Arizona High Flier
Player of the Week
Nick Johnson, Arizona
Johnson’s performance in the NIT tip-off tournament is exactly what the Wildcats expected out of him coming into the season. The junior guard averaged 17.5 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game over the course of the weeklong tournament en route to winning the Most Outstanding Player Award. Against Duke, Johnson shined in the second half scoring 13 of his 15 points helping to secure the victory and the tournament championship for Arizona. He was also active on the defensive side of the ball adding two steals and two blocks, his final block ferociously sent the ball flying out of bounds and ended any chance of a Duke comeback.
Johnson has become one of the more solid all-around players in the conference and has really stepped up in key situations for his team this season when someone is needed to take charge. His great athleticism is evident each game as he can shoot the mid-range or get in the paint for tough buckets. He's a harassing on-ball defender and uses his length to his advantage when on the defensive side of the ball. Johnson’s 17 points per game leads his team and he has become a great compliment to the surrounding talent on the Wildcat squad.
Zach LaVine, UCLA
LaVine is garnering most of the buzz right now in the Pac-12. The Bruins freshman is very explosive and has great shooting ability, which has basically made him unguardable up to this point. He’s a problem for defenders because of his efficiency, he seems to never miss. He’s explosive enough to get points around the rim and his 3-point shot is outstanding. His performance in the Las Vegas Invitational was entertaining, scoring 21pts and 18pts in games against Nevada and Northwestern while shooting 78 percent in those games. LaVine is averaging 14.3 points per game, 2.3 assists per game and shooting a tremendous 57 percent from behind the arc. His .638 field-goal percentage ranks fifth in the conference.
Johnathan Loyd, Oregon
Loyd has been a big part of the Ducks dominating undefeated season. After going on a tear last season winning the Pac-12 tournament’s most outstanding player award, he has picked up right where he left off. The senior has improved on all facets of his game and has become the facilitator of the attacking style Oregon offense. He leads the team with 6.5 assists per game, including a career-high 13 assists against Pacific on Friday. His field-goal percentage (36% to 51%), 3-point percentage (31% to 47%), free-throw percentage (67% to 82%), and points per game (5.0 to 9.4) all have increased dramatically this season and Loyd has become the leader of the Ducks high powered offense.
Jordan Mathews, California
Mathews was supposed to come in and help immediately in a reserve role, partially replacing Allen Crabbe. Instead, he’s averaged a lowly 6 points per game on very poor shooting from the field (.295 FG% and .235 3P %). The poor shooting has led to reduced minutes for the freshman as he is averaging only 15 minutes per game now. Mathews’ size at 6-4 should allow him to stretch the defense, yet nothing seems to be clicking for him so far. The Golden Bears are 6-2 on the season, but the team is going to need a solid contributor coming off the bench if they want to stay competitive during conference play.
Top 5 Defenders
1. Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State
Bachynski has amazing shot-blocking ability. He has forcefully held down the paint for the Sun Devils this season, averaging 4.1 blocks per game, which is the best in the conference and fifth in the league. The versatility of Bachynski is what really allows him to be dominant on the defensive side of the ball. Aside from his great work down low, he also has the intangibles to cover the perimeter if he is asked to leak out and defend. Bachynski is a hustler and the energy is there, he gets back on defense quickly and gets in good position to defend and his stat sheet at the end of the game reflects that.
2. Delon Wright, Utah
The 6-5 JUCO transfer has been very active on the defensive side of the ball averaging 3.6 steals per game, good for first in the conference and tied for first in the league. His size at 6-5 gives him great athleticism on defense and he’s a major contributor each game. Playing a full 40 minutes in their last game against Boise State (4 steals) and 38 minutes against Ball State last Wednesday (5 steals), Wright is relentless and a pest when he is defending for almost the whole game. His excellent defense has translated into more scoring opportunities for himself and Wright has become a stat sheet stuffer for the Utes.
3. Jordan Adams, UCLA
Adams would be listed under top 5 anything so far this season. He does it all for the Bruins, whether it be scoring, assisting, stealing, you name it. He’s making a case to maybe be the best all-around player on the Bruins this season. His 3.4 steals per game are second in the conference and third in the entire league. Adams is a spark plug on defense for UCLA on the perimeter and is so smooth when pick pocketing the ball handler. The intensity and passion he brings to the defensive side of the ball is uncommon in this age of college basketball.
4. Omar Oraby, USC
Oraby has taken advantage of a more expanded role this season; his minutes have progressed from 14.6 last season to 23.9 now. He’s averaging 3.0 blocks per game and has really helped solidify an inside presence on defense on a team that does not have much depth. His blocks per game have him ranked as the number two shot blocker in the conference and his 7-2, 270 pound frame is perfect for a shot blocking center, while he’s usually put up against the opponent’s best big man each game. The senior from Egypt has the skills and experience to be the most dominant big man in the conference on defense.
5. Renan Lenz, Utah
The Brazilian senior has improved greatly from last season to now. With his minutes raised (8.6 to 20.3) this season he’s become a defender that excels in the paint. His 2.6 blocks per game rank him third in the conference. Lenz along with Wright, as mentioned above, have been huge contributions on defense for the Utes and their defensive play has helped propel the team to a strong 6-1 start. The team is only giving up 58 points per game. His biggest improvement is his aggressiveness to go over and block the shot when ball handlers enter the paint.