Washington Basketball: Can Thybulle Repeat as DPOY?

TUCSON, AZ - JANUARY 29: Matisse Thybulle
TUCSON, AZ - JANUARY 29: Matisse Thybulle /

What can senior Matisse Thybulle do to earn his second Defensive Player Of The Year award?

The Pac-12 Defensive Player Of The Year award was first established in 1984. After four years, it was suspended following the 1987 season (winner: Gary Payton, Oregon State). The award then resumed in 2008, with UCLA’s Russell Westbrook earning the title.

Last year, Matisse Thybulle became the first player in Washington Huskies history to receive the award. The year prior, he didn’t even receive the three votes needed to be an “Honorable Mention” for the All-Defense team in the conference. This season will likely have him finding himself moving into second place on the Pac-12 all-time steals leader board right behind The Glove.

In a recent episode of the Inside Pac-12 Basketball Podcast, Coach Hopkins commented that Thybulle is truly an elite talent. “I think at the guard position, he’s the best”, continues Hopkins, “He’s just so disruptive. (He’s) easily the best guard that’s ever played the zone that I’ve ever seen.”

Thybulle had one of the most dominant defensive performances in Huskies history, having made a name for himself by stealing the ball at the top of Coach Mike Hopkins’ 2-3 zone defense. He averaged three steals per game, totalling 101 for the season, the second most all-time in the conference to Jason Kidd’s 110 steals in 1992-1993. This season, he continues to lead in steals, this time with 2.6 per game.

Where Thybulle has managed to improve his already top-tier defensive game is on the shot blocking and deflections front. During his award-winning season, he averaged 1.4 blocks per game. This season, that number is up to 2.3 blocks and only getting better. Since conference play opened, he has blocked 3.3 shots a game.

Unfortunately, Oregon State’s newest big may be standing in the way of Thybulle’s second accolade. Kylor Kelley is a seven-foot junior playing in his first season of Division 1 basketball. Kelley is  making the most of his opportunity, as he currently leads all D-1 basketball in blocks per game with a whopping 4.2.

In order for Thybulle to add another award to his trophy case, he will need to work even harder at the top of the key, clogging lanes and closing out on opponents shooting from beyond the arc. Either way the award goes, Matisse Thybulle will likely go down as the best defensive guard of Mike Hopkins’ days with the Washington Huskies.