set will translate to the NBA.

The time for NBA comparisons and NBA potential player debates will come. There are a great many players in the Big Ten this season (freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors) who will be playing at the next level in 2016-17. In the meantime, block out all of the senseless babble from the experts, order a pizza, make some cookies and enjoy seeing Valentine and all of the greatness at the collegiate level.