The Colorado Buffaloes had their best week of the season, defeating Pac-12 co-leaders USC and UCLA behind the magnificent play of McKinley Wright IV. It is no surprise, then, that the senior guard has named the Pac-12 Player of the Week.
Wright excelled as both a playmaker and a scorer last week, depending on what CU needed in each game. Against the Trojans, he had a career-high 14 assists (one shy of the single-game CU record) as well as 14 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals. Against the Bruins, he led the offense with his scoring, totaling a season-high 26 points (the most any Buff has scored all year) in addition to 6 assists and 5 rebounds.
It’s a good week if you average over 20 points and 10 assists; it’s an even better week if that directly leads to wins over the top teams in the conference.
As the Buffs move up the standings, Wright is expanding his case for Pac-12 Player of the Year. This is his fourth time winning POTW, three more than co-contender Evan Mobley has done for the USC Trojans.
Wright and Mobley have similar statistical cases: Wright is averaging 15.0 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds, while Mobley is at 16.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. The advanced stats favor Mobley’s scoring efficiency, but Wright is a foot shorter and isn’t getting the same foul calls. The Buffs are 19-7 and the Trojans are 19-6, respectively, so there’s no separation in team success.
Wright will surely benefit from the Pac-12’s tendency to award upperclassmen for their season awards. Since the expansion of the conference in 2011, Deandre Ayton is the only freshman to win the award and he was a consensus All-American (and #1 draft pick) on the conference-winning Arizona Wildcats. Mobley hasn’t been as good and his team hasn’t been as good as Ayton’s.
Moreover, the conference seems to use career success as a second tie-breaker, if team success is even. It’s almost like “Lonzo Ball can have Freshman of the Year and [redacted] can have Player of the Year.” Even before this uptick in production, Wright had a great argument on the strength of his four-year career, so this really helps his case.
It’s worth noting that Stanford’s Oscar da Silva has a solid case himself, but Stanford is falling in the standings and da Silva has missed last week with an injury. He has virtually no chance of winning POY but should be happy with another appearance on the All-Pac-12.