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My gosh, this conference is ridiculous

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 11, 2008

No, I’m not talking about the officiating.*

I’m talking about the amount of talent on these 10 squads.

That was never more evident than when the Pac-10 unveiled its all-conference teams on Monday, and it was revealed that Kyle Weaver was on the second team.

Without seeing the teams, my first response as a Coug — as someone used to slights, both perceived and real — was, of course, righteous indignation. I was touting Weaver as an all-American not so long ago, and the idea that he couldn’t even make his own conference’s first team was just unbelievable to me.

Then I took a look at the all-Pac-10 teams, and one thought hit me: This conference is loaded with talent. And while I still will disagree with Weaver’s exclusion from the first team, the thought of him being left off doesn’t seem as ridiculous to me as it once did. The sheer volume of talent in the Pac-10 is almost unbelievable.

On the first team alone, I see three guys (Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo and Brook Lopez) who are NBA lottery locks and two others who could well fall there whenever they come out (Ryan Anderson and James Harden).

On the second team is another guy who could be in the lottery (Jarryd Bayless), two other probable first-round picks (Darren Collison and Jon Brockman), and two other guys who could find their way into the first round (Weaver and Maarty Leunen).

On the third team is Chase Budinger, another first-round lock. Russel Westbrook probably will be there when he comes out, as will Taj Gibson. Derrick Low and Jeff Pendergraph, unfortunately look more like second rounders. Sad for them.

But by my count, that’s 11 probable NBA first-round picks, and possibly 13 if you throw in Weaver and Leunen. That is just absolutely nuts.

Now, on to where I disagree. It’s clear that the coaches voted a with a “most talented” mentality rather than the “best player.” While both Harden and Mayo were prolific at scoring and are very talented, you can’t convince me that either one of them had a better season than Weaver. Harden tired tremendously down the stretch as injuries took their toll, and Mayo was a human turnover machine.

Weaver doesn’t score points at the rate they do, but there is more than one way to carry a team, and Weaver absolutely has done that in stretches this year with his playmaking ability and his defense. The baseline passes, the steals, the blocks, the lockdown defense (just ask Mayo) … Weaver’s done it all. I would expect such selections out of media, but I expect Pac-10 coaches — especially when so many of them preach defense — to be a little bit more savvy than that.

Here’s how I would construct the first two teams — the third team and honorable mentions look pretty good to me. Also, I’m curious as to how you would have put them together. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

First team
G – Kyle Weaver
G – Jerryd Bayless (Moves up from second team for me. Explosive scorer who plays well beyond his years.)
F – Ryan Anderson
F – Kevin Love (Totally agree with the coaches picking him as Pac-10 player of the year, by the way.)
C – Brook Lopez

Second team
G – O.J. Mayo
G – James Harden
G – Darren Collison
F – Jon Brockman (What does it mean when a guy averages 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the best conference in the country and can’t get on the first team? Sheesh.)
F – Maarty Leunen

Third team
G – Derrick Low
G – Russell Westbrook
F – Chase Budinger
F – Taj Gibson
C – Robin Lopez (This is my only change on the third team. He changes games with his defense and rebounding, more than Pendergraph, who is wildly inconsitent.)

No real gripes with the honorable mentions (which rightly included Aron Baynes), the all-defensive team (which gave a well-deserved honorable mention nod to Robbie Cowgill), and the all-freshman team. What do you think?

* Although I could be, considering the sheer number of games referees have tried to ruin this year, including Saturday’s awesomeness. Good thing they swallowed their whistles when overtime rolled around.

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6 Responses to “My gosh, this conference is ridiculous”

  1. Ptowncoug said

    Hey Nuss:
    Take a look at Miles’ column in the trib. This is what I have been saying about Baynes’ all along. Nothing against Baynes, but he is just not ready for the throw into Shaq type offense.

  2. Nuss said

    In case anyone else is wondering, you can find the story here.

    They’re saying pretty much the same stuff I’ve been saying all year: You can’t expect a guy to get better at everything all at once. He made some huge strides from last year to this year. Believe it or not, his hands are SOOOOOO much better this year than they were last year — you couldn’t pass the ball to him when he was moving at all last year — his footwork improved, and now he can finish with either hand. But he NEVER has been doubleteamed before, because he’s never been enough of a threat to warrant it. In a lot of ways, he’s been a victim of his own success.

    Given the way he transformed his body in the last offseason and improved his game, it’s reasonable to assume the guy works hard in the gym. If that’s the case, I have no reason to believe he won’t be a vastly improved passer next year. Of course, that doesn’t help us right now …

    Oh, and one interesting thing I noticed about Baynes after the game on Saturday. He was signing autographs with his left hand. Perhaps that’s why he’s been able to show such good touch with both hands?

  3. I’ll excuse the Kyle Weaver call as understandable homerism– you have to support your boys, after all– but he’s not on the level of Collison or James Harden (and no, I’m not saying this just because each of them singlehandedly took over and beat Stanford in a game this year… well, OK, maybe I am).

    Malik Hairston’s got to crack the list, though. It’s incredibly hard to average 1.5 points per shot as a guard. (Bayless and Harden, amazingly, are over 1.6!)

    If ever a conference deserved to get 70% of its teams into the Tournament, this is it.

  4. Nuss said

    I’ll give you some latitude with Collison, but I think he was hurt because, well, he was hurt. For much of the Pac-10 season, he only showed flashes of his brilliance. But I will fight the Harden call to the death. The guy is talented, no doubt, but I’ll take Weaver every day of the week — especially as Harden wore down this year and pretty much completely gave up on working for his shot beyond chucking up 3s.

    And I also couldn’t disagree more on Hairston. The guy has underachieved for four years. When a senior with his combination of strength and agility consistently defers to less talented players, that’s a bad thing. When they say nobody gets less out of more than Ernie Kent, Malik Hairston is example 1a, 1b and 1c.

  5. johnnycougar said

    Maybe the whole debate IS about most talented vs. best year. I tend towards “best year” and so I’d probably have Brockman in instead of Anderson, and I couldn’t argue too much about Collison over Weaver. I agree that Harden was overrated in a sense – perhaps he honestly just tired out down the stretch, but he’s still making too many “freshman” mistakes.
    The selection that I have the most beef about, however, is the defensive POY. I’m completely surprised that Westbrook won Defensive POY. Not to be too much of a homer, but c’mon:

    Weaver: 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, 3.8 Def Reb, 1.9 fouls, 32.6 minutes per game.
    Westbrook: 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 2.0 Def Reb, 2.4 fouls, 33.6 minutes per game.

    So in fewer minutes, Weaver stole more, blocked more, grabbed more defensive boards and fouled less often. All the while guarding the best player on the other team, ranging in versatility from defending small quick guys like Appleby and Bayless to taller guys like Anderson and Taj Gibson. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if they had gone with someone more prolific at blocking like Brook Lopez or Jordan Hill, but Westbrook is just a silly choice, one that I fear is the result of the thinking of “choose the best defensive player from the best defensive team.”

  6. Ptowncoug said

    Nuss:
    Again I will be 1st in line to say that Baynes has drastically improved from last year. It was my opinion however that we got caught up in the Shaq type offense with him although he doesn’t have that kind of ability yet (e.g., recognize the double before it comes and where it is coming from).
    I want Baynes utilized like the CAL/STAN series, not like the post block offense that fell back into place against UW. Move man, move. We run a motion offense and we have a guy who we sometime allow just to plant his roots.

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