Player of the Year: Lonzo Ball (UCLA)
You can’t even begin to discuss the Pac-12 this season without bringing up UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, who just nineteen games into his college career, has already become one of the most polarizing basketball figures in the country. The star freshman is currently averaging 14.6 points, 8.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game as the Bruins’ best do-it-all talent, while also being projected as a top pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. Simply put, even with a gifted player like Markelle Fultz hanging around the conference, there’s nobody who brings what Ball brings to the table.
Defensive POY: Chris Boucher (Oregon)
Chris Boucher had a long and winding path to Oregon, that included stops at a junior college and even being granted an extra year of eligibility for this season, which severely changed the trajectory of this Ducks’ campaign. Boucher is currently leading the 11th ranked team in the country in points (13.7) and blocks (2.9) per game, while coming in second on the team in rebounds (6.9) behind junior Jordan Bell (8.0). Boucher, who has developed himself into one of the toughest defensive opponents in the country, swats almost three shots per contest and has had five different 5-block outings already this season.
Most Improved Player: Chimezie Metu (USC)
The “Most Improved Player” award was one of the toughest to dish out as a handful of players from around the conference rightfully deserved the accolade. However, there’s something about the way Chimezie Metu has stepped up for a surprise USC team that has really changed the course of the Trojans season. Metu has increased his production across the board from his freshman season, where he averaged 6.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 18.5 minutes of action per game. So far in his sophomore campaign, Metu has bumped his scoring average up to a staggering 14.1 points per game and more than doubled his rebounding production, all while playing increased minutes due to an injury to fellow big man Bennie Boatwright.
Top Newcomer: Markelle Fultz (Washington)
An average of 22.2 points per game. Multiple thirty point outings to his name. Five double-doubles on the season utilizing both assists and rebounds and a near triple-double against arch-rival Washington State. If you’re looking for the man firmly placed in Lonzo Ball’s rearview mirror, it’s none other than Washington’s Markelle Fultz. Fultz and Ball will go neck-and-neck all season long for the top talent in the Pac-12 and their individual form over the last two months of the season could determine who is the top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Fultz has been an absolute dynamo for head coach Lorenzo Romar, who shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Coach of the Year: Steve Alford (UCLA)
Steve Alford has taken the highly-touted freshman group of Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu, mixed them with returning talents in Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welch, and somehow match last season’s win total in the first game of 2017. It’s a job well done for a coach who has fought off the hot-seat rumors all off-season long, while still dealing with the lofty expectations from bringing in such a renowned rookie group. Like his star player in Ball, Alford has become one of the key figures in the Pac-12, who has flawlessly balanced the challenges of coaching a generational talent in Ball, his own enigmatic son, and dealing with a rabid and sometimes delusional Bruins fanbase.