Washington senior guard Matisse Thybulle was named the AP Pac-12 Player of the Year on Tuesday, adding to his collection of recognitions.
On Monday, Thybulle received All-Pac-12 first team and all-defensive team honors. The Sporting News named him an honorable mention All-America on Tuesday. He was also picked as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, becoming the second repeat winner in conference history.
A semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award, Thybulle is just one steal away from becoming the 28th player in NCAA history to reach 111 steals in a single season. He leads the country with 3.55 steals per game and is the only player in the last 20 seasons to record both 100 steals and 70 blocks in the same year.
Thybulle and sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell were also named to the AP All-Pac-12 first team. Nowell, who was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and first-team All-Pac-12 on Monday, was a unanimous selection.
“When the process is successful and you win, people get awards,” said Mike Hopkins, who was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year on Monday. “Winning is the most important thing for these guys.
“It’s just a lot of fun to see them have that and it’s also fun to see when the players acknowledge even when they are getting individual awards about the importance of the other guys on the team because it takes everybody.”
Nowell is averaging 16.3 points on 50.4 percent shooting from the field. He led the Huskies in scoring for the second straight-season. A finalist for the Naismith Jerry Shooting Guard of the Year Award, he averages 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
Thybulle and Nowell were also selected to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-District IX team, which was announced on Tuesday.
Hopkins defends Pac-12
After UW’s loss to Oregon on Saturday, Hopkins said he believed the Huskies belonged in the NCAA Tournament regardless of the loss or what happens during the Pac-12 tournament.
He reiterated that point on Tuesday, citing UW’s difficult non-conference schedule, regular season conference championship and 15 Pac-12 wins. In the midst of making his case, Hopkins also launched into a defense of the Huskies’ conference.
At No. 38, the Huskies are the only Pac-12 team with a top-50 NET ranking. Arizona State and Colorado are ranked No. 61 and No. 67, respectively. No other team falls within the top 75. Only two Pac-12 teams, UW (24-7) and Arizona State (21-9) have 20 wins.
The Pac-12 is ranked seventh in conference RPI by RealTimeRPI.com. It falls behind the fifth-ranked Big East and the sixth-ranked American Athletic.
Pac-12 teams need to win more games during the non-conference season, Hopkins said. While UW challenged itself with games against then top-15 teams Auburn, Virginia Tech and Gonzaga, it didn’t earn any victories.
“They don’t judge you on teams getting better and that’s where I think they need to start looking at it,” he said. “It seems like there’s so much weight put in the non-conference.”
But if so much emphasis is going to be placed on the non-conference schedule, Hopkins said, then Arizona State deserves more recognition.
Last season, the Sun Devils picked up wins over Kansas and Xavier during the non-conference season and were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country. They then finished ninth in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils also beat Kansas this season and were briefly ranked in the Top 25. They finished second in the conference and are widely considered a bubble team.
“They came in ninth our league but our league was bad?” Hopkins said. “I was trying to figure out, like, who’s creating that? Right? They’re No. 2 in the country. They were hot and then they won at Kansas, Final Four team. But then they go in our league and they come in ninth and it’s, ‘Oh, the league’s not that good.’
“I got a problem with that. I think that’s target golf. They’re not saying the league must be pretty good if the team that beat Kansas and Xavier and those teams came in ninth in that league?”
More award talk
While Thybulle and Nowell have racked up the honors, one notable UW player was left off the All-Pac-12 teams announced on Monday.
Hopkins said senior point guard David Crisp deserved at least honorable mention recognition. He also felt that senior forward Noah Dickerson, who was given honorable mention, deserved a place on one of the all-conference teams. Hopkins was also surprised that Oregon’s Payton Pritchard wasn’t recognized.
Crisp was the Huskies’ second-leading scorer in conference play, averaging 14.8 points on 43.8 percent shooting from the field and 42.5 shooting from beyond the arc. He reached double figures in all but three Pac-12 games, including a career-high 32 against Cal.
“I thought he had a great year,” Hopkins said. “You look at what we did in conference, second-leading scorer, the 3-pointers, the success. A lot of good players were named but I just thought he deserved something.”
Dickerson averaged 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in conference play while Pritchard averaged 12.2 points on 40.6 percent shooting.
“They just want to win,” Hopkins said of Crisp and Dickerson. “That’s the greatest thing about these guys is they want to win. They’ve sacrificed of themselves for the betterment of the team and that’s what winning teams do. That’s what our culture is. They’re 110 percent in on that.
“We’re at our best when we have a chip on our shoulder. It’s going to be fun to go down there and play good basketball.”
No. 1 seed UW will open the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday at noon against No. 8 USC or No. 9 Arizona.