Yes, it’s time for that season on our basketball history tour 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. Covid killed a promising March Madness for one B1G team, but the nation as a whole suffered while its “President” sat around doing nothing to help. What a world! Enjoy this trip down Memory Lane …
2020 Pac-12 PoY: Payton Pritchard, G, Oregon (original, confirm)
Oregon won the regular-season title, as the postseason conference tournament was canceled; UCLA, Southern California, and Arizona State were close behind. Ducks guard Payton Pritchard won the vote for the PoY, and his 6.7 WS mark led the league. In addition, no other Oregon player was named to the conference’s top squads for the season. That leaves little doubt to his value: It was tops, on two different fronts. His numbers—20.5 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.5 spg—leave little doubt, as well. Confirmed!
2020 B1G PoY: Luka Garza, F, Iowa (original); Xavier Tillman, F, Michigan State (revised)
There was a three-way tie atop the B1G: Maryland, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all finished one game ahead ahead of Illinois, but Iowa forward Luka Garza won the PoY vote despite his team’s also-ran status, three games behind the leaders in a four-way tie for fifth place. Go figure … He did post 6.1 WS to lead the conference, but it was mostly irrelevant. Meanwhile, Maryland and Michigan State each had two players over 5.0 WS for the season, so we can’t look there for the true winner, right?
So, what about the Badgers or the Illini? No one really stands on either of those teams, either. Therefore, we’re going with Spartans F Xavier Tillman (5.8 WS) over Terrapins F Jalen Smith (6.0). Each had a talented teammate, but Tillman did more heavy lifting across the stat sheet: 13.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 bpg, and 1.2 spg. Smith averaged less than 1.0 apg and 1.0 spg, which isn’t a flaw, but this is a PoY discussion, and Tillman’s all-around game enabled MSU to overcome some family tragedy during the year.