Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Third Annual Rumblin' Awards

Yesterday, the Pac-12 released their seasonal awards (congrats to Askia Booker, by the way, for being named to the second team). Never satisfied with the musing of coaches and professional pundits, however, I'm going to delve into who I believe should have been honored by the conference this year.

After the jump, find my choices for the All-Pac-12 1st and 2nd teams, along with my Player, Coach, Defender, and Newcomer of the Year.

Please remember that the Rumblin' Awards are a strictly black tie affair.

All Pac-12 First Team -
(presented in alphabetical order)

- Askia Booker - G - Colorado - 17.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 36.5% shots, 32.1% poss, 104.8 Ortg

Some may balk, but everything CU did offensively from December through February was based on Ski. For better or worse, Booker carried the Buffs in the meat of the basketball season (as you can see through his ridiculously high shot and possession rates).  Still, despite that load on his shoulders, Ski posted an offensive rating over 100 for the first time in his career, and had the game of the season when he dropped 43 on USC. Take some points off for CU's overall struggles, but he's still a First Team performer.

- Josh Hawkinson - F - WSU - 14.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 30.9 DR%, 8.8 TOrate

'Baby-face' Josh Hawkinson was the only player in the league to average a double-double this winter, and posted a top-three national defensive rebounding rate in the process.  Sure, Coach Kent's run-and-gun style played into a high volume of opportunities on both ends of the court, but Josh came out of nowhere to capitalize on them.  Is he a plus athlete, or even an average defensive talent?  No, certainly not, but his stat accumulation and the relative dearth of competition in the conference's forward corps earn him the nod.

- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - F - Arizona - 11.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 114.2 Ortg, 19.5 DR%, 78 FTrate

'The Shake' is the best pure athlete in the league.  End of sentence.  Flying around the court, wreaking havoc, he was a nightmare matchup for lesser opponents.  The glue between Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley, RHJ was the dynamic force that made 'Zona's forward corps impossible to take on straight-up. Also: this.

- Stanley Johnson - F - Arizona - 13.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 18.9 DR%, 3.1 stl%, 

It's become ho-hum for Arizona to feature a sterling freshman superstar, but, please, do not let Johnson slip by unnoticed.  Nominally a shooting guard, the man-child (listed at a massive 6-7, 245) in a football player's frame is a pure difference maker.  While a step behind Aaron Gordon defensively, Johnson was much better on the offensive end, and was generally unfair to have to match up against.  One-and-done for sure, I hope you got a peek while you could.

- TJ McConnell - G - Arizona - 9.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 6.3 apg, 39.7 ARate, 4.2 stl%, 116.7 Ortg

As impressive as RHJ and Stanley were this season, TJ McConnell is the reason the 'Cats are a top-10 team.  Plenty of overly-talented groups have faded under the pressure of a year-long trial, but not Arizona. What has kept them from that list the last two seasons is the best pure point guard in the collegiate game today - McConnell.  Strong defensively (3rd in the league in steals), and an expert passer (lead the Pac-12 in assists, top five nationally in assist rate), McConnell is the finely tuned transmission metering out the explosive power under the hood.  Without him, I honestly think the 'Cats would've been a discombobulated mess these last two years (think: Texas).

- Gary Payton II - G - OSU - 13.3 ppg, 7.5 ppg, 3.2 apg, 3.1 spg, 5.5 stl%, 3.2 def win shares

We look back now, note the name, and assume GP2 was a sure thing.  Not really.  He was a non-qualifier out of high school, and took a roundabout way to his father's alma mater.  Coming into the year, he was actually kind of a question mark.  Once in orange and black, however, Gary was the second coming of 'the Glove,' a defensive terror incarnate.  He leads the league in steals (by a ways), finished third in rebounding (despite only being 6-3), and leads the nation in defensive win shares.  On a team that is all 'D,' he was the prime factor in making the Beavers relevant for the first time in ages.

- Chasson Randle - G - Stanford - 19.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 89.1 FT%, 88.6 min%, 113 Ortg

The season didn't end the way Chasson deserved, with the Cardinal slipping out of NCAA Tournament consideration, but the nasty scoring threat from Rock Island, IL made plenty of people sit up and notice when he was on the court.  A pure scorer and a crunch time killer, Chasson is only a few solid scoring nights away from becoming Stanford's all-time points leader.  Not too shabby.  For this season, he wound up just a hair behind Joe Young in the scoring race, but I won't hold it against him.

- Tyrone Wallace - G - Cal - 17.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 31.1 pos%, 20.7 DR%, 6.0 FD/40

A do-it-all performer, Wallace stuffed the stat sheet night-in, night-out for the Golden Bears.  While Cal would struggle in conference play, you can't really blame Ty, who lead them in the four major categories.  He also stood as their only threat to get to the line, and was a damn difficult matchup for smaller guards in the lane.  Slo-Mo-esque, Wallace has stepped to the forefront on the list of premier guards in the West.

- Delon Wright - G - Utah - 14.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.1 spg, 128 Ortg, 7.5 win shares

Doing Wallace one better in almost every conceivable way, the great Delon Wright returns to this list as the nation's elite Jack of all Trades.  Deft distribution?  Check.  Devastating defense?  Check.  Lead scoring capabilities?  Check.  If there's a basketball-related task that needs doing, chances are Utah's point guard would be able to fill your bill with aplomb.  Finishing 2nd in the Pac-12 in steals, 3rd in assists, he also finished second in the country in overall win shares (slightly behind Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky).  Just a ridiculously talented player.

- Joe Young - G - Oregon - 19.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, 91.8 FT%, 90.2 min%, 29.5% shots, 1.5 FC/40

Completing the list, your 2014-15 Pac-12 scoring champion:  Mighty Joe Young.  On a team that defied the odds to finish second in the league, Joe was the principle reason.  The Ducks go as their offense goes, and no one fuels fits of scoring like the diminutive guard from Houston.  He can do it all - slash to the lane, kill you with the jumper, or silence comeback bids from the line.  Elite in every sense of the word.  Now, on defense he can get a little leaky (although he did post a surpring 4.5 rpg), but you can't argue with 20 ppg.

All Pac-12 Second Team -
(presented in alphabetical order)

- Elgin Cook - F - Oregon - 13.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 57.1 FTrate

Young's running mate in Eugene, Elgin can take over games when he's hot.  I like the mix of attributes that he brings to the table.  Catches the eye, even with Young buzzing around.

- DeVonte Lacy - G - Washington State - 17.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.1 apg

One of the best pure scorers in the league, it was nice to see Lacy enjoy some senior success this winter. Ultimately, he gets a few points deducted for his defense and lack of eye-popping advanced numbers, but his ability to pour on points in indisputable.

- Kevon Looney - F - UCLA - 12.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 12.3 OR%, 21.3 DR%, 

Another freakishly good freshman, the Bruins would be in a lot of trouble without the versatile Looney.  If he had averaged a double-double, I probably would've snuck him into the top-line.  Wish we had another season with him in the Pac-12 fold.

- Norman Powell - G - UCLA - 16.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.4 stl%

I probably should've been more impressed with Powell's numbers this season.  He's certainly athletic enough, featuring as one of the Pac-12's best dunkers.  The highlight reel aside, I just don't feel is stats out-shone others from his position.

- Nigel Williams-Goss - G - Washington - 15.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.9 apg, 35.8 Arate, 88.6 min%

Finished second in the league in assists, and had some great scoring moments (like Saturday's upset over Utah).  Still, the Huskies cratered so dramatically that it's hard to bump him up to First Team status.


Individual Awards

Player of the Year - Delon Wright
Runner-up - TJ McConnell
Honorable Mention - Robert Upshaw

To my mind, this is a two-horse race.  The best all-around talent, who also happened to post the highest win-shares in the league, or the crucial component to the conference champions.  I don't understand how you consider anyone else, even Oregon's scoring maestro, Joe Young.  It's Wright, McConnell, or bust.

In the end, I went with Wright, simply because of his talents in every facet of the game.  His length makes that defense frightening, his activity on the perimeter is suffocating, and his lithe slither towards the rim is scary difficult to guard.  Further, the win shares sway me.  When you're in a class with Frank the Tank, it's time to start engraving the trophy.

Upshaw gets an honorable mention, due to UW's struggles after his dismissal from the team.  This was a top-25 caliber bunch before his departure, and one of the worst teams around without him.  Enough said.

Coach of the Year - Dana Altman
Runner-up - Wayne Tinkle

It's hard to argue with the on-court results from Coach Altman.  Expected to struggle in a year after a mass exodus from his program, the Ducks instead soared, collecting 13 conference wins, and settling into second place overall.  They were the hottest team over the second-half of the year, and will be my betting favorite to win this week in Las Vegas. Given the situation over the summer, to see Oregon where they are today is stunning.

Of course, the fact is that Dana cooked the stew that so fouled UO's preseason outlook. He knowingly allowed accused rapists to carry his team into the Sweet Sixteen, baring the banner for a school that, in turn, prepared to use statements made in therapy against a sexual assault victim.  Pure scum.

But, there are no morals clauses at the Rumblin' Awards. Dana Altman acted despicably - hell, the University of Oregon acted despicably - but the sleazeball is still my coach of the year.  Congratulations, *spits on the floor*

Defensive Player of the Year - Gary Payton II
Runner-up - Delon Wright

GP2 came out of nowhere to steal this one.  I had assumed that this was Wright's to lose in November, and almost didn't notice the work Payton was doing before the New Year.  It's become clear over the last few months, however, that Payton is, far and away, the best defender in the Pac-12.  Which leads me to...

Newcomer of the Year - Gary Payton II
Runner-up - Stanley Johnson

Yes, in an upset over Stanley, I'm going with Gary as the newcomer of the year.  A JuCo transfer from Salt Lake Community College, he took the league by storm this season.  Suddenly, the Beavers, a normative also-ran, became relevant again.  Gill Coliseum, usually a docile tomb, was invigorated and alive.  Payton's performance as a defensive terror had everything to do with that.  Johnson was the league's best true freshman, but Payton had the biggest impact.

Congrats to the winners!  Your trophies are in the mail, I promise.

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