RTC Pac-12 Preseason POY and All-Conference Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 14th, 2014

It is Opening Day around college basketball nation, and that means that it is time to unveil our picks for our Pac-12 All-Conference teams. We asked five voters (Tracy McDannald, Adam Butler, Kevin Danna, Connor Pelton and myself) to list their 15 best players in the conference, in order of #1 to #15. What follows is our collective best guess at the 15 players most worth watching in the Pac-12 this season.

Pac-12 Preseason Co-Conference Players of the Year

Delon Wright, Sr, Utah and Chasson Randle, Sr, Stanford. Wright and Randle tied atop our poll and each player received two first-place votes among our five voters, so they’ll share this preseason honor. This first bit to note is that, in an era of star freshmen and one-and-dones and very few elite upperclassmen to speak of, not only do two seniors share our Preseason POY honor, but more than half of the 15 players on our three teams are seniors, with just three underclassmen (one freshman and two sophomores) on our list.

Delon Wright's Versatile And Efficient Game Has The Utes Pac-12 Contenders (Rick Egan, The Salt Lake Tribune)

Delon Wright’s Versatile And Efficient Game Has The Utes Pac-12 Contenders (Rick Egan, The Salt Lake Tribune)

But, let’s focus on our POYs for a second. First, Wright. After earning plaudits in the Utes’ early season practices last year, he announced his presence to the college basketball world by racking up ridiculous lines against overmatched opponents — witness the 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 10 boards, seven assists, seven steals and three blocks in the Utes’ opener last season; or the 12 points, nine boards, six assists and two blocks he followed that up with. Sure, those games were against Evergreen State and UC Davis, but as the season advanced, the story they told about him remained the same: a highly efficient player capable of positively affecting the game for his team in a variety of ways. Look at his final traditional numbers on the year: 36.4 MPG, 15.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 56.1% FG, 79.3% FT. The only glaring weakness was his inability to regularly knock in three-point shots (22.2% on 54 attempts). Oh, and there was that little issue about his team struggling in close games and missing the NCAA Tournament. That last bit? That’s the area Wright needs to change the most this season. For Wright to be in consideration for Pac-12 Player of the Year at the end of the season, we can forgive a little bit of a backslide on last year’s spectacular individual numbers so long as the talented Utes live up to their potential, push Arizona a little bit in the conference standings, and wind up dancing come March.

As for Randle, his time on The Farm started out just fine, with a couple of 13.0 PPG seasons his first two years. But last year was his breakout year in more ways than one. After his shooting percentages plummeted in his sophomore campaign from the standard he set as a freshmen, his junior year was a complete bounce-back, as he knocked in 39 percent from three, 52.6 percent from two and 76.7 percent from the free-throw line. He also saw his minutes and the percentage of his team’s shots increase as well. In short, Randle turned into an elite scorer for a team that really needed one, scoring in double figures in each of Stanford’s last 20 games. After spending a lot of time off the ball in his first two years, Randle was forced to take over the point guard duties for the Cardinal when Aaron Bright got hurt, and he did so by making sure he got the ball to the team’s best scorer – himself. Nearly all of Randle’s 150 made two-point field goals were unassisted (incredibly, just 3.5 percent of his two-point jumpers came off of assists), meaning the pride of Rock Island created those opportunities all by himself. With the Cardinal’s second- and fourth-leading scorers from last season now gone, Randle may be counted on to increase his offensive production. Furthermore, Randle has room for improvement as an offensive playmaker for others. If he can use his prodigious offensive talents to earn easy looks for his teammates, his team will be better off for the improvement.

Chasson Randle Took His Game To A New Level As A Junior, And May Be Counted On For More As A Senior

Chasson Randle Took His Game To A New Level As A Junior, And May Be Counted On For More As A Senior

Joining Wright and Randle on our All-Pac-12 First Team are:

  • Stanley Johnson, Fr, Arizona – None of our voters pulled the trigger for Johnson as the conference’s best player, but if he lives up to his outrageous physical talents, we may all feel silly for such an oversight in a few months. Long, strong and effortlessly athletic, Johnson’s biggest challenge may be in bringing full energy and focus every time he steps on the floor. If he can do that, the sky is the limit.
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Soph, Arizona – In his freshman campaign in the desert, Hollis-Jefferson averaged 9.1 points and 5.7 boards per game, but perhaps most impressive was his restraint. Playing with four other very talented players every time he stepped on the floor, he resisted the urge to try to take over games and instead played within the team framework, yet still scored in double figures in each of the Wildcats’ four NCAA Tournament games. With a new starting role awaiting him this season, Hollis-Jefferson will find more opportunities to show off his considerable talents while continuing to share the spotlight with his teammates.
  • Joseph Young, Sr, Oregon – On the short list for the best shooter in the game, Young just keeps getting better every year. After taking a bump up in level of competition last season upon transferring from Houston, all Young did was shoot 42 percent from three, 53 percent from two and 88 percent from one, while turning the ball over only 39 times in 34 games in an up-tempo offense (only 33 players in the country turned the ball over on a lower percentage of possessions last year, and few of those players handled the ball nearly as much as Young). This year, with few experienced returnees surrounding him in Eugene, even more could be asked of the senior.

Second Team

  • Josh Scott, Jr, Colorado – The conference’s best true post, Scott toughened up as a sophomore and improved his defensive game significantly. With his post moves, face-up jumper and an 81 percent free throw percentage, an increase in his offensive production this season could lead to another big jump.
  • DaVonte Lacy, Sr, Washington State – Toiling away in obscurity on the Palouse, Lacy had a terrific individual junior campaign, averaging 19.4 points per game in the face of defenses focusing on slowing him down. His senior season doesn’t figure to have much team success, but Lacy will remain an individual worth watching.
  • Brandon Ashley, Jr, Arizona – As the junior tries to bounce back from last year’s broken foot that cut short his season, he’s already got one believer as Ashley earned the fifth first-place vote among our voters. A long-armed 6’9” power forward, Ashley’s ability to step away from the basket and knock in jumpers could be crucial on a team with so many guys who like to make plays in the paint.
Brandon Ashley's Length And Soft Jumper Make Him A Weapon For the Wildcats (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

Brandon Ashley’s Length And Soft Jumper Make Him A Weapon For the Wildcats (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Anthony Brown, Sr, Stanford – The Cardinal’s third-leading scorer last season, he’ll be asked to step into a bigger role this year alongside Randle. A 45 percent three-point shooter, Brown is among the best shooters in the conference, but he is also very capable of making defenders look silly off of the bounce.
  • Norman Powell, Sr, UCLA – Playing alongside three first-round NBA Draft picks last season, Powell was mostly just a complementary offensive player, scoring 11.4 points per game by running the floor and finishing at the rim. With those three draft picks now gone (and a new batch of future ones in), Powell will have the chance to expand upon his well-rounded game this season.

Third Team

  • Kaleb Tarczewski, Jr, Arizona – Word out of Arizona practice for the past few weeks has been that the junior seven-footer may be the most improved player on the squad. After averaging 10 points and six boards per game last season, Zeus will be just one more Wildcat driving opposing defenses crazy if can be a consistent offensive force on the low block.
  • Nigel Williams-Goss, So, Washington – Averaging 14.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4.4 boards per game as a freshman, Williams-Goss very much lived up to his McDonald’s All-American expectations, showing an ability to score from everywhere while still setting up his teammates. With leading scorer C.J. Wilcox now a professional, Williams-Goss may need to create a smidge more offense for himself this season.
  • T.J. McConnell, Sr, Arizona – The last of five Arizona players on our three all-conference teams, McConnell also earned our pick for Defensive POY along with a spot on our All-Glue team. He only averaged 8.4 points per game last season and his shooting percentages dipped to a career-low, but if he can approach the 83.6 percent free-throw and 43.2 percent three-point rates from his sophomore year at Duquesne, his scoring numbers could really jump.
  • Jabari Bird, Soph, California – There are no two ways around it: Bird’s 8.3 points per game and 32.3 percent three-point shooting as a freshman were very disappointing. His inconsistency and lack of attention on the defensive end likewise frustrated his coaches. But when he was given enough run, his ability to score was apparent. In Cal’s three NIT games, he averaged 16.7 points per game in highly efficient fashion. Without many other options behind him this season and with a new coach ready to get in his ear about effort and defense, expect Bird to take his game to a whole new level this year.
  • Askia Booker, Sr, Colorado – Everybody’s favorite erratic bomber in Boulder displayed a new side of his game last year, taking on more play-making responsibilities in the wake of a devastating Spencer Dinwiddie injury. As a senior, if that newfound responsibility translates into a bit more of a conscience, Booker’s game could flourish.
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