RTC’s Pac-12 Season SuperlativesPosted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2012
Yesterday we named our All-Pac-12 team, today we hand out our awards. It may not have been a banner year in the Pac-12, but we have had good races for each of these awards and come away with some very deserving honorees.
Player of the Year
Terrence Ross, Soph, Washington: California’s Jorge Gutierrez won the official Pac-12 award, but Ross gets the nod here for a variety of reasons: 1) he’s the best player in the conference; 2) he’s the best player on the conference champion; and 3) when he gets in a rhythm (which is often), no other player in the conference (save perhaps his teammate, Tony Wroten) can make as big of an impact on the game. Ross’ best game of the year may have come on January 15 when he scored 26 points in the second half (while also adding a game-high 14 boards) to bring the Huskies back from a six-point halftime deficit to beat Washington State. Or maybe it came against UCLA on February 2 when he scored 10 points in the final five minutes to help bring the Huskies back from a 10-point deficit with seven minutes left. Or maybe it was his dominant performance inside the three-point line against Arizona on February 18, when he scored 25 points despite a perimeter jumper that took the day off.
Coach of the Year
Dana Altman, Oregon: For a season in which the conference as a whole famously underachieved, we found quite a few coaches in the Pac-12 who were in on this conversation. Colorado’s Tad Boyle was the leader going into the last week of the regular season, but a couple losses knocked the Buffaloes down to a six seed in the conference, and their inability to find an answer to their road woes leaves him as an also-ran. Lorenzo Romar, head coach of the conference champion Huskies, was very much in the running for solving an early chemistry problem on the way to a 14-win conference season. But, in the end we decided on Altman. The Ducks’ season got off to a bumpy start when a loss at Vanderbilt was punctuated a couple days later by the unceremonious defection of highly regarded freshman Jabari Brown. But Altman folded two incoming Division I transfers (including all-conference selection Devoe Joseph) and a junior college transfer into the mix without missing a beat en route to 13 conference wins and a spot on the NCAA Tournament bubble, quite an accomplishment for a team that was at the bottom of the barrel when they made the coaching change two years ago. The Ducks still have work to do in order to earn an invitation to the Big Dance, but they’ve made a ton of progress since the Ernie Kent era ended.
Freshman of the Year
Tony Wroten, Jr., Washington. It’s safe to say that without Wroten, Washington doesn’t win the Pac-12 regular season championship. Wroten’s best games came in Washington’s most important games, scoring 17 points in UW’s 69-67 win at Arizona, along with 21 points in their Apple Cup win on the Palouse two weeks ago. Wroten averaged 16.3 PPG, good enough to lead all freshmen and fourth overall in the Pac-12. Wroten’s ability to not only get to the rim at will but also stop-and-pop jumper after jumper has earned him the attention of NBA scouts after just one season. That may be high praise, but he is truly an all-around, versatile player. With a steadier three-point shot, Wroten could be the guy to lead the Huskies on a run through the NCAA Tournament.
Brock Motum, Washington State: There can be no debate here; Motum blew up big time this season. Last year he was a fine role player for the Cougars, averaging 7.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in under 20 minutes per night. This year, he became the face of the program, playing more than 32 minutes per game and averaging 18.1 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting a 58.6% eFG and using almost 30% of his team’s possessions. And his numbers actually improved as the season went on, skyrocketing, in fact, when senior guard Faisal Aden went down with a season-ending knee injury. Last year Motum was just another guy up there in Pullman; nowadays he is a force to be reckoned with.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jared Cunningham, Jr, Oregon State: We are going to buck the trend here a bit and go with Cunningham over Gutierrez, the Pac-12’s official winner. While Gutierrez is definitely a bulldog defensively, and the conference coaches loved his tireless work ethic, we are going to go with the athletic bundle of energy in Corvallis. Cunningham led the conference in steals by a healthy margin and time and time again showed his ability to get to a loose ball first. While the Beavers as a whole were undoubtedly a bad defensive team, Cunningham’s ability to disrupt the opponent’s offense is beyond dispute.
Game of the Year
Stanford 103, Oregon State 101 (4OT): While neither of these teams turned out to be a serious contender in the Pac-12, this epic battle on a January Saturday night was one for the ages. Though each team had opportunities at the end of regulation and at the end of the first three overtimes to finish the other off, on and on this game went into the night. It was chock full of memorable moments from the first half to the final buzzer. There was Roberto Nelson drilling back-to-back threes despite throwing a shoe, and later his inexplicable body slam of Josh Huestis at the end of the game. There was the apparent game-winner at the end of regulation by Josh Owens that, after further review, came out of his hands a split second too late. There was the Anthony Brown three at the end of the third overtime (Stanford’s only points of that five-minute period) to extend the game yet again. And finally, there was freshman guard Chasson Randle stepping up in the fourth and final extra session, scoring the Cardinal’s first seven points and helping to, finally, put them over the top.