Pac-12 Burning Questions: Halfway Heroes?Posted by AMurawa on February 2nd, 2012
Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:
Halfway through the conference season, who are your picks for Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and who’s going to win the regular season title?
Connor Pelton: Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham is my pick for player of the year. The junior leads the conference in PPG, made free throws, and SPG. More importantly, however, is that he is Oregon State’s only consistent offensive producer. Ahmad Starks, Devon Collier, and Roberto Nelson have their moments, but Cunningham has also been there to hit the big jumper or ice the game at the line.
At this point in the season, the coach of the year is definitely Dana Altman. Altman has persevered despite losing two big recruits just a month into the season, and halfway through Pac-12 play he finds his team tied for third. As I said in the “20 Questions” article, Mike Montgomery and Tad Boyle would also be good choices, but there are still problems with those two. California is 0-2 against the Top 25 and has a bad loss against Washington State, while Colorado doesn’t have a good win outside of the altitude-influenced Coors Events Center. Wait, you’re saying that Oregon doesn’t have a Top 25 win either? God, this conference is awful.
I like Washington to take the regular season title. The Huskies did a good job of managing the first half of their schedule, with the only losses coming at Colorado and home to a good California team. The Golden Bears can’t say the same as their two losses have been against lower-half teams. With Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross leading the offense, the Huskies are as good a pick as any to take the Pac-12.
Andrew Murawa: At this point, with Oregon State still sitting under .500 in the conference, I can’t in good conscience pick Jared Cunningham for Player of the Year. Instead, I’ll opt for California’s Jorge Gutierrez. He doesn’t score as much as Cunningham, but he uses just as many possessions as his counterpart in Corvallis, and he is every bit as important to his team’s chances as Cunningham is to the Beavers. Gutierrez is the floor general for the Golden Bears, an extension of head coach Mike Montgomery on the floor. He may not have the ridiculous athletic abilities that Cunningham possesses, but he ekes out every last bit of production from the talent he does have. This Cal team would likely not be in the top half of the conference standings without Gutierrez.
But, not only is California tied for first in the Pac-12, they’re still my pick to take down the regular season title. While the combination of Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs are part of the reason for that pick, another reason is their kind second-half schedule. They don’t have to face the Washington schools again and they get their two toughest remaining pairs of traveling partners (the Arizona and Oregon schools) at home. Throw in the experienced leadership on the bench with Montgomery’s staff and the Golden Bears are the pick.
But, for Coach of the Year, I’m going to veer away from Berkeley and head to Boulder. At the start of the season, Colorado was expected to finish somewhere near the bottom of the conference – tenth or eleventh in most prognostications. Instead, Tad Boyle has molded a team short on shared history into a squad that is sitting just one game back of first place through nine games. If he can keep that pace up (and he’ll have his work cut out for him with a brutal second-half schedule), he’s the easy pick.