Wonderful Tournament Lifts Harris To MVP

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Joe Harris scored in double figures in all three games. ~ Mike Ingalls

GREENSBORO, N.C. – For weeks, some Virginia fans had grown concerned with the play of Joe Harris. Outside of his shooting percentage over a 10-game stretch, a slump that many a shooter has suffered through, the worries seemed premature to me.

After all, and I stated this on the message boards as well, Harris had been putting together one of the best seasons of his four-year career with assists, steals, turnovers, and defense. Through the ACC Tournament and now 34 games, Harris has 77 assists, 45 turnovers, and 33 steals. That’s one more assist than last season’s career high of 76 that came in just 35 games. That’s also one less turnover than his career-low 46 that came in 32 games in 2011-2012. The steals are two better than last season’s 31.

Plus, other than some inexplicably inconsistent free throw shooting (64.4% this season is lower than his 75.3% career number entering the year), Harris’ percentages sat right around his career numbers. No, they didn’t reach the red-hot stretch (46.8% for the season) that propelled him to first-team All-ACC recognition as a junior, but those numbers were in line with what Harris always has produced. For his career, Harris had made 44.7% of his shots and that’s right around the 43.8% he has posted so far this season. For 3-pointers, Harris had made 41% for his career and he’s sitting at 40.7% as a senior.

His scoring dipped as a senior (16.3 as a junior to 11.7), but that came largely from his unselfish desire to elevate the team’s success as he turned down shots in the name of better balance, something that tripped the team up in its quest for the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Harris’ rebounding is down too (2.9 vs. 4.1 for his career prior to this season(, but that too is a reflection of better balance and strategy (Harris can run out to the wing in transition faster if the other players are the rebounders).