Pac-12 Superlatives: My Picks, Their Picks and Some Reality

You might’ve read my Pac-12 preseason predictions. If not some of them here then if you were traveling in the early November time frame you might’ve seen them featured in USA Today’s College Basketball Special Edition/leaflet. My friend bought me a copy en route to a wedding in Mexico and left it in the hotel shuttle. I have the best friends!

If you didn’t click the above link, here’s how I had things shaking out:

Standings Awards All Conference
1 Oregon POY Ivan Rabb Marketlle Fultz
2 Arizona FOY Markelle Fultz Allonzo Trier
3 USC COY DNP (did not pick) Dillon Brooks
4 UCLA dPOY DNP (did not pick) Ivan Rabb
5 Colorado Chris Boucher
6 Washington Jordan McLaughlin
7 Cal Lonzo Ball
8 Stanford Tyler Dorsey
9 Utah Xavier Johnson
10 Oregon State Lauri Markkanen
11 Arizona State
12 Washington State

Of course now that the humble bragging is complete, we can focus on the critical things like “USA Today is written at a 10th grade reading level” and “where I went wrong.”

First, on the reading level. This post scores an 8th grade level. Mom, I’m moving up!

Secondly, and below, where I went wrong and right:


Predicted Actual Diff
1 Oregon 1 Oregon 0
2 Arizona 2 Arizona 0
3 USC 3 UCLA -1
4 UCLA 4 Utah -5
5 Colorado 5 USC 2
6 Washington 6 Cal -1
7 Cal 7 Colorado 2
8 Stanford 8 Arizona State -3
9 Utah 9 Stanford 1
10 Oregon State 10 Washington State -2
11 Arizona State 11 Washington 5
12 Washington State 12 Oregon State 2

In our “diff” column, I’ve simply calculated how far off my prediction was from a team’s actual finish (actual ranking – predicted). A large number means I was way off (Romar retained) and Utah (Larry K, man) while a negative number suggests I undervalued a squad, positive I overvalued them. Because I was only right on two predictions, let’s break it down. Further, I had some thing to in each of my team previews. Let’s revisit those (as relevant) in rehashing where I encouraged us to be one guy as opposed to another.

Oregon (0) – Nailed it.

Arizona (0) – Nailed it. But let’s be honest, there’s a reason Sean Miller is your Pac-12 Coach of the Year. He navigated a portion of the year with 7 scholarship players. You know who recently did similar? Steve Alford. That 2016 team went 15-17.

UCLA (-1) – Speaking of Steve Alford, that’s exactly why I undervalued this squad. I also didn’t know that Lonzo Ball would be the best player in the conference (not even a hat-tip here to Dillon Brooks) if not transcendent. Not ashamed of picking this team fourth and wildly impressed with their season. They’re getting better on defense, too. And while you’re here let’s just take a minute to acknowledge Bryce because I know you won’t. He made 104 threes, 86% of which were assisted and that’s how it was always supposed to be for one of the most prolific three point shooters this conference has ever seen. It was the highest percentage of assisted threes in his career and subsequently his highest 3FG%. It was also his highest scoring output on his lowest usage (career). Synergy tells me the Bryce Alford was the 76th most efficient spot up shooter in the country.

Utah (-5) – Undervalued. Larry Krystkowiak would probably get my vote for coach of the year after replacing nearly his entire squad and managing a first round Vegas bye. The issue? After those top three teams the Pac-12 turned out to be pretty bad. I foresaw a bad Pac but didn’t value Larry’s coaching nearly enough. I apologize here. But I also told us to keep an eye on Kyle Kuzma (without the stones to pick him All-Conference preseason) and he was an All-Conference performer.

USC (2) – The first of our overvalued squads and I’ll wear it. I was right about Chimezie Metu (the conference’s most improve player) while Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart were totally capable. The Trojans just weren’t that good. Or at least not that consistent. It is a fifth year head coach, something I didn’t fully appreciate, and they didn’t improve on defense (-3 points per 100).

Cal (-1) – Was very close on this one and would like you to know it. This was a team boasting a preseason All-American and my conference Player of the Year (bad pick). I suppose I misaligned those predictions. Choosing a POY to finish 7th just isn’t realistic. Alas, Rabb didn’t even lead the team in Usage and – worse – Shot Percentage (volume) and they produced the 183rd rated offense in the country. Kudos for the defense?

Colorado (2) – A team I overvalued (damn all those seniors) but let’s take a second to mention Derrick White for the first of two instances on this post. I played D-2 baseball and I’ve beat D-2 basketball players. Those are different ball sports and a means to contextualize my experience with D-2 basketball players, exactly what Derrick White was. And then he turned into a First Team All-Pac-12 Performer. Congrats. And now: What the hell were you and your team doing through the first seven Pac-12 games? I lamented the fact the CU might be putting its hopes on a D-2 transfer. Then, when he delivered (first team all-conference), no one else really did. Sad.

Arizona State (-3) – I look at this undervaluation as something of a failure. While I overvalued experienced guards and having a front court at USC, I undervalued these same pieces at ASU (they had the guards but not the front court). Similarly, when I ignored Enfield having never finished a Pac-12 season through all 18, I acknowledged that this was just Bobby Hurley’s fourth team. Of course we’re also talking about eighth place in the worst of the high major conferences so who cares?

Stanford (1) – I was hoping that Jerrod Haase’s teams might resemble his mentor, Roy  Williams’, teams. I wanted this for entertainment purposes as Roy coaches a fast, exciting brand. The Stanford Haase’s couldn’t be further from a Roy Williams team. They played at average pace, grabbed no offense boards, and aren’t projected as an NCAA one seed.

Washington State (-2) – Congrats Ernie and Josh Hawkinson, y’all showed me – and many others – wrong…and won six conference games. But I asked “What’s the Plan?” with this program and what’d we get? Well Malachi Flynn logged 82% of the team’s minutes and showed flashes of – well – a future.

Washington (5) – Here’s where I grossly overvalued David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, Malik Dime and Noah Dickerson. I thought their collective could complement Markelle Fultz and there’d perhaps be greater buy-in defensively. The Huskies also did not eclipse last season’s outrages 13.6 second APL. It “ballooned” to 15.3 seconds and has nothing to do with whether or not I was going to accurately pick the Dawgs or not.

Oregon State (2) – The Beavers were the worst Power Conference team in the country.


Player of the Year – I safely picked Ivan Rabb against my better judgement. The coaches safely picked Dillon Brooks and you can’t really begrudge them the choice. He was the flashiest player on the conference champs. But everyone know Lonzo Ball was the best player in the conference:

Brooks 16 2.7 2.9 28 3.8 115.2 59.4
Ball 14.9 6.2 7.8 25.5 6.2 130.7 67.2
Rabb 14.2 10.6 1.6 22.7 4.4 107.5 51.6

Freshman of the Year: Fultz was great, Ball was the best.

Coach of the Year: While I didn’t pick one before the season (at least not publicly) I did feel as if Miller was in a tough spot to win the award. His team was confounding, loaded with a strange lot of perceived talent. Most didn’t know what sort of characters he was getting with Simmons and Alkins and who ever knows with foreign talents. And then Trier doesn’t play for 19 games while possibly coming back for any one of them and Parker Jackson-Cartwright misses 7 games. Arizona’s losses by KenPom ranking: 23, 1, 17, 16. Those numbers are impressive. As is the fact there’s only four of them.

Defensive Player of the Year: I picked Jordan Bell as the 2016 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Does that count?

All Conference teams

Predicted Actual
Allonzo Trier Bryce Alford
Lonzo Ball Lonzo Ball
Dillon Brooks Dillon Brooks
Markelle Fultz Markelle Fultz
Ivan Rabb Ivan Rabb
Lauri Markkanen Lauri Markkanen
Jordan McLaughlin TJ Leaf
Chris Boucher Kyle Kuzma
Tyler Dorsey Reid Travis
Xavier Johnson Derrick White

Briefly notes on the above:

  • Regret Boucher
  • Impressed with Kuzma
  • Don’t ignore Xavier Johnson’s 15/6/1 (all career highs)
  • Allonzo Trier was going to be my POY pick. His efficiency #s are better than Brooks’.

Enjoy Vegas.

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