Arizona Basketball

After process of elimination, McConnell deserving of Pac-12 player of the year at midseason



T.J. McConnell runs the show and is valuable in many aspects for Arizona to this point (ESPN screen shot)

T.J. McConnell runs the show and is valuable in many aspects for Arizona to this point (ESPN screen shot)

[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

In an informal poll, I asked last weekend national and regional broadcasters, including former Arizona player Corey Williams of ESPN, about their opinion of who the Pac-12 player of the year at the midseason point.

Williams responded as did ESPN college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman and reporter Myron Medcalf.

Williams and Goodman, also an Arizona alum, went with Stanford’s Chasson Randle. Medcalf chose Delon Wright.

Here is Williams’ response:

Here is Goodman’s response after mentioning Randle:

Medcalf simply stated Wright by name.

No mention of an Arizona player, but it is understandable. Randle and Wright are having player-of-the-year seasons. And as Goodman pointed out, the Wildcats are balanced at the top. T.J. McConnell and Stanley Johnson are above Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley in the player of the year candidacy at the time of this writing.

A lot can happen in the second half the season, however. The players have emerged at different time frames.

Hollis-Jefferson started the season as the most pronounced player of the year candidate. Johnson started to heat up. McConnell followed. Lately, Ashley has put himself in a higher gear.


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]

Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:


[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

I will break down the top candidates this way:

— Take out the bottom-half teams. Other than ASU’s Ike Diogu — the Player of the Year in 2004-05 — the Pac-12’s top player usually finishes on an upper-division team. The Sun Devils finished sixth in the Pac-10 when Diogu earned the honor.

— Look at who is consistent among the league’s statistical leaders.

— Judge the leadership, intangible value (the eye test, if it were).

The top six teams in the conference at the halfway point are Arizona (8-1), Utah (7-2), Stanford (6-3), Oregon (5-4 before last night’s win over Washington), Oregon State (5-4) and UCLA (5-4).

Of those teams, the players who are in the most top 10 statistical categories of scoring, rebounding, assists and steals are factored. The league has 10 players in the top 10 of two categories:


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]


Randle (league-leading 20.8 points a game and 1.43 steals a game)
Wright (5.62 assists and 2.24 steals)
McConnell (5.82 assists and 2.18 steals)
Oregon’s Joseph Young (19.3 points and 3.52 assists)
UCLA’s Norman Powell (16.1 points and 2.14 steals)
Stanford’s Anthony Brown (15.9 points and 7.1 rebounds)
UCLA’s Bryce Alford (15.3 points and 5.59 assists)
UCLA’s Kevon Looney (10.0 rebounds and 1.36 steals)
Oregon State’s Gary Payton II (8.0 rebounds and league-leading 2.9 steals)
Utah’s Brandon Taylor (3.43 assists and 1.48 steals)

Of these players, the top three are clearly Randle, Wright and McConnell when factoring the eye test. Payton II comes in fourth because of his importance to the Beavers’ surprising success in Wayne Tinkle’s first year. Young disappeared in both games against Arizona. Powell and Brown are key to their teams’ success respectively, but some of their teammates are just as important, if not more.

With McConnell, Randle and Wright being so close in terms of their value to their respective team, I have to go with the most important player on the league’s top team.

With that in mind, my final determination is McConnell, who is the “heart and soul” of the Wildcats, according to Sean Miller.

What about Stanley Johnson? Freshman of the Year. That would be a feat in itself for Arizona, which had a player of the year (Nick Johnson) and freshman of the year (Aaron Gordon) last year. The Wildcats have never achieved that in consecutive years. The only other time that happened was in 1998-99 when Jason Terry was the player of the year and Michael Wright was the freshman of the year.

Hollis-Jefferson and Ashley are viable all-conference players. A player of the year honor is attainable for each depending how strong they finish. Pac-12 studio analyst Kevin O’Neill said last week that Ashley should earn the honor if Arizona wins the title.

Let’s play the next nine games and determine this for real. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

To Top