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March 6, 2009 at 3:15 PM

Answering your questions on Pac-10 awards

Well, as many as I can, anyway.
To start, the official Pac-10 Conference awards will likely be released Monday, and no later than Tuesday.
One of the most important things to remember is that all of the awards are voted on by the coaches themselves.
The coaches have a deadline of Sunday afternoon to submit written ballots for all of the major awards — Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, All-Conference team, Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and All-Freshman Team.
Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players or themselves. However, they are allowed to nominate their own players for consideration. This can be especially crucial when a team has multiple players deserving of a certain award. In those instances, a coach can let his counterparts know that he thinks Player A on his team is more deserving than Player B (not that the other coaches have to vote that way, but one would assume that they often would).
Also important to remember is a change to the All-Conference Team this year. For the first time, there will be a 10-player First Team and a five-player Second Team. This is a change from a year ago when there were five-player first, second and third teams.
That itself had been a change from the long-standing policy of just having one 10-player First Team. Coaches wanted to award more players last year, so they came up with the three five-player teams. However, there was some consternation that the likes of Jon Brockman, Kyle Weaver and Jerryd Bayless were each then relegated to the second team in what was an especially strong year for talent in the conference. So the coaches changed it again this year to make 10 players first-teamers and then reward an additional five as second-teamers.
This is one time when some of the announcements figure to hold some real drama.
Many have long figured that Arizona State’s James Harden is a slam dunk as the Player of the Year. Remember again that the coaches vote on this and they all know how much they each had to work to try to devise game plans to slow him down this year, the kind of thing that may mean a lot more to them than just looking at numbers.
But despite his team’s recent slump, Harden’s numbers remain pretty darn impressive. He continues to lead the Pac-10 in scoring both overall and in conference games only, and is also 13th in rebounding and fifth in assists — the only player in the conference to rank among the leaders in all three of those categories. He’s also fourth in steals and 10th in blocked shots, a versatility unmatched by anyone else in the conference. Given all of that, I think I’d still be pretty surprised if he didn’t win it even though Brockman is making a late push and Arizona’s Jordan Hill also deserves consideration. (And heck, Jerome Randle looked pretty darn Player-of-the-Yearish last night though he won’t get it this year).
Coach of the Year is a lot more muddled with UW’s Lorenzo Romar, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson and Cal’s Mike Montgomery the favorites.
Romar’s case is obvious to any reading this — UW was picked fifth in the pre-season and instead is going to win at least a share of the title.
Robinson also has a good resume, taking what is basically the same OSU team that went 0-18 last year to at least seven conference wins this season.
And don’t overlook Montgomery. Remember, Cal was picked eighth in the pre-season after losing Ryan Anderson early to the draft and only really adding one player (Jorge Gutierrez) from a team that finished in ninth last seeason.
Coaches have tended to favor those who guided teams to the NCAA Tournament — the last coach to win it whose team didn’t make it to the NCAA’s was UW’s Bob Bender in 1996.
I’ve been starting to think that maybe they’ll find a way to split it, though that’s something that has been done only three times since the award was first given in 1976.
Freshman of the Year figures to go to Isaiah Thomas. Justin Dentmon would seem a slam dunk for the Most Improved Player. USC’s Taj Gibson (2.4 blocks per game) is probably a pretty good bet for the Defensive Player of the Year (you’d think Venoy Overton has a decent chance of landing on the five-man All-Defensive Team, however).
Just remember, blame the coaches, not media bias or anything else, if you don’t agree with the selections come next week.



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