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Derrick Williams Leads Third Annual CougCenter All-Pac-10 Awards

It's that time of the year again -- that magical time where we get to use our advanced statistics to poke fun at the coaches in the Pac-10 by putting together our own All-Pac-10 awards. 

Only one problem this year: The coaches pretty much got it right. 

Undeterred, we continue on, and leading the way on the CougCenter All-Pac-10 awards is Derrick Williams of Arizona, who was our unanimous selection for Pac-10 Player Of The Year.

How good of a year has Williams had? His 124.2 offensive rating (a personal offensive efficiency measure) is 35th nationally, and it's not hard to figure out how he does it -- he's incredible at either putting the ball in the basket or drawing a foul when he doesn't. His effective field goal percentage is 66.3, fourth best in the country, and he shoots nearly one free throw for every field goal he attempts (92.7 free throw rate, eighth nationally). 

There are a lot of players in the country who score efficiently -- think Marcus Capers and Brock Motum -- but very few that do it while shooting the volume Williams does. When you're the No. 1 option, and other teams know you're the No. 1 option, it becomes rather hard to keep up your efficiency. But not for Williams. Among players who "use" 28 percent or more of their team's possessions -- the threshold for a go-to guy -- Williams is tops nationally in offensive rating

Oh, and he can rebound a little, too -- he grabs 12.6 percent of the available offensive rebounds when he's on the floor (94th nationally) and 21.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds (117th). About the only thing he doesn't do offensively is generate a lot of assists, but think about it: Why in the world would you pass the ball when nobody can stop you from scoring?

Congratulations to Williams for winning our biggest award.

Still, there are a handful notable differences between the coaches' perceptions of certain players and our statistically-based evaluations of how players performed this season. See if you can find the one hugely glaring difference. Additionally, we'll use our statistical evidence to illuminate just why some of these guys were so good.

On to the awards!

If you don't know what any of these stats are, read this. You can view the authors' votes here.

Major Awards

Player Of The Year: Derrick Williams, Arizona
Also receiving votes - None

Coach Of The Year: Sean Miller, Arizona
Also receiving votes - Dana Altman (1), Mike Montgomery (1)

Defensive Player Of The Year: Marcus Simmons, USC
Also receiving votes - DeAngelo Casto (1), Jorge Gutierrez (1)

Freshman Of The Year: Allen Crabbe, California
Also receiving votes - Joshua Smith (1)

Williams was unanimous, but the authors were decidedly less ... decided on the other awards, particularly coach and DPOY. Craig and I both voted Miller, while Grady went for Altman and Brian went for Montgomery. To be honest, this award could have just as easily gone to Altman, because I very nearly voted for him. But I settled on Miller when I looked at my ballot for the all-conference teams: I had voted precisely one Arizona player (Williams) to our top three teams. Miller was masterful at blending a lot of talent -- most of which isn't superlative -- into a conference champion. Impressive.

The DPOY vote was more interesting. I voted for Nikola Vucevic a year ago, but this year felt like Simmons played a larger role. Craig agreed. Grady threw in the vote for Casto, while Brian went for Gutierrez. Tough to argue against any of these guys.

It's easy to see why Crabbe got the majority of the votes for FOY. Cal relied on him heavily this year, and he really blossomed after the departure of Gary Franklin, developing into an outside threat to complement Gutierrez and Harper Kamp. His year wasn't spectacular, but it's a solid as you'll ever see from a freshman, and that's fantastic. The lone dissenter on FOY was me -- I voted for Smith. Yes, I know he only plays about 20 minutes a night. But they're 20 very good minutes: 26% possessions, 110 offensive rating, 20.2(!) offensive rebounding percentage. Plus, I just have an irrational love for big guys with soft hands and good feet. 

All-Pac-10 First Team

Name School Pos  Yr Ht Wt Hometown (Last School)
Jorge Gutierrez CAL G Jr. 6-3 195 Chihuahua, Mexico (Findlay College Prep, Nev.)
Isaiah Thomas WASH G Jr. 5-9 185 Tacoma, Wash. (South Kent School, Conn.)
Klay Thompson WSU G Jr. 6-6 202 Ladera Ranch, Calif. (Santa Margarita HS)
Nikola Vucevic USC F Jr. 6-10 240 Bar, Montenegro (Stoneridge Prep)
Derrick Williams ARIZ F So. 6-8 240 La Mirada, Calif. (La Mirada HS)

Only one player on this team wasn't unanimous -- Gutierrez -- and he was on three ballots. There was a pretty clear top tier of talent in this conference this year. There was a lot of talk around the conference last year about how much the talent had dropped off, but that appears to be on the rebound. Not one senior on this list, although it would be a surprise if at least two of these guys (Williams, Vucevic) aren't in the NBA at this time next year.

We've talked about Thompson and Williams plenty, so let's take a look at the other three.

Gutierrez led a California resurgence that, frankly, most didn't see coming. He's always been known for his harassing defense, but transformed himself into a potent scorer this year while logging the heaviest minutes of his career. His offensive rating has soared to nearly 105, thanks largely to a superlative assist rate (28.4, 129th nationally) and free throw rate (59.7, 153rd).

Thomas shined when his team needed him the most, taking over as the team's point guard when Abdul Gaddy went down with a knee injury. While probably not ideally suited for lead guard, he performed well in the role with an assist rate over 30 (75th nationally). Of all the problems Washington has had down the stretch, he's low on the list. He still ranks among the national leaders in offensive rating, fouls drawn per 40 minutes and free throw rate. He hasn't put up the same eye-popping numbers as a year ago, but this has arguably been his most impressive year.

Vucevic is perhaps the most underrated player in the country. He's not flashy -- he's just amazingly good at just about everything he does. Efficient scorer? Check: 117.9 offensive rating while using 25.2 percent of USC's possessions when he's in the game. Dominant rebounder? Check: 10 percent offensive, 25.9 percent defensive -- the latter 25th nationally. Defense? Check: Beyond that ridiculous defensive rebound percentage (which Dick Bennett would like you to know is an important part of defense), he blocks 4 percent of opponents' two-point attempts. That's not elite, but good enough to make opponents think. Don't be shocked when he's a lottery pick in a few months.    

Second Team

Name School Pos  Yr Ht Wt Hometown (Last School)
Matthew Bryan-Amaning WASH F Sr. 6-9 240 London, England (South Kent School, Conn.)
Malcolm Lee UCLA G Jr. 6-4 195 Riverside, Calif. (John W. North HS)
Reeves Nelson UCLA F So. 6-8 235 Modesto, Calif. (Modesto Christian HS)
Joevan Catron ORE F Sr. 6-6 237 Phoenix, Ill. (Thornton Township HS)
Jared Cunningham OSU G So. 6-4 182 Oakland, Calif. (San Leandro HS)

Most of these guys were on the Pac-10's actual first team, but since basketball is only played with five guys at a time ... tough luck, fellas! You'll notice we put Catron among our top 10, while the coaches didn't. Not sure what the coaches were thinking; four Pac-10 players who use at least 28 percent of their possessions, and Catron's offensive rating is better than all but Williams. He's also an excellent rebounder.

Third Team

Name School Pos  Yr Ht Wt Hometown (Last School)
DeAngelo Casto WSU F Jr. 6-8 255 Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS)
Harper Kamp CAL F Jr. 6-8 245 Mesa, Ariz. (Mountain View HS)
Justin Holiday UW F Sr. 6-6 180 Chatsworth, Calif. (Campbell Hall HS)
Jeremy Green STAN G Jr. 6-4 198 Austin, Texas (Bowie HS)
Markhuri Sanders-Frison CAL F Sr. 6-7 265 Portland, Ore. (South Plains College)

One thing you can say about CougCenter: We love our big guys who can rebound. Don't think Sanders-Frison belongs? His 111.1 offensive rating, 10.6 OR% and 22.2 DR% disagree with you. You'll notice we've got Green, a first-teamer for the coaches, all the way down on the third team. We're not a fan of volume shooters who don't do much else. That's Green. He's still reasonably efficient, but he doesn't rank among the top 400 nationally in any meaningful stat that isn't related to shooting.

So, did you find the glaring difference between the coaches and us? 

UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt is nowhere to be found among our top 15, despite the coaches voting him to their first team. 

I gotta be honest: I'm scratching my head trying to figure out what the coaches were doing. In some ways, I guess it's sort of like Thompson making the first team last year -- he was pretty terrible in terms of performance, but there was a "game plan" element to his selection. He might have performed terribly, but everyone knew he was a good player.

We also know Honeycutt is a good player. He's got the potential to go off any night like he did against Kansas. But his performance has been inconsistent and generally pretty underwhelming. And where Thompson had the reasonable explanation of being WSU's only legitimate scorer last year, there's no such excuse for Honeycutt. His season offensive rating is 95.8 -- meaning he's essentially five percent worse than an average offensive player. And that dangerous 3-point stroke? He's shooting just 35 percent from deep this year. 

Honeycutt is a pretty good defensive rebounder (18.2 percent, 314th nationally) and he blocks some shots (5.4 percent, 169th), but he doesn't rank among the national leaders in any other meaningful category. And he doesn't even use that many possessions! Just 21.9 percent. 

Compare that to, say DeAngelo Casto. Casto uses almost the exact same number of possessions, has a much higher offensive rating (106.5), has higher rebounding rates (especially in offensive rebounding) and a much higher block rate. Granted, Casto plays fewer minutes, but he's also guarding bigger guys in the post every night.

This isn't to say Casto should have been on the first team; this is just to show how it was pretty ridiculous that Honeycutt was there.

Honorable Mention (at least one vote): Honeycutt, Alex Stepheson (USC), Trent Lockett (ASU), Smith, Crabbe 

All-Freshman Team

Name School Pos Ht Wt Hometown (Last School)
Anthony Brown STAN G/F 6-7 200 Huntington Beach, Calif. (Ocean View HS)
Allen Crabbe CAL G 6-4 165 Los Angeles, Calif. (Price HS)
Terrence Ross WASH F 6-6 190 Portland, Ore. (Jefferson HS)
Joshua Smith UCLA C 6-10 305 Kent, Wash. (Kentwood HS)
C.J. Wilcox WASH G 6-5 190 Pleasant Grove, Utah (Pleasant Grove HS)

No surprises here. Crabbe, Smith and Wilcox were all unanimous. Brown and Ross received three votes each.

Honorable Mention: Dwight Powell (Stanford)

All-Defensive Team

Name School  Pos Yr Ht Wt Hometown (Last School)
DeAngelo Casto WSU F Jr. 6-8 255 Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS)
Jorge Gutierrez CAL G Jr. 6-3 195 Chihuahua, Mexico (Findlay College Prep, Nev.)
Malcolm Lee UCLA G Jr. 6-4 195 Riverside, Calif. (John W. North HS)
Marcus Simmons USC G Sr. 6-6 220 Alexandria, La. (Peabody HS)
Nikola Vucevic USC F Jr. 6-10 240 Bar, Montenegro (Stoneridge Prep)

Unanimous selections were Casto, Simmons and Vucevic. Interesting thing about Vucevic? Not even an honorable mention by the coaches. Again, not flashy, but consider: The final act of defense is securing the defensive rebound. It matters, and nobody is even close to as good at it in this conference as Vucevic. He's also a serviceable shot blocker.

For as much as coaches blabber on and on and on about winning the rebounding battle, they sure don't send that message when the vote for stuff like this.

Another notable difference? You won't find Cunningham on even one of our ballots, even though the coaches put him on their first team. Why? When you consider the defensive system OSU plays (trapping zones) and how startlingly bad it is at preventing actual baskets (third worst in-conference defensive efficiency), rewarding Cunningham for racking up steals is like giving the Heisman Trophy to an Airraid QB who throws 50 TDs on a 3-9 football team. 

Honorable Mention: Holiday, Honeycutt, Venoy Overton (UW)