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This week in the Pac-12: All conference picks

One random guy's opinion on everything that happened in the Pac-12 conference this year. Do you agree?


No time to waste, let's dive right in:

All Freshman Team

G - Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
G - Jordan Mathews, California
F - Wesley Gordon, Colorado
F - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
F - Aaron Gordon, Arizona (Freshman of the year)

This wasn't a great year for freshmen in the Pac-12, but it was a great year for Gordons and hyphenated names! The toughest omission, believe it or not, was Bryce Alford, who had his struggles but showed an impressive scoring ability late in the conference season. If you put him on the team ahead of Wesley Gordon or Jordan Mathews I wouldn't really argue.

Jordan Mathews quietly shot 46% from three in conference play and finished with the 2nd highest offensive efficiency of any freshman in the conference despite a decently high usage percentage. He's going to be a very valuable player for Monty.

Williams-Goss, like most freshmen point guards forced to lead a team, struggled with turnovers but he averaged double digits and finished 7th in the conference in scoring rate.

Wesley Gordon showed an impressive ability on the offensive glass and will likely be a prolific shot blocker as long as he's in the conference. Nagging injuries and inconsistent finishing slowed him a bit, but he'll likely be another very productive big for Tad Boyle and the Buffs

Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson both immediately stepped into major roles on the best team in the country. Both are elite defenders and rebounders without any caveats about their youth.

All Defense Team

Such was Arizona's defensive domination that you could simply submit Arizona's starting five, call it a day, and I wouldn't argue. But we'll try anyway:

G - T.J. McConnell, Arizona
G - Delon Wright, Utah
G - Nick Johnson, Arizona
F - Aaron Gordon, Arizona
C - Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State (DPOY)

The toughest cut was Caleb Tarczewski, but I figure the Wildcats are pretty well represented. Bachynski takes a spot because he's one of the best shot blockers in conference history and anchored a defense that was pretty dang good (2nd most efficient in conference play) despite having personnel you wouldn't typically associate with lock down defense. Delon Wright gets similar credit for lots of steals, blocks, and minutes on one of the better defenses in the conference.

The other three spots go to Wildcats. McConnell is a pest, an accomplished thief who disrupts without getting out of position. If McConnell isn't the best perimeter defender in the conference then it's probably Johnson. Gordon uses his athleticism very, very well and is the most likely Wildcat to end a possession with a defensive rebound.

The official Defensive player of the year award will go to Bachynski for his gaudy block totals, and that's probably fair. He's certainly the one guy that, if you took him away, his team's defense would fall the furthest. But it seems like Arizona should take the award as well, even though it's hard to single out just one Wildcat as the best defender when good defense is a team effort. Let's just say I'm conflicted.

Coach of the Year

This was basically a choice between Sean Miller's dominance at Arizona and Larry Krystkowiak's rebuild at Utah. And while I very much admire everything Krystkowiak has done, I can't go anywhere other than what Sean Miller did in Tucson.

Because I loved watching Arizona play defense, and that's not something that I would typically say. He took a secretly young team with plenty of roster turnover and sculpted it into the best defense in the country, then dealt with losing one of his more experienced players and barely lost a beat. His team lost exactly one game that didn't involve a buzzer beater.

Sure, he had gobs of raw talent, but it's talent that was entirely recruited by him. In the end it's an easy choice.

All Conference, 1st team

G - Delon Wright, Utah
G - Nick Johnson, Arizona, Conference Player of the Year
G - Jordan Adams, UCLA
F - Kyle Anderson, UCLA
F - Aaron Gordon, Arizona

This was hard. Ultimately, I gave deference to the two teams that very clearly separated themselves atop the conference standings. If Adams and Anderson hadn't stupidly gotten themselves suspended for a game, these two teams likely would have finished six and three games ahead of the pack, respectively.

Johnson and Anderson are easy explanations - both are the driving offensive forces on their respective teams, and in my opinion the only legitimate choices for player of the year. I ultimately went with Johnson in a nod both towards Arizona and his exceptional defense, but wouldn't argue with Anderson.

Adams was incredibly efficient on offense and added plenty of value by finishing 2nd in the conference in steals/game in UCLA's new trapping defense.

Delon Wright did EVERYTHING for Utah. By everything, I mean that he finished 1st or 2nd on the team in pretty much every major category, whether we're talking rate stats or counting stats. Without him Utah is probably closer to USC and Wazzu than the top half of the conference.

And Aaron Gordon, who I had been arguing earlier in the year was vastly over-rated . . . well, he won me over. He did it in part by closing conference play with improved offensive efforts, but he mostly convinced me with his rebounding, defense, and pure work rate. He stepped up in the absence of Brandon Ashley and took on a bigger role, and improved in the process.

All Conference, 2nd team

G - Chasson Randle, Stanford
G - Roberto Nelson, Oregon State
G - Jahii Carson, Arizona State
F - Josh Scott, Colorado
F - Richard Solomon, California

Apologies to Justin Cobbs, T.J. McConnell, C.J. Wilcox and Joseph Young. When you have EIGHT teams within a game of .500 in the conference standings, that means that every team is going to have a player or two worthy of consideration, without much of a way to choose between them. So, here are my quickie, poorly thought out justifications, although really I wouldn't argue if you wanted to elevate any of the guys I mention in the 1st sentence of this paragraph

Randle: Nearly shot Stanford to 3rd place by himself by hitting a ton of threes.

Nelson: Led the conference in scoring on a team that was probably a bit better than I and everybody else wants to admit. And that's mostly because of Nelson.

Carson: I go back and forth on him. He plays too much hero ball. But he also takes an insane load on offense, passes the ball well, draws a TON of fouls, and improved his defensive play from bad to adequate.

Scott: Probably the best offensive post player in the conference, and a solid rebounder to boot. Never fouls.

Solomon: Did a little bit of everything on top of a TON of rebounding. He is in the top 15 in the conference in the following categories: ORB%, DRB%, FT Rate, Steal%, Block%, eFG%.

Next Week in the Pac-12

The Pac-12 tournament, featuring one really good team, one good-but-volatile team, two really awful teams, and eight teams that could do damned well anything. Plenty more on the insanity in Vegas later this week, from me and others.