It will no doubt become seven at the end of this season, but the more intriguing question is Jones' actual chances of winning player of the year. History would seem to be on his side given that the only two players who ever led the Big East in scoring and rebounding in the same season were both so honored - Walter Berry of St. John's in 1986 and Notre Dame's Troy Murphy in 2000 (Luke Harangody led the league twice in both categories, but in conference games only. Murphy also did the same thing one other time).
There's no guarantee, of course, that Jones - now averaging 20.7 points and 11.5 rebounds - will still be atop both categories at the end of the season. Jones has healthy leads over Villanova's Maalik Wayns (18.7) in scoring and Seton Hall's Herb Pope (10.5) in rebounding, but that's hardly the point. No one is playing as well or is as valuable to their team as Jones.
Just for a reference point, take the four Big East players who remain on the 25-man Wooden Award watch list as the national player of the year - Jones, UConn's Jeremy Lamb, Darius Johnson-Odom of Marquette and Kris Joseph of Syracuse. It seems unlikely that the league player of the year will come from outside that group unless someone (a team and a player) just get ridiculously hot.
Now, quantifying the best player from that group is difficult given that they are different types of players. So we'll do as most do and try to gauge their worth as most valuable to their teams. Take any of those other three off the floor and their teams don't sink nearly as far as West Virginia without Jones.
There's a reason Jones averages a staggering 38.86 minutes per Big East game this season, and it was never more apparent than Saturday's overtime win against Cincinnati. The Mountaineers had led for the entire first half before just falling completely apart in the final four minutes when Jones picked up his second foul and had to sit down. Without Jones on the floor, WVU seemed completely mystified at how to run offense or score, so the Mountaineers didn't, going 0-for-6 with a turnover and just two free throws to show over those final minutes.
How critical was the lapse? Well, just before his exit Jones had scored in the post to make it 30-21, matching West Virginia's biggest lead of the game. By the time halftime mercifully arrived the Mountaineers trailed 33-32 after UC missed just one shot and outscored WVU 12-2.
That's the kind of season West Virginia might well be suffering through without Jones.
And by the way, if Jones stays on his current pace, he's likely to finish fourth or fifth on the school's all-time scoring list and third or fourth on the all-time rebounding chart. There are only two other players in the top five of both lists, guys named West and Hundley. And Hundley's not going to stay there because Jones will knock him down a notch in about a week.
Those are player of the year numbers.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.