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January 31, 2007 at 7:59 AM

Pac-10 at the break

It’s the midway point of the Pac-10 season, which means it’s time for media around the conference to deliver their mid-year awards.
Here, for instance, are a few from our own Bud Withers.
I can’t disagree with much of what Bud writes.
I think there’s little question right now that Oregon’s Aaron Brooks is the conference Player of the Year. He leads the Pac-10 in scoring overall and in conference games only (22.3 in the latter) and is also among the top five in assists, steals, three-point field goals made and percentage. In fact his three-point percentage in conference games only is an astounding 55.6 (25-45). So he’s more than earned that seemingly lucky shot he banked in late against the Cougars.
Bud’s All-League team — consisting of Mustafa Shakur and Marcus Williams of Arizona; Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison, UCLA; Nick Young, USC; Aaron Brooks, Oregon; Lawrence Hill, Stanford; Jon Brockman, Washington; Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver, WSU — is also probably the same I’d pick.
You could make a case for Oregon’s Maarty Leunen, maybe, as well.
Bud’s All-Freshman teams consists of Chase Budinger, Arizona; Ryan Anderson, Cal; Tajuan Porter, Oregon; Taj Gibson, USC and Robin Lopez, Stanford with the caveat that Spencer Hawes will be back on once he’s healthy.
Harder to choose is the best freshman, which seemed like a choice between either Budinger or Hawes heading into the season and now is a mad scramble. Right now, Ryan Anderson (top 10 in scoring, rebounding) would probably get my pick. But this is one that will be decided by the final half of the season.
Bud picks Tony Bennett as coach of the year and that’s another one that’s almost impossible to argue, considering WSU was picked for 10th in the pre-season poll just three months ago and now is a game out of first.
To add a few of my own awards:
Most unappreciated player — Lorenzo Mata, UCLA. He does little pretty and doesn’t rank in any statistical categories save for blocked shots, but he always seems to make some key plays while turning in solid defensive performances.
Most underachieving player — Sasa Cuic, Oregon State. Every time I see this guy, I think he should be a superstar based on his apparent physical ability. But then he plays as if he’s sleep-walking and he’s obviously doing little to help his team win.
Coach on the hot seat — Jay John, Oregon State. Word is the extension he signed last year will probably be enough to get him on another year. On the other hand, the Beavers appear headed for a 3-15 or 2-16 type record in what is his fifth year.
Team on the rise — Stanford. With the Lopez Twins progressing quickly, Stanford has a chance to win every game left on its schedule, starting tonight against Gonzaga. Only makes UW’s late-game fade in Palo Alto that much tougher to take for the Huskies, knowing they blew a golden chance to get a win that a lot of other teams aren’t likely to earn.
Team on the brink — Washington. The Huskies have no margin for error now. But two wins this weekend would put them right back in the hunt for a tourney bid.
Most surprising player — Did anybody really think Taj Gibson would be this good, make this sort of impact? He’s the biggest reason USC has gone from pretender to contender.
Glad he hung around award — While his brother, Rodrick, rots on the bench at Kansas, Lodrick Stewart is thriving with the Trojans. He’s shooting 52 percent on three-pointers in Pac-10 games, third behind Aaron Brooks and Darren Collison.
Most unbelivable number — In Pac-10 games only, WSU’s Derrick Low has an astonishing assist-to-turnover rate of four as he has 32 assists against only eight turnovers. Next best is ASU’s Derek Glasser at 2.67.
Most improved player — There are a lot of candidates. One who might get overlooked is Stanford’s Anthony Goods, who last year as a freshman averaged 2.7 points per game and right now is averaging 15.3 in Pac-10 games.
Feel free to add some of your own awards in the comments section.
Also, here’s our story today on UW attempting to overcome its road woes as it heads to Arizona this weekend
Here, also, is an update on the financial situation of UW’s athletic department.

Comments | Topics: top 25, UCLA

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