The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) men’s basketball season is one-third of the way finished. Through six games Loyola sits in second place at 4-2 behind the 5-1 Drake University.
Loyola got off to its best start in decades and knocked off the then-No. 5 ranked University of Florida. But the upset over the Gators hasn’t been the biggest bright spot of the season so far for the Ramblers — it’s been first-year center Cameron Krutwig.
When Krutwig committed to play for head coach Porter Moser, it was a big signing. The three-star recruit was a big bodied player who could dish the ball as well as he could score. In his final high school game he finished one assist shy of the rare quadruple-double.
We knew this kid would be good, we just didn’t think he would be this good so soon. After being thrust into the starting lineup because of injuries, he has shined. He’s scoring 9.1 points per game, grabbing 6.2 rebounds per game and shooting 55.6 percent from the field. He’s also found his teammates for 37 assists and swatted away 19 shots. All of this is with playing an average of just 24.4 minutes per game.
Krutwig has adjusted to Division I basketball faster than expected. It’s hard for a big man to move from the high school game to college. A six-feet-nine-inch and 260 pound kid in high school can physically dominate his way through the paint; in college, that isn’t as easy when all the competition is bigger and stronger.
In college, Krutwig can’t force his way to the hoop the way he could in high school; a collegiate center needs to have good post moves or he will get every shot knocked into the bleachers. Krutwig figured this out and is visibly getting more and more comfortable with the ball under the basket.
If he keeps this up — which seems likely — he will be thrust into the conversation for MVC Freshman of the Year.
Through six games Krutwig leads all MVC first-years in field goal percentage and assists. He’s second in points per game, rebounds per game and blocks.
Based only on statistics, the race is mostly between two players so far, Krutwig and University of Northern Iowa’s Tywhon Pickford, with Bradley University’s Elijah Childs in third.
Pickford leads all first-years in points per game and rebounds per game while Childs leads in blocks.
Now, it would be easy to assume that Pickford is the frontrunner because he leads in points. However, his 10.9 points per game isn’t far enough from Krutwig that he’s running away with it. Pickford has also averaged 30.8 minutes per game and is shooting just 40.6 percent from the field.
Krutwig is scoring almost as much as Pickford in less minutes and is making more of his shots. Efficiency from a first-year is hard to come by and Krutwig has been about as efficient as possible.
Krutwig will also most likely start to gain more minutes as he gets more comfortable in his role and Moser gets more confident in his young big man. His 21 points and 13 rebounds against Bradley Jan. 13 probably won’t hurt in that department.
Who Krutwig plays for also benefits his case for the award. Pickford plays for the floundering UNI, who — completely unexpectedly — sits at the bottom of the MVC standings with a 1-5 conference record. A first-year is making an impact for the Panthers because nothing else is working for them. Krutwig, on the other hand, is playing meaningful minutes for a conference contender.
Making an impact on a good team in contention for the conference regular season championship is much more important than making an impact on a team that has been a disappointment this season and so far is sitting in the conference basement.
If I had a Freshman of the Year vote, it would go for Cameron Krutwig.