Welcome back to the Pac-12 Friday miniseries on college basketball in the Conference of (real NCAA) Champions and its Midwest partners, the B1G: the two leagues put six teams into the Sweet 16, combined—and one team into the Final Four. Oh, and the defending NCAA champions were not that team, surprisingly. We don’t know how far back we will go with this column before calling it a day, but we will be hard-pressed to find a better season’s showing than this one, really.
1998 Pac-10 PoY: Mike Bibby, G, Arizona (original, confirmed)
The Arizona Wildcats, those defending NCAA champions favored to win again, won the conference title by 2 games over the Stanford Cardinal—reaching the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 1942. Wildcats guard Mike Bibby (5.3 WS) won the PoY vote, so is there anyone else to consider? Both Arizona and Stanford had two players each over 5.0 WS, actually, so with Bibby having the highest WS mark in the conference, we will confirm his vote win.
1998 B1G PoY: Mateen Cleaves, G, Michigan State (original); Brad Miller, C, Purdue (revised)
Illinois and Michigan State tied for the conference title, with a one-game edge over Purdue—while Michigan ended up winning the conference tournament (although the team’s wins were later vacated by the NCAA). Spartans guard Mateen Cleaves (4.1 WS) won the PoY vote, just as he would again a year later. We will strip him of the hardware here, too, however, with that low valuation. In fact, no MSU player reached the 5.0 WS threshold, anyway. So, who else do we have?
We can’t consider Wolverines, due to the NCAA violations; that leaves us with Illini and Boilermaker players only. Purdue center Brad Miller (7.9) is the only player who meets our criteria, really, and it’s a good thing he finished atop the conference in value by 1.2 WS over the next guy. In fact, it was Miller who forced the tie atop the league standings when his Boilermakers beat the Spartans in double overtime on the final day of the regular season. Irony is cruel, no doubt.