Last week it was all about negativity, as we dwelled on the biggest disappointments in the Pac-12 this year. This week, with the holiday season in full swing, it’s all about happiness and light, as well discuss the year’s biggest surprises.
“Which team, player, or other entity, has been the biggest surprise thus far this year?”
Andrew Murawa: Everybody loves to see a kid succeed against the odds, and I’m certainly no different in that respect, which is why Stanford’s Andy Brown has been one of the highlights of the season for me. After three torn ACLs in his left knee over the course of three seasons, there was very little chance that Brown would ever make a significant contribution on the basketball court for the Cardinal. Through no fault of his own, I’d certainly written him off. But this season, he has been Johnny Dawkins’ most consistent contributor off the bench. He’s played in all but one game and averaged better than 20 minutes per night when out there, including better than 20 in each of the last six games. He’s shown a nice three-point stroke, a great ability to poke a ball lose every now and then and a hustle and savvy that any ball club could use. And, best of all, he’s shown no ill effects from his previous injuries out there. Watching the kind of season that Brown is having in what is technically his senior year (academically at least, he can probably play a couple more seasons for Dawkins if he so desires) is not only the biggest surprise in the conference, it is also exactly the kind of thing that keeps me coming back to college athletics.
Adam Butler: There have been some surprises this year to be certain. In answering this BQ I’m quick to hat tip the State of Oregon, Jordan Adams, and the Utes. Each of these entities has exceeded early expectations – if we even bothered to have any in Utah’s case – and should be commended for such. However, the biggest surprise thus far, to me, has been the progress of ASU’s Jordan Bachynski. The big man has nearly doubled his rebounding and scoring numbers from a season ago and, most impressively, has been swatting shots away at an alarming rate; 17.6% to be exact (4.6 per game), good for fourth in the nation. His triple double (13 points, 12 boards, 12 blocks) was the first in the conference since 2007 and the first ever at ASU. He’s an integral piece to the Sun Devils’ surprising 9-2 start. We were pretty aware of what Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix were going to bring to this team. We even had a clue what Evan Gordon could deliver. But really for this squad to improve on their 10-win 2011-12, they were going to need to see some improvement from the existing pieces of this roster. They’ve received such from Bachynski and Jonathan Gilling. While ASU hasn’t quite been challenged yet and flopped in their biggest test to date (DePaul), any time you’re getting this kind of production out of a seven-foot-two-inch man, things tend to go surprisingly well.