Miller: Why Don’t More People Know About KJ Simpson?

The answer is easy enough to see when comparing the Pac-12 to the Mountain West

Posted on March 2, 2024

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Note: This column is based on a podcast I recorded recently (embedded below).

Not enough people are talking about the greatness of KJ Simpson, the Junior Pac-12 guard who has been putting on a show in Boulder, Colorado.

How many people around the country know this guy? How many diehard SEC basketball fans, for example, would recognize his name?

I can tell you right now, the diehard SEC basketball fan, say an Alabama fan, has never heard of Simpson. I can almost guarantee it.

Maybe he knows him. Maybe. I tend to doubt it. In fact, I don’t think many people around the country know about K. J. Simpson. But they should.

Let’s look at his stat line from the last three games: 27 points, 28 points, 30 points. Those games are on the road against USC, and at home vs. Utah and Cal.

That’s an average of 28 points a game. Here are his shooting splits: Eight for 15, 10 for 15, and nine for 17. That is elite efficiency.

Simpson is taking 15 shots to score 28 points, 15 shots to score 27 points, and 17 shots to score 30 points on the road. On the road.

In a power conference such as the Pac-12—albeit a down one this season—how can a player with so many dominant performances remain a relative unknown?

KJ Simpson scored 27 pts vs Cal | Rob Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

There’s some good basketball played in the SEC. It’s a good basketball conference.

Of course, everybody knows about the controversy surrounding Alabama last year which ended in a loss in the Sweet 16. You remember that, right?

But do you remember it was No. 5 San Diego State beating Alabama, the No. 1 seed? How quickly people forget.

I haven’t even mentioned Kentucky. Did you see how many points the Wildcats put up on a conference opponent less than 10 days ago?

They scored like 120 points. In a college basketball game.

It will be interesting to see where they go this year in the tournament.

Remember Kentucky losing to St. Peters in the 2022 tournament, becoming just the 10th No. 2 seed to lose to a No. 15 seed?

Hardly anyone had heard of a school called St. Peter’s before.

It’s crazy how quickly people forget about things that happened over the last couple of seasons and how those events shape this season.

Yes, I know. When a team’s season ends, people tend to go about their lives. But the seasons build on each other.

Which brings me to the Mountain West.

What are we getting out of that conference this year? I don’t know. Is there a Sweet 16 among their teams? Probably not. Maybe. But I don’t think so.

I watched New Mexico lose to Air Force in Albuquerque at the pit. Terrible loss.

I’m going to say right now the Lobos are losing in the first round. New Mexico is not winning a game in the NCAA Tournament.

San Diego State might. Nevada might as well, assuming they get in.

I like Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear. How many people have not heard of Kenan Blackshear? Great Wolf Pack player playing in Reno for former UCLA coach Steve Alford.

Nevada is not a pushover with its tall, hybrid guards who play like point forwards, as some people describe them. I usually call them wings.

Regardless, the Wolf Pack’s size and athleticism make it difficult to score on them. It’s a combination that could allow Nevada to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

The analytics I’ve been seeing recently favor more of a defensive style. Think about San Diego State, which made the national championship game last year.

Did they have a good offense? Not really. They had an elite defense.

I just wonder about Nevada this season. Are they that type of team? Can they make a run?

Nevada’s Jerod Lucas hits half-court buzzer beater vs CSU | Nevada Athletics

And can you imagine if the Mountain West were to have back-to-back Final Four appearances?

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, that’ll never happen. There’s no way the conference could get back to the Final Four again.”

Well, how many people said there was no way San Diego State would make it to the national championship game last year? Anybody can get there.

All of these preconceived notions about the NCAA Tournament and who’s going to win it are outdated. Throw all of it out the window. We’ve got 16 seeds beating one seeds.

Nobody’s safe. Anybody can win.

But back to Nevada making a run in the NCAA tournament. This team is 24-6 overall, and 11-5  in the Mountain West after defeating Fresno State on Friday.

Three of their five conference losses have come on the road.

I’m telling you, there is going to be a team out of the Mountain West that at least has the potential to make a run.

I’m not saying it’s gonna happen, but can the Wolf Pack replicate what San Diego State did last season?

Nevada is a fascinating team. I’ve watched them—I want to say—way too many times. Know why? Because they’re always on.

They always play on CBS Sports Network. On a random night of the week, late at night.

There’s nothing else on, so I’m gonna watch some Mountain West. Compare that to the type of television deal the Pac-12 has, or rather, doesn’t have.

And when was the last time a Pac-12 team got to the national championship game? Did the television package have anything to do with the Mountain West getting in last year?

I’m just connecting the dots here, okay? Maybe the dots aren’t even meant to be connected. Maybe they’re not even related at all.

But this much is certain: The television package the Mountain West has to broadcast its basketball games is superior to that of the Pac-12.

It’s hard to say which conference has a better chance of sending a team to the championship game this season, and the Pac-12’s notorious TV problems have become old news.

But is it any wonder so few have heard of Colorado’s great KJ Simpson?

—More from Dane Miller—