Predicting the 2014-15 Pac-12 All-Conference Teams
Arizona will be the near-unanimous favorite to win the 2014-15 Pac-12 regular-season title, but just how many Wildcats will be on the receiving end of all-conference honors?
T.J. McConnell will be one of the most valuable players in the conference, but he'll have a tough time finishing ahead of players like Chasson Randle, Joseph Young and Delon Wright as those players all but single-handedly lead their teams to the NCAA tournament.
More intriguing than how many awards Arizona wins, when will the world start paying attention to Josh Scott?
In the third week of our second seven-week series of the summer, we took a look at Pac-12 rosters and projected standings to forecast the first, second and third All-Pac-12 teams—as well as a handful of honorable mentions.
In addition to those teams, we also projected Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Coach of the Year.
In case you'd like to reference them in the discussion, here are the projected Pac-12 standings from mid-June.
These are the players who won't quite get enough votes to get onto one of the three all-conference teams but will get enough votes to have their names mentioned at the bottom of the press release as "Others Considered":
- Bryce Alford, G, UCLA
- Brandon Ashley, F, Arizona
- Elgin Cook, F, Oregon
- Jonathan Gilling, F, Arizona State
- Isaac Hamilton, G, UCLA
- Kaleb Tarczewski, C, Arizona
- Reid Travis, F, Stanford
Askia Booker, G, Colorado
Colorado's season really could have spiraled out of control after Spencer Dinwiddie's torn ACL, but Askia Booker did as much as he could to keep the Buffaloes afloat. In the 18 games without Dinwiddie, Booker averaged 14.4 points per game and 4.4 assists.
We'll see if the senior can reverse the downward trend in his three-point percentage. He shot 37.2 percent from downtown as a freshman but has had that number drop to 31.2 percent and 27.2 percent over the past two years.
Anthony Brown, G, Stanford
Brown bounced back wonderfully from the hip injury that ended his junior season less than four games after it began. He averaged 12.3 points per game this past season while shooting 45.3 percent from three-point range, combining with Chasson Randle to make one of the best backcourts in the country.
Expect more of the same this year from the 6'6" shooting guard, particularly with less of a focus on interior play this season without Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis.
Kevon Looney, F, UCLA
Looney just might be the most important player in this entire conference.
The Bruins should do just fine in the backcourt with Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Norman Powell, but Looney's play at power forward is the axis upon which their season swings. If he struggles to adjust to the college game, UCLA may struggle to make the tournament. But if Looney is the stud we believe him to be, he'll give Stanley Johnson a run for his money for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
Jordan Loveridge, F, Utah
Delon Wright gets the vast majority of the attention bestowed upon Utah, but Loveridge is pretty good in his own right. The Utes' power forward averaged 14.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season.
David Kravish, F, California
With Richard Solomon out of the picture and Kameron Rooks likely out for the season, Kravish is just about the only thing the Golden Bears have going for them in the paint. California probably won't make the NCAA tournament, but Kravish may well lead the conference in rebounds and blocked shots.
DaVonte Lacy, G, Washington State
Lacy's name is one fairly unknown on the national scene, but he was outstanding this past season for what was otherwise a dreadful Washington State team.
It certainly wasn't an easy season for him. He missed two games after an appendectomy before suffering a rib injury that caused him to miss another six games. After those setbacks, he merely came back and averaged 21.3 points per contest over his final 11 games.
If he can stay healthy as a senior, he could lead the Pac-12 in scoring.
Norman Powell, G, UCLA
The Bruins don't have much returning from last season, but Powell has to be considered the team's primary veteran presence.
Powell only played 25.7 minutes per game on last year's loaded roster, but he'll be expected to be one of UCLA's leading scorers after averaging 11.4 points per game one season ago. Let's hope he goes easy on the three-point attempts, though. Powell has shot just 31.1 percent from downtown in his three seasons at UCLA.
Nigel Williams-Goss, G, Washington
In a year with Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foster on the ballot, it just might be the relatively unheralded Williams-Goss who served as the best freshman point guard in the nation.
He averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game in his first year on the college circuit and has to be considered one of the primary candidates to record a triple-double at some point this season.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Arizona
Easily the toughest omission from the first team, Hollis-Jefferson could very well be the leading scorer for a team that enters the NCAA tournament with 30 wins.
He clearly has the athleticism to pull it off, but does he have the killer instinct? No one stood to gain from Brandon Ashley's season-ending injury quite like Hollis-Jefferson, and he did little to capitalize on it. Over the last 16 games of last season, he averaged 28.4 minutes and just 10.8 points per game.
On what will once again be a stacked roster, will Hollis-Jefferson push the issue enough to make the first team?
Stanley Johnson, Arizona
We'll address Johnson later, as he is our selection for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
1st Team No. 5: Josh Scott, F, Colorado
You couldn't even mention the 2013-14 Colorado Buffaloes without inevitably bringing up Spencer Dinwiddie. Before his injury, he was the catalyst for an under-the-radar team hoping to make a big run in March. After his injury, it was, "Imagine how good they could have been if he hadn't torn his ACL."
As a result, Josh Scott was criminally underappreciated as the team's primary interior presence.
Scott led the Buffaloes in points and rebounds and had a touch of defensive flair with 40 blocked shots and 28 steals.
Perhaps most impressive of all is that the 6'10" sophomore shot 81.0 percent from the free-throw line while averaging 6.2 attempts per game. Good luck finding another returning big man who is that valuable from the charity stripe.
Also, good luck finding his name on any 2015 NBA mock draft, but watch how quickly he climbs up those draft boards as the season progresses.
1st Team No. 4: Chasson Randle, G, Stanford
Chasson Randle was Stanford's rock last season, as the Cardinal went to the NCAA tournament for the first time under the tutelage of Johnny Dawkins. He averaged 35.1 minutes per game and just about never came out of the game over the final four months of the season.
But Randle's final landing spot in the Pac-12 Player of the Year race will hinge pretty heavily on Stanford's ability to get back to the tournament.
He averaged 18.8 points per game last season and should only become a bigger piece of the offense with Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis out of the picture, but would the voters really put 20 points per game in the top three if it isn't for a tournament team?
Also, it sure would be nice to see Stanford's primary ball-handler do some distributing this season. Randle averaged just 2.1 assists per game last season, finishing the season with nearly six times as many field-goal attempts as assists and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.88.
If he can follow in Russ Smith's footsteps and become more of a total package as a senior, it would go a long way toward helping Stanford get back to the Big Dance.
1st Team No. 3 and Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. McConnell, G, Arizona
T.J. McConnell is pretty much Chasson Randle's polar opposite.
McConnell finished the 2013-14 season with 280 field-goal attempts, 202 assists and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0.
Moreover, McConnell was one of the best defenders a coach could ask for, finishing the year tied for second in the nation in defensive win shares. He averaged 1.7 steals per game while playing great shutdown defense and rarely committing fouls.
And, actually, he was an even better defender during his two seasons with Duquesne. In 2010-11, McConnell had the seventh-best steal percentage in the country (subscription required). The following season, he ranked 12th.
Combine that great defense with the fact that he'll be viewed as the on-court leader for an Arizona team that vies for a national championship, and he should make the all-conference first team with plenty of room to spare—despite averaging fewer than 10 points per game.
1st Team No. 2: Joseph Young, G, Oregon
Simply put, what else is Oregon going to do?
Aside from Joseph Young, Elgin Cook is the only returning player who averaged so much as a single point per Oregon game last season.
And Young was already far and away the best scorer on the team. He averaged 18.9 points per contest and scored 193 more points than any other Duck. Young shot 41.5 percent from three-point range and led the conference by shooting 88.1 percent from the free-throw line.
He was no slouch on defense, either, leading the team with 1.3 steals per game.
Even if Oregon had its entire roster coming back, we would love Young's chances of leading the conference in scoring en route to first-team honors.
But with Young serving as pretty much the only familiar face in Eugene? He has a reasonable shot at leading the nation in scoring.
If he can average 23.5 points per game and guide the Ducks back to the NCAA tournament, he'll have a pretty undeniable case for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Pac-12 Player of the Year: Delon Wright, G, Utah
I'm putting a ton of offseason eggs in the Delon Wright basket.
From projecting Utah to earn a No. 5 seed in the 2015 NCAA tournament to naming Wright the No. 1 senior for the upcoming season, I'll look pretty stupid if he regresses from last year's great showing and the Utes fall flat on their faces.
But it's too late to change course now, and I wouldn't want to anyway. Wright is an absolute stud.
Wright scored at least 10 points in all but two games last season—both of which were decided by more than 30 points. The 6'5" guard recorded at least five rebounds in 27 of Utah's 33 games and had at least five assists 20 different times.
For good measure, he also finished the season with 82 steals and 43 blocked shots.
Aside from consistently making three-pointers—Wright made just 22.2 percent of his 54 attempts last year—there's nothing the man can't do.
But now, he needs to do it on the big stage.
Congratulations on getting our attention with great showings against Grand Canyon and Evergreen State, but can he replicate some of those lines in big nonconference games against Kansas, San Diego State, Wichita State, BYU and UNLV? Can he do enough to turn last year's eight losses by four or fewer points into victories?
For the first time in a little while, the world will be watching Utah.
Time to shine.
Pac-12 Freshman of the Year: Stanley Johnson, F, Arizona
Not only will Stanley Johnson be named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, but he will be one of the finalists for the USBWA National Freshman of the Year—an award won by Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger and John Wall over the past five years.
Johnson plays small forward, but don't let that adjective fool you. He's a monster for that position, weighing in for the Nike Skills Academy last month at 6'7" and 235 pounds.
As such, Johnson is pretty much the exact same size as LSU's Jordan Mickey, who averaged 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last year as a freshman. And as Mickey often shared a court with big men Johnny O'Bryant III and Jarell Martin, Johnson will actually be one of Arizona's smaller players when he's in the same lineup as Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Like the aforementioned Delon Wright, Johnson will be a stat-sheet stuffer. What he lacks in three-point shooting ability, he makes up for with exceptional on-ball defense and the vision and selflessness to make the extra pass.
He isn't quite the pogo stick that Aaron Gordon was last year for Arizona, but I'd be surprised if he didn't put up stats similar to Gordon's (12.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 BPG, 0.9 SPG) with a few extra steals to boot.
Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year: Katin Reinhardt, G, USC
USC's leading scorer from last season (Byron Wesley) transferred to Gonzaga. The players who ranked two through four on that list are also gone. In total, the Trojans lost six of their eight players to score 100 points last year.
While they might not win more than two or three games in conference play, there's certainly plenty of room for Katin Reinhardt to shine.
Two years ago, Reinhardt was rated as one of the 10 best incoming shooting guards in the country, but he decided to transfer away from UNLV because head coach Dave Rice was allegedly pigeonholing him to a true shooting guard when Reinhardt sees himself as more of a combo guard.
The irony here is that one of USC's only noteworthy returning players (Julian Jacobs) was the backup point guard—the same position played by Andy Enfield's top 2014 recruit, Jordan McLaughlin. Meanwhile, UNLV had to go out and grab Cody Doolin on the transfer market because the Rebels don't really have any other options at point guard this year.
Whether Reinhardt gets as many passing opportunities as he would like is a story to watch, but we have little doubt in his ability to lead the Trojans in scoring in his first season with the team.
Pac-12 6th Man of the Year: Gabe York, G, Arizona
This award could really go to any number of Wildcats.
It's pretty safe to assume that T.J. McConnell, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski will be starters and that the other two spots will go to some combination of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson and Kadeem Allen. Whichever one of those three players loses out on a starting job will immediately become a favorite for this award.
Incoming freshmen Craig Victor and Parker Jackson-Cartwright could also be candidates, depending on how much playing time they're actually able to get in their first season.
But I'm giving the early edge to Gabe York, as I suspect his will be the name called off the bench when Sean Miller wants to go with a traditional shooting guard who can actually hit some three-pointers.
Even with Nick Johnson leading the team in points scored and minutes played, York still managed to tally 21.8 minutes per game last season while shooting 38.5 percent from long range.
In games where York scored at least six points, Arizona was 19-1 last season. You could argue that's because he did a lot of his scoring off the bench against weaker opponents in games that were more or less decided by halftime, but I think he was a great situational player who will receive a role of heightened importance with Johnson gone to the NBA.
Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Thus far in this series, we've projected these awards for coaches (Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Self) who have been among the best in their trade for decades without receiving the award in the past few years.
For this conference, however, we're going a more traditional route and forecasting that the winner will be the coach of the team with the biggest positive turnaround from last season.
Back in the middle of June, we predicted that Utah will finish in second place in the Pac-12 despite a 9-9 record in 2013-14. The Utes were a much better team than their record indicated, and they have barely lost anything from that roster, while the majority of last year's top Pac-12 teams are coping with a significant number of subtractions.
When Larry Krystkowiak took over the coaching duties at Utah three years ago, this team was going nowhere fast. In the Utes' first season in the Pac-12, they went 6-25 and were one of the worst teams in the entire country.
But he has turned this program around in a hurry, guiding Utah to 21 wins last season and high expectations for the coming year.
Maybe we're overly optimistic picking the Utes to finish in second place, but as long as he gets them back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009—and as long as Arizona doesn't go 18-0 in conference play—Krystkowiak is pretty much a lock to be named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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