Player of the Year: Deandre Ayton (Arizona)
As the nation’s top recruit coming into the season, the pre-season hype surrounding big man Deandre Ayton was that he’d be the perfect piece to lift Arizona to it’s first Final Four ever under head coach Sean Miller. And after a rocky start to the season team-wise, the Wildcats have hit their stride as one of the country’s best squads, with Ayton leading the way. An absolute force to be reckoned with physically on the interior, Ayton has emerged into a double-double machine, who currently averages 19.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per contest. For the key clog on a 16-4 Arizona group, that’s enough to secure the freshman’s spot as the conference’s top player so far.
Defensive POY: Matisse Thybulle (Washington)
Washington may have taken on a zone-oriented approach under former Syracuse assistant and new head coach Mike Hopkins, but that doesn’t diminish the individual abilities of some of the players on the Huskies roster. Especially when it comes to the defensive prowess of Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle is a ball-hawking talent, who currently averages a league-high 3 steals per game and has tallied 31 blocks on the year, a stunning amount for a 6’ 5” swingman. When discussing the best individual defenders in the league, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more deserving man for the accolade than Thybulle.
Most Improved Player: Robert Franks (Washington State)
There a few other players from around the league who made a serious case for the “Most Improved” nod but when looking at the way that forward Robert Franks went from a struggling journeyman type of player to surpassing point guard Malachi Flynn as Washington State’s best offensive option, the award just felt right ending up in the hands of Franks. A 6’ 7”, 240 pound talent who averaged just 16.4 minutes of court-time a game last season, Franks took advantage of the talent exodus in Pullman and jumped head-first into his new role, as the team’s signature option.
Top Newcomer: McKinley Wright IV (Colorado)
If we wanted to give this one to Deandre Ayton as well, we honestly could’ve, but this is one of those let’s give someone else their due credit and not spoil our list with endless Arizona plugs. We kind of felt the same way when looking at our “Coach of the Year” accolade, which comes up next (spoiler alert). In all seriousness though, for a three-star recruit like McKinley Wright IV to jump into the mix at Colorado and become the team’s best play-maker not named George King, is a daunting sign for the rest of the Pac-12 for years to come. A versatile, all-around player who competes at both ends of the court, Wright’s balanced efforts which help him average 14.9 points, 5.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds prove all the ways that he can help his team on the floor.
Coach of the Year: Bobby Hurley (Arizona State)
BUT THEY’RE 3-4 IN LEAGUE PLAY!?!?!? Yes, Arizona State has cooled off significantly from their unprecedented 12-0 start to the season and the friendly confines of the league have been brutal to the Sun Devils, but let’s not forget for a minute where this all is coming from under head coach Bobby Hurley. In his first two seasons in Tempe, Hurley managed just 15 wins each year and already for the 2017-2018 campaign, his team sits with those same 15 victories in the bank. And it’s not even February yet. Hurley is currently coaching up a Top 25 squad with an NCAA Tournament birth in their future and that’s worth something for a program who finished 8th in the league last year.