College Basketball: All-Pac-12 Team After Non-Conference Season
After a few years of mediocrity for Pac-12 basketball, the conference appears to be moving back in the right direction.
With the conference season set to begin today, only one team, USC, is under .500, compared to three last season in non-conference play.
Additionally, the sting of some bad losses, such as UCLA's to Cal Poly and Oregon State's to Towson, have faded with some good wins, like Oregon's victory over No. 18 UNLV, Colorado's over No. 16 Baylor, Arizona's wins over No. 5 Florida and No. 17 San Diego State and UCLA's recent triumph of No. 7 Missouri.
The Pac-12 may not yet be restored to its former glory, but it is certainly improving and historical programs like UCLA and Arizona appear to be returning to national prominence.
The improvement in the conference can attributed to an influx of new talent, as well as the improvement of some familiar faces. This list is an All-Pac-12 team based on performance in the non-conference campaign.
Point Guard: Larry Drew II, UCLA
Senior, 6'2", 180 lbs.
6.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.1 STPG
Drew II, a transfer from UNC, is the only player on this list that is not scoring in double figures this season. In fact, at 6.2 points per, he's not even close.
However, UCLA has plenty of scoring threats, such as freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams, and the junior Wear twins and Drew II has been excellent at getting them the ball. His 8.6 assists per easily lead the conference and are good for second in the country.
But perhaps even more impressive than his ability to dish the ball to teammates is his ability to keep it away from opponents. Drew II is averaging only 1.7 turnovers per game this season. As a barometer, ASU's freshman phenom Jahii Carson is second in the conference in assists at 5.7 per game, but averages four turnovers a game.
Venturing outside the conference, you'll see Drew II's 5.09 assist-to-turnover ratio is a full point better than anyone in the country who averages at least six assists.
Drew II also played very well in UCLA's biggest win this season against Missouri when he nearly got a double-double with eight points and 10 assists.
Drew II is definitely the best distributor in the Pac-12, perhaps even in the nation, and gets my vote as the Pac-12's premier point guard thus far.
Jahii Carson, Arizona State, Freshman, 5'10", 175 lbs.
17.7 PPG 3.1 RPG 5.7 APG, 1.2 STPG
Yes the turnovers need to come down a lot, but Carson essentially is ASU's offense and has carried a team that went 4-8 in non-conference play last year to an 11-2 start this season.
Guard: Allen Crabbe, CAL
Junior, 6'6", 210 lbs.
20.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 48.3% FG
Crabbe makes this list because of his scoring ability. Crabbe is the only player in the conference averaging 20 points per game and has the 11th-best scoring average in the nation.
Crabbe is a big and physical guard who can score in a multitude of ways. He can get to the basket and finish or shoot it from outside where he is making threes at a 38.3 percent rate on about five attempts per game.
Crabbe earned a First Team All-Pac-12 selection last year when he led the Bears in scoring (15.2 PPG) and rebounding (5.7 RPG). Both those numbers are up this year.
Cal was one of two Pac-12 schools (Colorado) to reach the NCAA tournament last season, and Crabbe and fellow junior guard Justin Cobbs returning will give the Bears a formidable back court.
Cal will need a strong conference season to return to the dance this year, though, as they have two tough losses, a 25-point blowout at unranked Wisconsin and a home loss to Harvard. Crabbe played very well in both these games however, with 25 points and seven rebounds against Wisconsin and 27 and seven against Harvard.
Nick Johnson, Arizona, Sophomore, 6'3", 200 lbs.
12.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.3 STPG, 49.5% FG
Johnson's offensive numbers don't jump out at you, but late defensive plays made by Johnson directly led to Arizona's biggest wins against Florida and San Diego State, and this year, he is shooting 12 percentage points better than last season.
Guard/Forward: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Freshman, 6'6", 225 lbs.
19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 50.0% FG, 48.3% 3PFG
If you are a Pac-12 basketball fan and UCLA visits your team's home court, don't miss it, because it will be your first and last chance to see Shabazz Muhammad play in college.
The left-handed swing-man was rated in the top two of every recruiting class rankings system, along with Kentucky's Nerlens Noel.
The Pac-12 had a lot of highly-touted freshmen come in this year—ASU's Jahii Carson, Arizona's trio of big men, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, and Shabazz's teammates Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, to name a few—but Muhammad is seemingly the only sure-fire one-and-done first-round (and probably lottery) NBA draft pick.
After missing three games due to suspension for violating amateurism rules, Shabazz has been as good as advertised. His scoring average is good for third in the conference, and his explosiveness and athleticism paired with his shooting ability make for a matchup that few can contain.
Muhammad also has been playing his best basketball lately. After topping 20 points only once in his first six appearances, he has accomplished that feat in each of his last four. In UCLA's last two games of non-conference play, Shabazz set and then tied his career high with 27 points in each.
The latter of those games was UCLA's overtime win against Missouri, and Muhammad was great when it mattered most, scoring seven of UCLA's nine points in the extra period, including a go-ahead three-pointer with about a minute remaining.
I'd like to see Muhammad's defense improve a bit, but with his athleticism and only 10 college games under his belt, I expect all phases (even scoring) of his game to improve in the Pac-12 season.
C.J. Wilcox, Junior, 6'5", 195 lbs
18.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 BPG
A talented scorer, Wilcox will be the man for the Washington Huskies this season with the departures of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, and is off to a great start.
Forward: Solomon Hill, Arizona
Senior, 6'7", 220 lbs.
12.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.5 STPG
Like his teammate Nick Johnson, Hill's stat line does not jump off the screen at you. However, a lot of this can be attributed to No. 3 Arizona's tremendous depth and balance. Even with all this depth, Hill has been the best player on the best team in the conference.
Hill provides a lot of experience to a primarily-freshmen group of big men. Solomon averaged at least 25 minutes in each of his first three seasons at Arizona, and in his senior campaign, is the only Wildcat currently averaging over 30.
Solomon was selected for the All Pac-12 First Team last season. Hill has been particularly good in Arizona's big wins this non-conference season. Against Florida, Hill scored 18, dishing out three assists to go with two steals and a block. Against San Diego State, Hill put in 21 points, three assists, a block and six rebounds, five of which were offensive.
On defense, Hill also drew the Aztecs' leading scorer in Jamaal Franklin. Franklin scored only nine points, breaking a 38-game streak where he scored in double digits. Franklin also committed four fouls and was in foul trouble for a large portion of the game.
Hill's shooting percentage is a bit low for a forward at 42.1 percent; however, I am confident this will improve, as Hill's career shooting at Arizona was 49.4 percent coming into this year. Solomon improving his shooting consistency will be key for the Wildcats' Pac-12 season, as well as for boosting his own NBA draft stock.
Hill will most likely draw Muhammad in Arizona's games against UCLA, which will be a terrific matchup. Solomon is not the elite athlete that Shabazz is; however, what Hill lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in skill and savvy.
Andre Roberson, Colorado, Junior, 6'7", 210 lbs.
12.1 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 2.2 STPG, 1.5 BPG
Roberson was also on the All-Pac-12 First Team last season and is one of two Pac-12 players averaging a double-double.
Forward/Center: Brock Motum, Washington State
Senior, 6'10", 245 lbs.
19.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Motum was a member of the All-Pac-12 First Team last year and was also honored as the conference's most improved player. This year, he has continued to improve, as both his scoring and rebounding numbers have climbed. Additionally, Motum, who only blocked 14 shots all last year, has already blocked 15 just in non-conference play this season.
Motum's 19.7 points per game is good for second in the conference, and with his improved shot-altering ability, he will be a very solid two-way player for the Cougars this season.
In the Cougars' two-point home loss to No. 10 Gonzaga, Motum finished with 23 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots.
Through the non-conference season, Motum has been extremely consistent. There have been only three games where Brock failed to grab at least seven boards, and he has yet to score less than 14 points in any game.
This consistency also spills back into last season. If you exclude the Cougars' CBI semifinal last season where Motum sprained his ankle early, the last time he scored less than 14 was on January 7 at Colorado.
Motum is clearly the conference's most best scoring big man at this point.
Eric Moreland, Oregon State, Sophomore, 6'10", 215 lbs.
10.9 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.7 BPG
Moreland recorded a double-double in each of his last four games and is second in the conference in blocked shots.
Sixth Man: Devon Collier, Oregon State
Junior, 6'8", 215 lbs.
14.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.1 STPG, 1.1 BPG
After starting most of last year's games for the Beavers, Collier has moved into a sixth man role this year and has been brilliant.
His coach, Craig Robinson, noticed how well Collier played off the pine during some summer games in Europe and hasn't looked back since assigning him the new role.
The move has been extremely successful. Off the bench, Collier is second on the team in scoring, and so far, is having a career-best season for scoring and rebounding.
This non-conference season, the forward has been the best bench player in the Pac-12 and should continue to provide scoring and energy for the Cougars during the conference season.
Kevin Parrom, Arizona, Senior, 6'6", 220 lbs.
8.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 53.5% FG, 47.1% 3PFG
The Wildcats swing-man has been the team's most dangerous three-point shooter and fourth-leading scorer off the bench.