The first year of the Pac-12 was probably one of the worst conferences in years in terms of top-to-bottom team quality, and was nationally ridiculed this season for its poor performance in non-conference games. However, there were players that made big strides and have earned themselves some awards in my book.
Pac-12 1st Team:
Jared Cunningham (Oregon State), Jorge Gutierrez (California), Brock Motum (Washington State), Andre Roberson (Colorado), Terrence Ross (Washington)
Pac-12 2nd Team:
Allen Crabbe (California), Solomon Hill (Arizona), Lazeric Jones (UCLA) Devoe Joseph (Oregon), Tony Wroten (Washington)
Conference Player of the Year
Terrence Ross (Washington) –
Ross was not the leading scorer for Washington this year, but he was their best player. His 15 points and six rebounds a game was good enough to carry Washington to its third outright conference championship since 1953. Ross single-handedly took over games at times, like when he scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half to defeat Washington State in Seattle back in January. Also, against UCLA he scored 12 of the Huskies final 16 points in the last six minutes to overcome a 10-point deficit in Seattle. In five of the final six games, Ross scored at least 18 points while shooting more than 47 percent when the Huskies could not afford to slip up. He was honored as the conference player of the year once after his efforts against Washington State.
Freshman of the Year
Tony Wroten (Washington) –
When you’re named as one of five finalists for national freshman of the year with names such as Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Duke’s Austin Rivers, it becomes pretty clear that you’re tops in the conference. Wroten finished fourth in scoring (16.3), eighth in assists (3.67) and second in steals (1.97) in the conference. Wroten’s play will be good enough to get him on the all-conference team and when freshmen became eligible to make that exclusive squad back during the 1972-73 season, only 14 have made it with Arizona’s Derrick Williams being the most recent back in 2010.
Breakout Player of the Year
Brock Motum (Washington State) –
This isn’t even debatable. No one has elevated their numbers like Motum did this year and all he needed was an opportunity. The junior from Australia finished with career highs in every category including finishing just percentage points behind Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham for the league scoring title at 18.1. After senior Faisal Aden injured his knee and was done for the season, Motum stepped up averaging more than 23 points a game in the final 10 games of the season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jorge Gutierrez (California) –
You won’t find Gutierrez in the top ten in steals, or blocked shots, but his overall basketball IQ is second-to-none. California was number two in the conference in scoring defense and number one in scoring margin by a lot and Gutierrez had much to do with that. I am thinking of giving the award to Jared Cunningham because he leads the league in steals and ranks number seven nationally in that category but I believe those numbers are more of a product of playing in the 1-3-1 zone. Also, Oregon State gives up the most points in the conference on a nightly basis.
Most Surprising Team
Colorado entered its first year in a new conference with a lot of unproven talent that proved to be good. They lost their top four scorers from last year’s team and returned only two starters who last year combined to average less than 10 points a game. They defeated all the teams in the conference at least once except UCLA, who they only played once and they dropped both games to Stanford. Their biggest weakness was winning on the road but as this team matures, their road woes will diminish. They lose three seniors after this year and only have one senior-to-be on their roster for next year to go along with a solid recruiting class.
Most Disappointing Team
After three consecutive trips to the Final Four from 2006 to 2008, the Bruins will likely miss the postseason entirely for the second time in the past three seasons. A rocky season starting with the dismissal of junior, Reeves Nelson, who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in the preseason was capped off by an article published in Sports Illustrated last week that shed light on the internal downfall of the program. The Bruins used that article as motivation to win their final two games but it did not mask what was ultimately a disappointing season.