Pac 12 Conference Wrap Up

Player of the Year

DeAndre Ayton – C – Arizona

DeAndre AytonDeAndre AytonIt is rare for a player to come into a power 5 conference and completely dominate as a freshman, but that is exactly what 7’1 DeAndre Ayton did from the first game of his collegiate career. He averaged 20.1 points per game on 61% from the field and 73% from the line. He grabbed 11.6 rebounds per game to go with 1.9 blocks. In the final two games of the Pac 12 tournament, which the Wildcats won, Ayton had 32 in both games, grabbed 14 and 18 rebounds respectively and shot over 70% in both.

In addition to his dominant inside presence, Ayton has showcased some other impressive skills. He averages 1.6 assists a game, a decent clip for a player like him. If nothing else, it demonstrates vision and a willingness to share the ball. Combined with only 2.0 turnovers and 2.3 fouls per game, Ayton has been a very effective player. He also had 0.6 steals, a welcome help to any defense. On one three-point attempt per game, he shot 34%. This is a very overlooked aspect of Ayton’s game, his ability to shoot the ball from outside the paint. Overall, this dominant college player projects equally well to the pros, if not better. There is a reason NBA teams are losing games for this guy.

Coach of the Year

Andy Enfield – USC

The Trojans had a massive turnaround in their season that arguably should have earned them a place in the tournament. USC was also heavily involved in scandals, with players being suspended and decomitting. Despite all of this, the team ended up second in the Pac 12 for both regular season and in the tournament, losing the title game to conference champion Arizona. While this team may not have overall lived up to expectations, they were able to salvage what could have been a truly awful season for the program and ended up as one of the biggest tourney snubs. For that, I have to credit coach Enfield.

Best Defender

Matisse Thybulle – G – Washington

Thybulle, a 6’5 junior guard, has been a menace on the defensive end all season for the Huskies. He averaged 3.0 steals and 1.4 blocks per game on only 2.4 fouls a game. That is an impressive risk to reward clip. While counting stats do not tell the entire story defensively, it is still a good way to monitor those making a significant impact. Thybulle has demonstrated a well-rounded game, being able to do a little bit of everything. If he can show that he is a jack of all trades, he would have value as a backup guard to an NBA team.

Top Shooter

Justin Bibbins – G – Utah

While Bibbins has the second highest three-point percentage in the conference, at 45%, it is the method in which he gets his shots that places him atop the category of best shooters. The primary ball handler for the Utes, Bibbins averages 14.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. His shooting splits are 47/45/87. Many of his shots come off the dribble as a result of being the main creator for his team. He also attempted just over 6 threes a game, a decent sample size when viewed over the course of a season. Bibbins’ shooting is as reliable as it gets in college.

Biggest Disappointment

Arizona in the NCAA Tournament

Arizona had the type of talent that led people to believe they could make a serious run at the title. Instead, they were embarrassed by Buffalo in a 13 over 4 seed upset in the first round. Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins were all extremely disappointing in this game, a 20-point loss to a team they are significantly better than. Whether it is because they knew any success would later be vacated by the NCAA amid an FBI investigation or that they simply did not care, it was disappointing to see the Wildcats go out like that.

Biggest Surprise

Overall Lack of Quality of Conference

Outside of Arizona, the Pac 12 sent two other teams to the tournament in UCLA and Arizona State. They both lost play-in games as 11 seeds. This is supposed to be a power 5 conference, one with legendary basketball tradition. They also consistently bring in top 100 recruits. This season was really lacking quality throughout the entire conference. USC and Arizona were subject to investigation. UCLA’s season ended before it could even begin thanks to an incident in China. Arizona State started off 12-0 and fell off a cliff. Oregon could not come close to the team that made the final four last year.

Most Improved Player

Payton Pritchard – G – Oregon

Pritchard took over as the leader of this Ducks team that lost so many key players from their run last season. His shooting went from 39% up to 45% from the field and 35% to 41% from three. Overall, he went from 7.4 ppg to 14.5. He also averaged 3.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists with only 2.1 turnovers per game. Pritchard, with two seasons now behind him, should be positioned for a big junior year. He also grabbed 1.4 steals per game this season.

"Non-DeAndre Ayton" Freshman of the Year

McKinley Wright IV – G – Colorado

The 6’0 freshman guard took over the Buffaloes’ offense as soon as he stepped on campus, averaging 14.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. His shooting splits were 45/30/77 and he grabbed a steal a game. Although the Pac 12 was in a down year, this conference always has talented guards to go up against, and Wright IV was ready for the challenge. If he can improve his outside shooting and protect the ball better (2.9 TO/g), he will be able to take the offense to new heights.

Pac 12 First Team

G – Aaron Holiday – UCLA
G – Allonzo Trier – Arizona
G – Tra Holder – Arizona State
F – Reid Travis – Stanford
F – DeAndre Ayton – Arizona

Pac 12 Second Team

G – Justin Bibbins – Utah
G – Jordan McLaughlin – USC
G – McKinley Wright IV - Colorado
F – Tres Tinkle – Oregon State
F – Robert Franks – Washington State

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