Most teams in the Pac-12 are approximately halfway through the regular season even though we are only just at the start of conference play. That means it’s a good time to check in on what the awards would look like now and then compare it to what we actually see at season’s end.
Now the conference officially has a 10-person 1st team and a 5-person 2nd team. This is stupid. We all know it. I will always put together 3 teams. The 3rd team is what will officially be the 2nd team. The 1st/2nd teams will be what the conference calls the 1st team. Again, it’s dumb.
I also believe that the teams should be capable of playing together as an actual unit. There doesn’t necessarily need to be exactly one 7-footer on each team but you can’t have 5 point guards on the 2nd team together (although I seemingly tried).
With all that said, here’s what I think each of the teams would look like if the voting had to be today.
G- K.J Simpson (Colorado): 18.7 pts, 4.3 reb, 3.8 ast, 45.0/35.4/77.9% (FG/3pt/FT)
G- Jaylen Clark (UCLA): 14.1 pts, 6.9 reb, 2.7 stl, 54.2/35.5/68.9%
F- Jaime Jaquez (UCLA): 17.2 pts, 6.3 reb, 2.3 ast, 53.5/28.6/81.8%
F- Azuolas Tubelis (Arizona): 20.1 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.9 ast, 60.5/43.8/79.7%
C- Oumar Ballo (Arizona): 17.4 pts, 9.3 reb, 1.6 blk, 71.9/59.0%
It seems clear at this point that UCLA and Arizona are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference so it makes sense that they would each get 2 representatives on the 1st team. The dynamic frontcourt of Tubelis and Ballo for Arizona was obvious. They rank 1st and 3rd respectively in the conference in points per game and 2nd and 1st respectively in rebounds per game. There’s no way you can exclude either of them.
That tends to mesh well with UCLA who don’t have a center under consideration and their best player is an undersized power forward. Jaquez could play small forward if necessary so he slides to that spot here as he’s 4th in points per game and 3rd in steals per game. His teammate Jaylen Clark is down at 11th in points per game but is 1st by a mile in steals per game and is an interchangeable wing player.
The last guard spot was the stiffest competition. In the preseason Tyger Campbell was the presumptive best point guard but he is 6th in the conference in assists per game with only so-so shooting. Kerr Kriisa leads the conference in assists and is shooting nearly 40% from 3-point range but I dock him a bit for his antics. Will Richardson at Oregon also warranted consideration but isn’t shooting up to normal standards and the Ducks have struggled.
Ultimately I chose to go with Simpson despite Colorado’s up and down season. He’s 2nd in points per game and 7th in assists per game in part because of a sky high usage rate but he gets the edge.
In the preseason media ballot Tubelis and Jaquez were part of the 10-person 1st team. Ballo, Clark, and Simpson were all honorable mention. I had Jaquez and Tubelis on my personal 1st team and Simpson on my 3rd team (I didn’t do an additional honorable mention).
G- Kerr Kriisa (Arizona): 11.4 pts, 2.6 reb, 6.0 ast, 41.4/39.8/86.1% (FG/3pt/FT)
G- Will Richardson (Oregon): 15.6 pts, 4.3 reb, 5.9 ast, 47.9/34.3/79.6%
G- T.J Bamba (Washington St): 15.9 pts, 4.5 reb, 1.5 ast, 44.2/39.7/69.9%
F- Drew Peterson (USC): 14.0 pts, 6.9 reb, 5.3 ast, 44.6/33.3/70.5%
C- Branden Carlson (Utah): 15.3 pts, 7.1 reb, 2.4 blk, 54.9/39.1/69.4%
I mentioned both Kriisa and Richardson as under consideration for the 1st team and they both find spots here. This lineup would be phenomenal at moving the ball with both of them plus USC’s Drew Peterson who is essentially a 6’9 point guard in the Trojan offense. Between the 3 of them we get the 1st, 2nd, and 4th in assists in the conference on the 2nd team here.
The Utes have been the surprise team in the conference so far and have been led by Branden Carlson who just gets a little bit better every season. He’s deserving of a 1st team nod but I can’t justify putting him over Tubelis or Ballo so he ends up here instead.
The final spot came down to a couple of guards putting up big scoring numbers but I ultimately went with Bamba who is 8th in the conference in points per game on almost 40% 3-point shooting. He’s gotten more efficient despite a much higher usage rate so props to him.
Richardson, Peterson and Carlson were all on the media’s 10-person 1st team in the preseason. Kriisa was on the 2nd team while Bamba was nowhere to be found. I had Peterson on my 1st team, Richardson on my 2nd team, Kriisa and Carlson on my 3rd team, and Bamba unlisted.
G- Frankie Collins (Arizona St): 11.5 pts, 4.6 reb, 5.5 ast, 37.0/29.7/63.3% (FG/3pt/FT)
G- Tyger Campbell (UCLA): 13.6 pts, 2.3 reb, 4.6 ast, 40.3/36.9/86.7%
G- Boogie Ellis (USC): 16.1 pts, 3.3 reb, 2.5 ast, 44.3/37.6/75.8%
F- Mouhamed Gueye (Washington St): 13.7 pts, 8.6 reb, 1.0 blk, 50.6/17.6/68.4%
C- N’Faly Dante (Oregon): 13.5 pts, 6.8 reb, 1.2 blk, 50.2/63.5%
This is probably the lineup that would have the most trouble playing together but Gueye likes to think that he can play away from the basket and having a pair of 6’11 plus guys would help protect putting 5’11 Tyger Campbell and 6’1 Frankie Collins on the floor at the same time.
I debated between Boogie Ellis and T.J Bamba for the 2nd team spot but decided that my inclination to put Ellis might be bias after watching him eviscerate the Huskies in the 2nd half last week. That will be an interesting one to observe down the stretch to see if one of them pulls away.
The Sun Devils have been one of the surprises of the season in the conference and Collins has been the catalyst with his passing even if the shooting numbers have been pretty bad. The highest ranked ASU player in points per game is 20th so they’ve done it with a lot of above average contributors and few true stars.
Both Keion Brooks Jr. and Braxton Meah were under consideration for me for a 3rd team spot at either forward or center. It pains me to put a Coug and a Duck in their place but I just couldn’t quite justify it the way Washington’s season has gone. Brooks has the most points per game of any player who didn’t make the list at 5th but he just hasn’t been consistent enough for me. While Brooks has the better stats, Meah has been more crucial to Washington’s success when they’ve had it. I think it’s a reasonable discussion between him and Dante at the center spot but the extra nearly 4 points per game from Dante in less than 2 extra minutes per game clinches it if I’m being objective.
The media had Campbell, Ellis and Gueye on their 1st team in the preseason while Collins and Dante weren’t listed. I had Campbell and Dante on my 1st team, Ellis and Gueye on my 2nd team, and didn’t include Collins.
C- Braxton Meah (Washington): 9.8 pts, 6.4 reb, 1.6 blk, 70.1/69.0%
F- Keion Brooks Jr. (Washington): 16.2 pts, 6.4 reb, 1.3 blk, 40.7/24.4/79.0%
G- Devin Askew (California): 16.1 pts, 3.6 reb, 2.7 ast, 39.3/30.6/85.7%
F- Tristan da Silva (Colorado): 13.9 pts, 5.0 reb, 1.4 stl, 50.9/33.3/62.2%
G- Jordan Pope (Oregon St): 13.1 pts, 2.6 reb, 2.9 ast, 44.9/38.1/85.7%
C- Warren Washington (Arizona St): 7.9 pts, 7.1 reb, 2.1 blk, 63.2/60.0%
I was going to put at least one player on every team on at least honorable mention but I couldn’t justify putting any Stanford player on the list. Seriously. Take a look at that roster’s stats. Spencer Jones is 19th in points per game but is a 3-point specialist shooting below 30% from deep. The leader in assists per game for Stanford is just behind P.J Fuller and their leading rebounder is 22nd in the conference. Blech.
Stanford’s Harrison Ingram and Spencer Jones are the only 2 players on the preseason media 1st team who fell off the list completely. Marcus Bagley and DJ Horne fell off the media 2nd team along with Arizona’s Pelle Larsson. I wouldn’t fault anyone for including Horne or Larsson in an honorable mention list. I mocked the Bagley selection at the time and was vindicated as he has been suspended for all but 2 games. Tristan da Silva was 2nd team as well and drops to my honorable mention. 5-stars Amari Bailey and Kel’el Ware were honorable mention and have fallen off after not living up to expectations while Oregon’s Quincy Guerrier did the same.
I had Harrison Ingram on my 2nd team before he dropped off while Brooks fell from 2nd team to honorable mention. Spencer Jones and Kel’el Ware were on my 3rd team and fell off the lists.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR- Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona (my preseason pick: Jaime Jaquez, UCLA)
It’s a battle between Tubelis and Jaquez at this point and I expect it will ultimately come down to whichever team is able to actually win the conference.
COACH OF THE YEAR- Craig Smith, Utah (my preseason pick: Tommy Lloyd, Arizona)
The Pac-12 loves to give the award to someone who was picked in the bottom half that moves into the top-3 of the conference standings. The only one that qualifies this year is Smith who has positioned the Utes as the 3rd best team in the conference to this point. If they fall off and Arizona wins the league I still think Lloyd has a shot.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR- Jaylen Clark, UCLA (my preseason pick: Franck Kepnang, Washington)
This award usually goes to whoever either leads the conference in blocks or steals per game. Right now Clark is nearly lapping the field in steals. USC’s Joshua Morgan has the lead in blocks at 2.8 per game but his rebounding numbers are actually worse than Clark’s despite being a center rather than a 6’5 wing. Obviously my pick of Kepnang looks much worse given the torn ACL but he wasn’t going to have a shot even if healthy as I was not expecting Meah to be better than Kepnang.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR- Jordan Pope, Oregon St (my preseason pick: Amari Bailey, UCLA)
You could argue that Bailey still has a shot but he’s missed a couple of games with an injury. He’s the 4th wheel for a really good team while Pope is the lead guard for one of the bottom-2 in the conference. Pope has actually put up good efficiency numbers so he isn’t just compiling stats by jacking up terrible shots on a bad team which gives him the edge. USC’s Tre White and Oregon’s Kel’el Ware are also lurking if they turn a corner in the 2nd half.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER- K.J Simpson, Colorado (my preseason pick: K.J Simpson, Colorado)
I have him on my 1st team all-conference so he kind of has to be the pick. The other arguments are for Oumar Ballo and T.J Bamba. I think any of the 3 are completely defensible but this is the one where I think it’s reasonable to say that I got it right so I’m going to give Simpson the edge for now.
6TH PLAYER OF THE YEAR- David Singleton, Arizona (my preseason pick: Cedric Henderson, Arizona)
If Amari Bailey misses more time then Singleton might end up starting too many games to qualify anymore. Singleton is averaging double digit points per game on 50% 3-point shooting for one of the 2 best teams in the conference. Although Henderson is definitely still a contender for this one averaging 8 points per game on 38% 3-point shooting.