Pac-12 hoops hardware: Our picks for All-Conference teams, Player of the Year, and more
The Pac-12 announced its all-conference teams and individual awards Tuesday morning. You can find those here. The league places 10 players on its First Team and five on the Second Team, with an All-Defense and All-Newcomer squad to round things out. It also hands out Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year awards.
Here’s how we would have settled those spots:
Player of the Year: Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona G
No complaints here. Mathurin won the league vote for Player of the Year after averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and one steal a game this season. He shot 47% from the field and 38% from 3-point range. First-year head coach Tommy Lloyd shifted Arizona’s style of play from the grinding Sean Miller approach to a significantly more free-flowing, pace-and-space attack and everyone benefitted. But Mathurin blossomed into the conference’s top draftable player in his second year. He flashed excellent vision, explosive athletic ability, and dogged defensive instincts all season long. Best player on the best team gets the award.
Also in the running: Washington G Terrell Brown Jr., Arizona F Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona C Christian Koloko
Defensive Player of the Year: Christian Koloko, Arizona C
Probably the easiest choice on the board. The 7-footer at the heart of Arizona’s defense developed into one of the most impactful players in the conference. From a defensive standpoint, he has no equal in the league. Koloko moves his feet in space and keeps guys in front of him on the perimeter, highlighted by locking up Oregon’s Will Richardson on the final possession of a three-point UA win last month. Koloko has great shot-blocking instincts to pair with remarkable length and fluidity. He ended the regular season leading the Pac-12 in PER, defensive win shares, per-40 win shares, defensive box plus/minus, overall box plus/minus, and block percentage.
Also in the running: Washington State C Efe Abogidi, Arizona G Dalen Terry, UCLA G Jaylen Clark
Freshman of the Year: Harrison Ingram, Stanford F
Closer than some might think given the way Mouhamed Gueye played out in Pullman, but Ingram gets the nod. The former 5-star wing started 28 games for Stanford this season and posted per-game averages of 10.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, and three assists. At 38% for the season, Ingram struggled to create much in the way of clean looks for himself, but only Jaiden Delaire consumed a higher percentage of Stanford’s possessions than Ingram. That’s a lot on a freshman’s shoulders against the defenses Stanford had to contend with this season. Five Pac-12 squads sit inside the top 60 for adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Stanford played all five twice each. And Ingram held up in most.
Also in the running: Washington State F Mouhamed Gueye
Coach of the Year: Tommy Lloyd, Arizona
In the preseason, Arizona was outside the top 25 for most prognosticators. They weren’t among the top picks to win the Pac-12. ESPN’s Pac-12 preview had John Gasaway saying “I don’t envision Arizona having safely locked in an NCAA bid by (February)” and Myron Medcalf saying “I’ll pick Arizona to finish just outside the 68-team field.” There were reasons to wonder how quickly Lloyd would be able to hit the ground running as a first-time head coach or how quickly his new style would mesh with Arizona’s talent. But those questions all look pretty silly now. Lloyd took an inherited team and went 28-3, won the Pac-12 regular-season title in convincing fashion, and has the Wildcats positioned as the overwhelming favorite to win the conference tourney. He’s not only the league’s Coach of the Year, he should be the national Coach of the Year across the board.
Also considered: USC’s Andy Enfield
(We’re going with a traditional five-man First Team, followed by a Second and Third Team, a break from the league’s policy of naming a 10-man First Team and then a five-man Second Team.)
G Terrell Brown Jr., Washington
G Drew Peterson, USC
G Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona
F Jabari Walker, Colorado
C Christian Koloko, Arizona
G Johnny Juzang, UCLA
G Will Richardson, Oregon
F Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona
F Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA
F Isaiah Mobley, USC
G Tyger Campbell, UCLA
G Michael Flowers, Washington State
F Jalen Graham, Arizona State
F Evan Battey, Colorado
C Efe Abogidi, Washington State
All five players on our First Team landed on the 10-man First Team squad voted on by the league coaches, but Peterson probably stands out as an interesting addition to a five-man team. Jaquez and Mobley were right there in consideration for that last spot. Jaquez had an excellent close to the season with 57 points in his last two games, but Peterson was a slightly better scorer in conference play overall, grabbed more boards, and dished more assists.
UCLA had four guys in contention for the top three teams (yes, I’m including Jaylen Clark) and that bumped Peterson up just a smidge as well; the Trojans didn’t have the depth UCLA had.
Peterson averaged 13.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and three assists a game in Pac-12 play while shooting 45% from the 3-point line. He was the Trojans’ go-to scorer late in close games and came up big on several occasions. USC set a program record for regular-season wins this year (25) and can tie the program record for wins with a victory on Thursday. Peterson was a driving force behind that success.
Other comments: Juzang missed five conference games, a quarter of the Pac-12 schedule. That worked against him in the discussion for the last few First Team spots. … Abogidi posted the fourth-best PER of any Pac-12 player this season and got the nod over Utah’s Branden Carlson (second-team selection by league coaches) for the fact Washington State finished 11-9 while Utah finished 4-16 in conference play. … Graham was excellent for a surging Arizona State team and deserved a spot on one of the teams.
G Terrell Brown Jr., Washington
G Jaylen Clark, UCLA
G Dalen Terry, Arizona
F Jaime Jaquez, UCLA
C Christian Koloko, Arizona
Brown led the league in steals. Clark was a bulldog. Terry was a do-it-all player for Arizona and doesn’t quite get as much love as his game warrants.
G KJ Simpson, Colorado
G Lazar Stefanovic, Utah
F Glenn Taylor Jr., Oregon State
F Harrison Ingram, Stanford
F Mouhamed Gueye, Washington State