The CougCenter 2009-10 All-Conference Team

We've had our initial reaction. You've had your chance to comment.

Now, we throw down the gauntlet. Nuss, Craig and I make our choices known for the 2009-2010 Pac-10 All-Conference team. You will notice some stark differences between our selections and those of the conference coaches. We don't care about points per game, for example. Anyone - even our beloved Klay - can jack up 20 shots a game and score a lot of points. How efficiently someone scores matters more. Also: how efficiently a player rebounds, assists and/or steals the ball. No wussy old-school stats here (well, at least not most of the time). Tempo-free stats are the standard. Also - defense matters. Silly idea, I know.

We also did our best to make the teams look like actual teams. Meaning that, in theory, one of these teams could be thrown out on the court and actually function as a unit - not just consisting of four or five point guards out there at the same time.

It goes without saying the selections for this year were extremely difficult. Sometimes I wondered if there actually were 15 good players in this conference. The most disagreement among the three of us, naturally, came on the third team where there just aren't any clear-cut choices. You hit players 12 through 15 and already feel like you're scraping the bottom of the barrel. In some ways, you are. This conference is just that short on elite players.

I had to become overly, painfully aware of the kenpom.com profiles for all ten teams in the conference. The result was my ballot turned out quite a lot like Nuss'. Great minds study Ken Pomeroy, apparently. Craig's picks were fairly similar, but I feel he valued defense more than the rest of us. In some ways I wish I had done that - after all, score prevention is just as important as scoring - but there just aren't many good defensive metrics available to us. The eye test becomes the key - and that's how a zone defender ends up being named defensive POY by the coaches. Don't worry, Seth Tarver didn't make our defensive team.

I'll post the winners here. Read on for the explanations:

Individual awards: (* indicates unanimous selection)

Player of the Year - Landry Fields, Stanford
Coach of the Year - Herb Sendek, ASU
Defensive Player of the Year - Nikola Vucevic, USC
Most Improved Player - Nikola Koprivica, WSU*
Freshman of the Year - Derrick Williams, Arizona

All-Pac-10: First Team

G - Jerome Randle, Cal*
G - Patrick Christopher, Cal
G/F - Landry Fields, Stanford*
F - Quincy Pondexter, Washington*
F/C - Derrick Williams, Arizona

Second Team

G - Ty Abbott, ASU
G - Isaiah Thomas, Washington
G/F - Theo Robertson, Cal
F - Jamal Boykin, Cal
F/C - Nikola Vucevic, USC

Third Team

G - Nic Wise, Arizona
G - Derek Glasser, ASU
G/F - Jeremy Green, Stanford
F - Nikola Koprivica, WSU
F/C - DeAngelo Casto, WSU

Freshman Team

G - Reggie Moore, WSU*
G - Trent Lockett, ASU*
G/F - Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA*
F - Reeves Nelson, UCLA*
F/C - Derrick Williams, Arizona
*

Defensive Team

G - Venoy Overton, Washington*
G - Jorge Gutierrez, Cal*
G - Patrick Christopher, Cal
F/C - Nikola Vucevic, USC
*
F/C - DeAngelo Casto, WSU*

Player of the Year - Landry Fields, Stanford

No, we aren't intentionally trying to irk Husky fans. Craig's vote even went to Pondexter, while Nuss and I preferred Fields. This wasn't an easy call. Randle is a great player, but he won POY on the virtue of being the best player on the best team. The reality is, by most standards, Pondexter and Fields were simply better. Q-Pon has a disgusting 123.2 offensive efficiency rating right now - 50th best in the nation. He is the conference's marquee point-scoring threat. He rebounds well. He's a good player. Just not better than Fields.

Lorenzo Romar's argument - at least on a soundbyte on KJR - was that Pondexter deserved to win by being conference player of the week a record five times. I don't like this argument - remember, POW generally goes to the player who's team had the best week, or went off for 30-40 against somebody (hello, Klay vs. San Diego). It's often wrong, and based on waaay too small a sample size. Better arguments for Pondexter involve the fact he's just a phenomenal scorer and rebounder - much better than Randle, with less help around him.

However, by DR%, Fields is a better defensive rebounder than Q-Pon. Fields posts an offensive rating of 110.6 despite jacking up 31.3% of Stanford's shots while on the floor. He scores a lot of points, and does it without forcing shots. He has an assist rate of 19.8 with only a 13.3 turnover rate. He's a better distributor than Pondexter, He draws fouls at a slightly higher rate, and he's better at stealing the ball. Pondexter scores efficiently; Fields does it all. Furthermore, he is Stanford. He is, at least in my opinion, the only reason (other than Mike Littlewood) Washington State sits in last place. Fields' Stanford team is very short on overall talent and just wouldn't be much of anything without Fields (and to a lesser extent, Jeremy Green). Fields is the best player in the conference.

Coach of the Year - Herb Sendek, ASU

Phew. That POY explanation was long-winded. Sendek is pretty straightforward. He lost James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, and somehow still threw together what should be a tournament team. Nuss dissented, with a vote for Mike Montgomery. My feeling is that - despite Cal's injuries and winning a conference that's anot ctually as horrible as most think - Cal underachieved with four stellar seniors. If Cal makes a run deep into the tournament, I may regret my vote.

Defensive Player of the Year - Nikola Vucevic, USC

Seth Tarver is very much a system defender, and therefore we just can't say he's the best. Vucevic was a consistent force for a USC team that didn't do much else but play phenomenal defense.

Most Improved Player - Nikola Koprivica, WSU*

I don't think the coaches took into account just how awful a three-point shooter Koprivica was prior to this season. Also, he remains an underrated defender, and probably will until he makes it big in the Euroleague.

Freshman of the Year - Derrick Williams, Arizona

Unfortunately for Reggie, Williams made this an easy decision with his play in the second half of the conference season.

All-Pac-10: First Team

G - Jerome Randle, Cal*
G - Patrick Christopher, Cal
G/F - Landry Fields, Stanford*
F - Quincy Pondexter, Washington*
F/C - Derrick Williams, Arizona

No real surprises here, minus Derrick Williams. I think Nuss and I thought we were being super creative and original by awarding Williams with a first team selection. But we weren't - people know him by now. He wasn't dominant against WSU, mind you (thanks, Casto!), but take a look at this. He scores efficiently. Rebounds well offensively and defensively. Doesn't turn the ball over. He's the 12th best player in the nation at getting to the line. I hate the fact Arizona continues to find NBA prospects like this, even in a down year.

Second Team

G - Ty Abbott, ASU
G - Isaiah Thomas, Washington
G/F - Theo Robertson, Cal
F - Jamal Boykin, Cal
F/C - Nikola Vucevic, USC

Vucevic gets the nod thanks in large part to defense (although I had Casto on my ballot). Ty Abbott ticks me off because he was seriously considering WSU at one point in recruiting. IT is fairly obvious, as is Robertson. Boykin was very solid under the radar for Cal. 29th nationally in offensive rating - which is higher than Pondexter. He just isn't as good at some of the other stuff.

Third Team

G - Nic Wise, Arizona
G - Derek Glasser, ASU
G/F - Jeremy Green, Stanford
F - Nikola Koprivica, WSU
F/C - DeAngelo Casto, WSU

Did you know Reggie Moore averaged more PPG than Wise in conference play? Kind of shocking. Wise is still better, but it's a surprise Nic didn't elevate his game to first team status. I think we all thought he was a sure thing - and a POY contender - when the year started. Glasser, to me, was the most underrated player in the conference awards. Great passer, and still a good offensive player. Taylor Rochestie 2K10 (with more help). Jeremy Green is Stanford's Klay Thompson - scores a lot, but not efficiently. I had both on my third team ballot. Nikola Koprivica is WSU's best offensive player by several metrics. He sits alongside DeAngelo Casto, by far our best player during the second half of the conference slate.

Freshman Team

G - Reggie Moore, WSU*
G - Trent Lockett, ASU*
G/F - Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA*
F - Reeves Nelson, UCLA*
F/C - Derrick Williams, Arizona
*

We all agreed on every position, and agreed 100% with the coaches. Four are no-brainers. Trent Lockett takes a little more thought, but frankly there's no one else we could find to take his spot. Husky fans are now beating their heads on a table thinking about Abdul Gaddy. I almost put X on my team, ahead of both Gaddy and Lockett. Who's your five-star recruit now?

Defensive Team

G - Venoy Overton, Washington*
G - Jorge Gutierrez, Cal*
G - Patrick Christopher, Cal
F/C - Nikola Vucevic, USC
*
F/C - DeAngelo Casto, WSU*

Again, fairly obvious. Seth Tarver is notably absent - I was the only one agreeing with the coaches, but ultimately even I was talked into Christopher. If you remember the job he did on Klay in the latter part of the second Cal game, you'll probably come to the same conclusion (hat tip to Nuss for reminding me). Overton/Gutierrez/Vucevic/Casto are no-brainers. All of them return next season. which is a little scary.

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