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UCLA Basketball’s Aaron Holiday for Pac-12 Player of the Year

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Deandre Ayton is the better pro prospect but that should not matter in Pac-12 player of the year

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Arizona
If the PAC 12 POY award is based on what they did in the PAC 12, Deandre Ayton will watch Aaron Holiday win the award
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Deandre Ayton is the frontrunner to win the Player of the Year award. The alleged $100,000 man, who has a seven foot one basketball dream body, is a lock to be one of the top draft picks in the NBA draft and he closed out his season with 26 points and 20 rebound performance against UC Berkeley.

But, there is no way he should win it.

Take the last game. That’s nice he got 26 and 20 against UC Berkeley. Berkeley is 2-16 in the conference and the worst team and the real question is how did they win those 2 games? They are an historically bad, Pac-12-in-a-down-year team and there are tougher opponents to be found in the best intramural games at UCLA. Yes, Ayton dominated and is a lock lottery pick.

Should it matter for Pac-12 Player of the Year Award?

Compare him to his only real rival, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday. Holiday is the runt of his family and allegedly 6’1”. He wanted to go pro last year but had no interest. In his last game, a must-win over second place Southern Cal, he was 11-16 (6-8 from three), 6-8 FTs, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. The headlines were stories such as Holiday Refuses to Lose. Southern Cal had to win too and was at home.

And, that is it in a nutshell. Ayton is the better pro prospect with an Adonis body and gaudy numbers. Holiday is the welterweight boxer scared of nothing who drags his team along with him and plays his best in the big games.

Let’s compare the two by the numbers in the Pac-12.

Scoring

Holiday is the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 20.1 ppg. Deandre is number two at 19.9. More or less, it’s even. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Deandre was Arizona’s number two scorer much of the year and is joined by Allonzo Trier as the number 4 scorer in the Pac-12. Deandre had a lot of help. Holiday had no teammate in the top 20.

Edge Holiday. Not because of the higher ranking, but because he was UCLA’s offense in every way shape and form. Deandre had a lot of help and one can credibly argue that Trier may have been a better scorer.

Rebounds v. Assists

It is hard to match up bigs and guards. The best number match up is rebounds versus assists.

Deandre led the Pac-12 in rebounds. Aaron Holiday finished second in the Pac-12 in assists. I think this is pretty much a wash in relative categories.

Even.

Shooting Percentage

Again, there is a difference between bigs and guards. Deandre finished fifth in field goal percentage and Holiday finished third in three-point percentage. Holiday also finished eleventh in free throw percentage. But there is a shocking detail of Holiday’s numbers. He shot 51% from three in Pac-12 play. Are you flipping kidding me? With every team knowing you have to stop Holiday to beat UCLA, he shot over 50% from three.

Deandre was eating up crap teams like UC Berkeley. Holiday was shooting over 50% from three in conference.

Edge Holiday.

Minutes

A lot of things are subjective. Defense numbers can be deceiving to my mind. A guy who gets a lot of steals is often out of position and gives up a lot of points. It’s the same thing with blocks. Deandre and Holiday were their teams’ best defenders, but it is hard to measure who is better.

Something that is not hard to measure is the amount of time they played. Holiday led the Pac-12 in minutes playing an amazing 37.3 minutes per game. Deandre did not rank.

Edge Holiday.

The last point I will make is listen to their coaches talk about the players. Arizona’s Coach Sean Miller sounds like he is talking as a scout at the NBA Combine:

Usually you’re skilled and not Superman, but if you’re a guy like him that’s physically gifted, plus you have the skill level and the intelligence — he’s gonna be a player that I think will go down as one of the great ones to play our game.

Steve Alford sounds like he is talking about the most outstanding player in the Pac-12:

“I think (Ayton) is very special and he’s had a special year, but nobody’s meant more to their basketball team than what Holiday has meant to us,”

Oh, and one last number from February 20 as this is a UCLA website, from the LA Times:

The Bruins are a staggering plus-177 when Holiday has played this season, meaning they have outscored their opponents by 177 points with him in the game (an average of 6.6 points per game). Advanced statistics compiled by UCLA also reveal that the team is 11.5 points per 100 possessions better when Holiday is on the court. The Bruins are plus-five for the season when Holiday is out of a game.

UCLA would be beating UC Berkeley and that’s about it without Holiday. Arizona would still be going to the NCAA without Deandre. Shoot, they have another 7 foot center who was eleventh in rebounds in the Pac-12.

Holiday has been the better Pac-12 player. Ayton is the better pro prospect. Let’s see if the voters vote with the NBA All-Star game four years from now in mind (“Hey we made Deandre our Player of the Year”) or the guy who did the most and meant the most for his team this season.

Vote Holiday! Go Bruins!