Back the Pac: Giving out Pac-12 season awards

The 2021-22 Pac-12 basketball season is over, but it didn’t end with thunderous applause. Instead, the season came to a close the same way most of the conference’s regular season played out — with disappointing loss after disappointing loss.

After a memorable season of Pac-12 basketball, we need to shine a light on those who deserve recognition for both the right and wrong reasons.

Second-Best Player of the Year Award: Terrell Brown Jr., Washington Graduate Guard

I’ve stated before that Arizona sophomore guard Bennedict Mathurin earned the Pac-12 Player of the Year Award. I still stand by that, but Brown’s phenomenal season needs a highlight as well.

On a team that finished with a record of 17-15, Brown could have checked out many times. But he didn’t.

Brown averaged 21.7 points, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals on a team where he had virtually no help from anyone else. He also put up 30 or more points in four games, but the team went 2-2 in those games. 

Just a little more talent on the roster could have made the Huskies a contender, but Brown did all he could to power the team to an NCAA Tournament berth.

Coach of the Year Award: Tommy Lloyd, Arizona

Is there even a competition? It’s hard to point at anyone except for Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd for this award. UCLA’s Mick Cronin and USC’s Andy Enfield are the only two contenders that come to mind, but Cronin had a solid roster foundation from the previous season and Enfield’s Trojans flamed out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lloyd inherited a fractured roster in the midst of heavy NCAA sanctions and earned that team a No. 1 seed. Think about that for a moment. After being named the Associated  Press Coach of the Year, it’s only right Lloyd earns that distinction in the Pac-12 as well.

Most Frustrating Player If He’s Playing Your Team Award: Kerr Kriisa, Arizona Sophomore Guard

Kerr Kriisa is a decent player. Almost any team would love to have Kriisa as a starter, but to be honest, he might not even be one of the three best players on his own team.

That is, until he’s playing your team. That’s when it’s time to expect a relentless onslaught of 3-pointers from Kriisa and a blowout loss paired along with it. 

Kriisa made seven 3-pointers in a game against Utah toward the end of the season. That’s how it feels to play against this guy. Right when you have an ounce of momentum, Kriisa quiets the arena with a stone-cold jumper.

Surprise Team of the Year Award: Washington State Cougars

This award could have gone in a lot of different ways. Oregon State went 3-28 after making it to the Elite Eight and Arizona went 33-4 with a first-year head coach. Both of those facts are surprising. But a let-down season from the Beavers was due, (although not to this magnitude,) and the Wildcats showed the most consistency of a Pac-12 team in the past decade.

So, I’ll hand this award to the Cougars. Expectations weren’t too high for Washington State heading into the season, but the Cougars ended up finishing fifth, ahead of teams like Oregon and Arizona State which had a decent amount of preseason hype. Washington State’s defense was one of the best in the Pac-12, allowing just 64.9 points per game and 30.6% shooting from behind the arc.

This team wasn’t spectacular but finishing in the middle of the pack is an impressive feat for the Cougars.

Disappointing Team of the Year Award: Oregon Ducks

If you want to defend Oregon’s season, go ahead. Injuries held this team back, certainly. That doesn’t mean this season was anything other than a big disappointment.

The Ducks missed the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in the last nine tournaments. This wasn’t Head Coach Dana Altman’s least talented roster during that stretch either. 

Senior guard Will Richardson averaged 14.1 points per game on 38.8% shooting from the 3-point line, and junior center N’Faly Dante was a phenomenal big next to the basket that gave some of the conference’s top teams fits.

Those performances were not enough to get this team past the quarterfinals in the Pac-12 Tournament or even to a record better than 20-15. 

For a team with preseason aspirations of winning the conference and making a deep NCAA Tournament run, the Ducks missed their mark by more than any other team in the Conference of Champions.

Matthew Andrade is a sophomore providing analysis on Pac-12 basketball in all its glory. His column, “Back the Pac,” runs every other Friday.