We’re in the final stretch now for our Pac-12 Friday miniseries on college basketball in the Conference of (real NCAA) Champions and its Midwest partners, the B1G. The Pac-10 placed four teams in the Sweet 16, two teams into the Elite 8, and … well, see below. As for the B1G, one team got to the Final Four, so it was a banner year for the two leagues combined. The 1990s were a good decade for both conference, and it’s fun to look back at them now, isn’t it? Indeed.
1997 Pac-10 PoY: Ed Gray, G, California (original); Tim Young, C, Stanford (revised)
What a fun year for the conference, as the UCLA Bruins won the conference title by 3 games over a trio of competitors, and then? Fifth-place Arizona ended up winning the national championship with an impressive postseason run through the NCAA Tournament. California guard Ed Gray (4.5 WS), one of the three second-place teams, won the PoY vote. Only three players, though, met our WS threshold, and two of them played for Stanford, another runner-up finisher.
The third player over 5.0 WS played for also-ran Washington State, so it comes down to Cardinal center Tim Young (5.3) and G Brevin Knight (5.2). Considering Young played a lot fewer minutes than Knight, he’s going to be our pick, easily. Stanford reached the Sweet 16 with the dynamic duo leading the way, but Young was the more-valuable player, despite the headlines Knight often received from out-of-touch writers at the time.
1997 B1G PoY: Bobby Jackson, G, Minnesota (original); John Thomas, F, Minnesota (revised)
The Minnesota Golden Gophers won the conference title by 4 games over Iowa and Purdue on their way to the Final Four, and their star, G, Bobby Jackson (5.4 WS), won the PoY vote at the time. But Jackson wasn’t even the most valuable player on his loaded team: forward John Thomas (6.3) topped the league in value, while two other Golden Gophers also topped 5.0 WS. With the team winning the conference so readily, we have to choose one of them, though, so it’s Thomas. Duh.