With the West Coast Conference in position to have three teams selected for the NCAA Tournament, it’s only right that the three best candidates for conference player of the year come from those teams. With all due respect to Colbey Ross and Jahlil Tripp, the trio of Filip Petrusev, Yoeli Childs, and Jordan Ford have separated themselves as the favorites to win the award, which will be handed out on Tuesday morning. A reasonable case can be made for all three so let’s examine each of them.
Filip Petrusev: 16 games, 25.4 minutes/game, 18.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 57.8% FG
Gonzaga’s most productive player is probably the favorite to win the award, if for no other reason than he’s been the best player on the best team for the whole conference schedule. Not only does he have the offensive numbers to win the award, but he also helped steady the team while Killian Tillie dealt with injuries. In the four games Tillie was out, Petrusev averaged 25.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. He leads the WCC in field goal percentage, two-point field goals made, and free throws attempted. He’s drawn the third most fouls per 40 minutes of anyone in the nation. His player efficiency rating of 30.3 trails only Brandon Clarke, Kyle Wiltjer (‘15) and Kelly Olynyk for best Gonzaga mark in the last 10 years.
He’s third in points, second in rebounds, second in usage rate, and is eighth on KenPom’s National Player of the Year rankings. He does all this despite only playing 25 minutes a game. His numbers stretched across 40 minutes are 27.5 points and 12 rebounds, which is almost the level he was at when playing 32 minutes without Tillie.
After a freshman team selection last season and the departures of Clarke and Rui Hachimura, everyone expected a big jump from the Serbian big man. Despite some defensive concerns and some fans’ clamoring for more toughness, there’s no denying that Petrusev has delivered gaudy offensive numbers.
Jordan Ford: 16 games, 39.9 MPG, 21.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 46.2% FG
Ford makes Saint Mary’s tick. Without him, the Gaels aren’t even sniffing the bubble this year, and it’s going to be really interesting to see where they go next season after he graduates. He leads the nation in minutes played, and leads the conference in field goal attempts, made field goals, points, turnover percentage, wins shares, and offensive box score plus/minus.
He’s fourth in field goal percentage, second in free throw percentage, sixth in steals, and is going to finish with the third highest career offensive rating behind Kevin Pangos and Jock Landale (since 2010). The most impressive thing may be that he plays 40 minutes nearly every game and still rarely turns the ball over and never commits fouls. Both his turnover rate and fouls committed per 40 minutes are best in the conference. It’s rare that Gonzaga fans don’t actively hate the best player on Saint Mary’s, but Ford is easy to watch and hard to root against and hopefully he has another opportunity to showcase his talents in the NCAA Tournament.
Yoeli Childs: 12 games, 28.9 MPG, 22.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 57.1% FG
The short version is this: If Yoeli Childs didn’t miss four games, he would be the unanimous player of the year. He’s been one of the best players in the entire country the last two months when he’s been on the court. But because he missed those games, it may not be enough to vault him over Petrusev. He doesn’t qualify on some stats websites, but if he did, he would lead the league in points per game, player efficiency rating, usage rate, and effective field goal percentage. He’s also second in rebounds. His PER is a whopping 35.1, which would trail only Brandon Clarke and Kelly Olynyk for best in the conference over the last decade. His 2008 career points are ninth-most in the WCC since 1985.
BYU has won nine straight games since losing in Spokane and Childs has been the main reason why. He finished the season with a 28-point, 10-rebound performance to upset Gonzaga and followed it with 38 points and 14 rebounds to close out the season at Pepperdine. If you’re looking at head-to-head, Childs owned Petrusev in their only battle.
No offense to Jordan Ford, but the race is going to come down to Petrusev and Childs, and if I had a vote, I would vote Childs, even if he missed those four games. He was the most impactful player in the conference when he was on the court, and I’m not sure it was that close. If I had to guess, I would say Petrusev wins it because his full body of work for the number two team in the nation deserves the recognition.
WCC Player of the Year honors should come down to Yoeli Childs and Filip Petrusev.— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) March 1, 2020
Some key stats from conf games:
Childs 1st (22.7)
Petrusev 5th (18.5)
Childs 2nd (8.5)
Petrusev 5th (7.6)
Childs 3rd (57.1)
Petrusev 2nd (57.8)