Tomorrow is the Colorado game. As I wrote the first time, this game does not have the same meaning as this is not the same Colorado team without Spencer Dinwiddie. Colorado has only won home games and struggled with Utah and Washington State at home since Dinwiddie's injury. Dinwiddie was Colorado's MVP and a legitimate candidate for PAC 12 Player of the Year(POY). Colorado is just not the same team that was ranked early in the year without Dinwiddie.
Which brings me to the point of this post: Who is the PAC 12's POY? If I had a vote it would be easy: Kyle Anderson. In reality it is shaping up as a contest between two players, Kyle Anderson and Nick Johnson. While Johnson is having a good season, I think Kyle should be the easy choice.
Best Player on Best team. Bill Walton said he thought Johnson was POY because he was the best player on the best team. While Arizona is the conference's best team, I am not sure he is the team's best player. Arizona is one of the nation's best, if not the best, defensive teams. Their leader on defense is Aaron Gordon. Gordon is also the leading rebounder for Arizona. With Johnson for two years previous to Gordon's arrival, they never flirted with #1. With Gordon they were undefeated until an injury. Yes, Johnson is the leading scorer but it is at least debatable who is more important to Arizona, Gordon or Johnson.
For UCLA, it is not debatable. Anderson is UCLA's POY and leader in every way shape and form. Forget statistics for now but just watch Anderson. It was Anderson who was exhorting his teammates going into halftime as they looked down going into half against Oregon. It was Anderson who was completely exhausted in a frantic effort to comeback against Utah who was still leaping to knock a pass out of bounds on defense and crumpling to the ground in exhaustion afterwards. It is Anderson who now regularly plays all 20 minutes of the second half for this simple reason with Anderson out, UCLA does not function.
"Clutchness". In Arizona's loss to UC Berkeley Johnson was just plain awful, he shot 1-14. Since Brandon Ashley has been hurt and they need people to step up on offense, Johnson has been shooting 25%. In contrast, in UCLA's losses Kyle has stepped up his game and shot 34-68. He has increased his scoring average to 18 points a game in those loses.
Common Ranked Opponents. Nick Johson's Wildcats beat Duke and UCLA lost to Duke in their only ranked common opponent outside the PAC 12. However, Kyle had a much better game. Kyle had 15 points (7-13 from the field), 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals against Duke. Johnson also had 15 points (4-10 from the field) but only 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Also other numbers are telling. It was Aaron Gordon who played the entire second half for Arizona and had the play of the game for Arizona and TJ McConnell who played the most minutes. Kyle, of course, led UCLA in minutes and without him UCLA would never have been close.
Statistics. Johnson ranks 10th in scoring and Kyle ranks 14th in the PAC 12. Kyle ranks fifth in rebounding, first in assists, sixth in assist to turnover ratio, second in defensive rebounds, categories in which Johnson does not rank. Johnson ranks 14th in Free Throw percentage and three pointers made, where Kyle does not rank. Kyle ranks fourth in steals and Johnson ranks 14 in the only other category they are both ranked.
In other words statistically Kyle dominates Johnson but it is more than that. For if you delve deeper Kyle is even "beating" Johnson in the categories Johnson is ahead of him. For example, Johnson is a top PAC 12 player in three pointers made, but Kyle shoots almost 1.5 times as good of a percentage, Johnson makes 34% of threes to Kyle's 50. Further if you take only conference games into account, Kyle is narrowly ahead of Johnson in scoring 15.9 to 15.8 points per conference game.
It is not debatable right now that Arizona is the best team in the PAC 12. That seems to be the only reason to vote for Nick Johnson as player of the year. It should also not be debatable that Kyle Anderson is the PAC 12's best player. No matter how you objectively look at it, Kyle should be POY.
Vote Kyle. Go Bruins.