I got a tweet about this last night and really hadn't put much thought into it. Then I heard Bob Rondeau discussing it on KJR today as well. But with the season nearly done, the talk of postseason awards start being mentioned. And in looking at the best candidate for the Pac-12 coach of the year. I'm thinking that the winner should be -- Lorenzo Romar. Based on the photo above, he should win every year.
Cynics will say that it's because I cover UW, or worse that I'm Husky fan or a honk or whatever they are called. I think it's been well established that I'm neither. Usually I'm accused of being a hater and a fan of whoever the Huskies are playing at that moment. But that doesn't change the fact that Romar should likely be the coach of the year. For much of the season, it's been widely assumed that Colorado's Tad Boyle was a lock for the award since his team was picked to finish 10th. Arizona's Sean Miller, Oregon's Dana Altman and even Cal's Mike Montgomery have also gotten mentions. But in recent weeks, it's become apparent that Romar might be the most deserving of the award.
For reference here's the Preseason Media Poll --- which looks a little silly right now.
Let's take a look at the candidates ...
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Lorenzo Romar, Wa shington
Picked to finish fourth, the Huskies are 13-3 in the Pac-12 and atop the standings. They have a good chance to win their two games this weekend in LA and take the league regular season title, while finishing with a 22-8 regular season record. Of course, the non-conference season was bad. They couldn't win on the road. They lost to South Dakota State at home - by 19.
But how bad are four of these losses?
The Marquette game was lost on last-second shot. The Huskies should have beat Nevada in regulation. Duke was closer than the score. St. Louis was the first road game of the year. SDSU, well, that one was awful. But all of those teams will likely be in the NCAA tourney.
But the Huskies have been significantly better in conference play. Does it help that the Pac-12 stinks? Of course, but think about what Washington lost from last season. If you add Scott Suggs, who is out for the season, to Isaiah Thomas (runner up player of the year, 1st team all conference), Justin Holiday and Matthew Bryan-Amaning (1st team all-conference) and Venoy Overton - that's 56.0 points, 21.2 rebounds and 13.3 assists lost from last season. And it's more than just numbers. Everyone knows what Thomas meant the Huskies in terms of leadership and toughness. Holiday was the team's best defender. And frustrating or not, MBA was a presence in the post UW simply doesn't have this season.
Romar came into this season expecting to have Suggs and he never played a game. He had a point guard returning from season-ending knee surgery in Abdul Gaddy. For as talented as Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox are, they played less than 18 minutes a game last year. His returning senior Darnell Gant is a role player. Desmond Simmons had never played a college game. And he was going to rely heavily on a group of true freshman, particularly Tony Wroten.
Yes, there was talent there. But finding a way to fit that talent together, build chemistry on and off the floor, while also doing a fair amount of teaching made the early season what it was - a roller coaster of inconsistency.
The improvement is noticeable. Does it help playing against the likes of ASU and USC? Of course, but the Huskies are playing at a different level in the Pac-12. Erase the Oregon game, and this is even less of a contest. They are going to win the league. They should make the NCAA tournament. To the victor goes the spoils
Tad Boyle, Colorado
The Buffaloes were picked to finish 10th by the media. 10th! Then again the media picked UCLA to win it all. So what do we know. But Boyle has the Buffaloes fourth in the Pac-12 with an 11-5 record and a 19-9 record. The Buffaloes are one of the best defensive teams in the conference, and lost just one league game at the Coors Event Center. The prevailing thought was that the reason the Buffs got voted so low in the media poll was that none of the writers really knew about Colorado too much. And there may be some truth to that. Colorado did go 24-14 last season and make it to the NIT Championship game. So there was some success.
But the Buffaloes lost as much if not more than the Huskies. Just look ...
That's 59.5 points, 17.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists. Not to mention the fact that Burks was a lottery pick - going 12th to Utah - and Higgins was four-year starter and Colorado's all-time leading scorer and also in the NBA.
So maybe the Buffs shouldn't have been picked 10th preseason, but they certainly shouldn't have been picked fourth where they will likely finish up. They also have wins over Washington and Cal this season.
Dana Altman, Oregon
The Ducks were picked fifth, which seemed pretty fair at the time. And they are currently sitting in tie for fourth. But the job Altman has done this season, getting transfers Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory to mesh with the returning group featuring E.J. Singler, Garrett Sim, Jeremy Jacob, Jonathan Loyd and Tyrone Nared. The Ducks also had ballyhooed freshman Jabari Brown coming in. Of course, Brown left the team a few weeks into the season.
Team chemistry - on and off the court - isn't just automatic. It needs to built and maintained. Altman has done that while not giving up on his coaching principles, which is why Brown is no longer on the team. The Ducks have been right there this season. They've beaten Washington at home and Arizona at the McKale Center.
Really it comes down to Boyle and Romar, and right now, I'd vote for Romar.