The reason why TJ McConnell should have been the Pac-12 Player of the Year over Oregon’s Joseph Young is simple. What he did on the court carried his team to the conference title, by a three game margin. There was one team in the conference that emerged as the best, and it was because of McConnell’s unique combination of on and off court skills.
Young scored a lot of points.
That’s great, but McConnell got his team more wins through defense, leadership, and consummate point guard play. He was the best player in the conference because he didn’t even need to shoot to win games for his team.
Of course, the Player of the Year Award is a subjective thing. But what the results show is that the voters clearly valued the scoring column more than the most important column of all — the win column. McConnell’s play has translated into winning basketball, moreso than Young’s has.
But apparently that’s not the value system that was used to determine who the conference’s best player is. Oregon’s uptempo pace resulted in some big scoring nights for Young. Personally I’d pass on a 20 point game for a W, but that’s just me.
There’s another point here that shouldn’t get lost. Another candidate was just as deserving as McConnell, for all of the same rationale outlined above. If we’re looking for the conference’s best player without any glaring deficiencies, why does Utah’s Delon Wright not get the nod?
Wright was the best two way player in the conference, and his team vastly exceeded expectations this year. Utah fans have just as much a reason to question the results as the McConnell supporters do.
The Defensive Player of the Year, Oregon State’s Gary Payton II, is a fantastic defensive player and certainly had his share of highlight steals. But similarly to the Young/McConnell argument, Payton II’s defense didn’t change as many games as Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did.
What does good defense mean if your team isn’t winning games? Hollis-Jefferson’s defense got his team the conference crown. Payton II’s defense got his team a sub .500 record.
Here’s an interesting fact, Hollis-Jefferson held the Player of the Year, Young, to 4 of 15 and 4 of 9 shooting in their two meetings.
The fact that Hollis-Jefferson always guards the opponent’s best player and routinely shuts them down is a testament to his defensive impact.
And that’s not even mentioning that Hollis-Jefferson is by far and away the most versatile defender in the conference, guarding point guards to power forwards. That’s a rare skill that the conference doesn’t see that often.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t waste much time trying to figure out which conspiracy theory explanation makes sense for how both McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson could have been so clearly robbed. Sure, it would have been nice to see those two get recognized for winning games with their play, especially considering it’s their last season at the collegiate level.
But the awards don’t win you games. Players like McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson do. And winning is what matters the most.