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Tony Jones: The best and worst of the Pac-12

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(Photo by Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Above, High school sports with Jennifer Gustavson, Maggie Thach and Tony Jones

By Tony Jones

Tribune Columnist

First published Mar 04 2014 12:26PM
Updated Mar 4, 2014 10:15PM

One more week.

That’s all that’s between the Pac-12 and its postseason tournament, which will commence in Las Vegas next Wednesday. In the past four months, there have been mostly highs and very few lows. The conference has thrived and will probably get six teams into the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday.

In this column, we want to make sense of it all. Who’s been the best, who’s been the worst and everything in between. With that in mind, here are the season awards from The Tribune.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR • We know everyone loves Nick Johnson from Arizona. But Kyle Anderson has been the best player. UCLA’s 6-foot-9 point guard has been a walking triple-double threat nightly. He’s run Steve Alford’s offense and he’s improved his jump shot to where he can legitimately be considered a potential first round NBA Draft pick. He’s simply been the best all-around player in the league and the Bruins wouldn’t be half as good without his exploits.

COACH OF THE YEAR • When Spencer Dinwiddie went down for the season, most assumed Colorado to be finished as well. Somehow, Tad Boyle’s kept the Buffaloes relevant with a team that can be considered, at best, offensively challenged. Colorado rebounds well, defends well, and somehow Boyle’s gotten Askia Booker to be an efficient point guard. If Dinwiddie returns next season, the Buffaloes could be the best team in the league.

BIGGEST GIFT • If Oregon makes the NCAA Tournament, the Ducks should take Anderson and Jordan Adams to dinner. Those two were suspended last week and OU defeated UCLA and got a desperately needed quality win because of it. No way the Ducks beat the Bruins if their two best players are eligible.

WHO TOOK YOU BY SURPRISE • Not many knew Utah’s Delon Wright before the season. Now they know. Wright, a junior guard, has been the engine that makes the Utes go. He’s perhaps the most versatile player in the league, and is certainly one of its best defenders. He could be the Player of the Year in the conference next year.

BEST DEFENDER • This is between Arizona’s Johnson and Josh Huestis of Stanford. We’re going with Johnson, who carries Arizona’s offensive load and also locks down the opponent’s best scorer every night. He’s a great all-around talent, and his late uncle — NBA great Dennis Johnson — would be proud.

MOST TIMES ON SPORTSCENTER • This one is easy. Aaron Gordon. If you don’t know Arizona’s freshman power forward, just YouTube him. Can you say Blake Griffin?

MOST PREMATURE COURT STORMING • Should it be Arizona State? Or should it be California? Both student bodies came on the court before the game was officially over in their wins over Arizona. We’re going with Cal, simply because coach Mike Montgomery was trying to shepherd the students off the floor with a homicidal look on his face.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER • USC’s JT Terrell was supposed to be the leading scorer, an athletic guy who had a great senior season ahead. Instead, he’s spent most of the year on Andy Enfield’s bench, as the Trojans have struggled mightily.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR • Gordon’s probably not ready for the NBA, but he’s so athletic and so active on both ends that he’s made Arizona one of the favorites to win the NCAA title.

BEST ONE-YEAR RENTAL • Both Jermaine Marshall of Arizona State and Mike Moser of Oregon transferred under the NCAA’s one-year graduation rule. And while both have been impact players, Marshall is one of the best shooting guards in the league. He led ASU to the upset of Arizona, and he’s a sniper from deep. He’ll be a player to watch in the postseason.

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tjonessltrib

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