We’re moving to basketball (just in time for the upcoming season, of course) on Pac-12 Fridays, doing the same kind of thing we were just doing with football: examining the Players of the Year in both the Conference of (real NCAA) Champions and its Midwest partners, the B1G. Yes, we know there is a mild merge coming up, but in the study of sports history, we don’t have to concern ourselves with that just yet. So, enjoy our hoops marathon of retrospection!
2022 Pac-12 PoY: Bennedict Mathurin, G, Arizona (original, confirmed)
The Arizona Wildcats won the league title by 3 games, and they also won the conference tournament. Guard Bennedict Mathurin was named the PoY for the following stat line: 17.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.0 spg in 32.5 mpg. He might not have been dominant with those numbers, but he was the best player on the best team. Can we considering anyone else from a contending team? We’d like to think there are always alternatives, even though sometimes there are none.
UCLA (3 games back) and USC (4 games back) were the only teams within shouting distance, and Trojans forward Isaiah Mobley (14.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.3 apg in 34.1 mpg) and Bruins G Johnny Juzang (15.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.8 apg in 31.8 mpg) are the only other real PoY options. Both Arizona and UCLA placed three players on the all-conference team, while USC landed just 2 guys. The Bruins played the toughest schedule, but all three schools played comparable-enough opponents throughout the year.
Mathurin’s game had broader impact, even if his team was more talented. But there’s also something to be said for playing offense and defense, and we see more balance in Mathurin’s statistics than with Mobley and/or Juzang. We will confirm the PoY vote, as the final objective point is Mathurin’s 6.2 WS mark, which was tops in the Pac-12 Conference, too.
2022 B1G PoY: Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin (original); Keegan Murray, F, Iowa (revised)
The Wisconsin Badgers and the Illinois Fighting Illini tied for the conference title, with the Purdue Boilermakers just one game behind. The Iowa Hawkeyes won the conference tournament title, so these are our four sources for potential PoYs, with Badgers guard Johnny Davis winning the vote at the time for his 19.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.2 spg effort over 34.2 mpg. That’s a strong performance, and we will start with Illinois to see if we can find someone to stand up next to Davis.
And we see Illini center Kofi Cockburn in the mix: 20.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg in 30.7 mpg. His 5.3 WS mark also tops Davis (4.5), as do the WS finishes for two Purdue players: G Jaden Ivey (5.1) and F Trevion Williams (4.6). The two Boilermakers cancel each other out, however, and we’re left with Cockburn atop the pile—yet he played in only 28 of his team’s 33 games, and we also have the conference’s top WS earner to consider: Iowa F Keegan Murray (8.7 WS).
Yes, Iowa finished three games back in the regular season, but the Hawkeyes took down all comers in the league tourney, beating Purdue in the final. Murray—23.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.5 apg, 1.3 spg in 31.9 mpg—had the best game in the B1G, in terms of playing at a high level on both ends of the court while clearly carrying a “lesser talented” team to a conference tournament championship. No other Iowa player made the all-conference squads, so Murray was a workhorse—and a damn good one, too.