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February 1, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Derrick Williams, California dominate midseason awards

I elicited some help from noted Pac-10 observers who helped me compile the list of Pac-10 midseason awards.
It’s always fun and a little embarrassing looking back at the predictions. But here’s what how I thought the conference would shake out and with the exception of Arizona State’s demise, the league race has been fairly predictable.
This post isn’t intended to handicap the rest of the season or make predictions on what’s going to happen with the postseason awards. Instead we’re recognizing the individuals who has stood out over the first half of the conference race.
So let’s get to it.


PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Derrick Williams, Arizona
You could make strong cases for Washington junior guard Isaiah Thomas and Washington State junior guard Klay Thompson, but the Wildcats sophomore gets the nod at this point. Simply put, he’s done more with less. No other Arizona player has distinguished themselves at this point as an all-conference performer whereas a handful of Huskies and Cougars have had stellar seasons so far. Williams has carried Arizona to the top of of the conference standings where it is tied with UW. He’s first in field goal percentage (64.6), three-point percentage (73.3), second in scoring (20.6) and fifth in rebounding (8.6).
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Allen Crabbe, California
This really isn’t much of a race and Crabbe wins by default. The lack of big-name freshmen is a disturbing sign for the Pac-10, but that’s a story for another day. The dearth of quality freshmen shouldn’t take away from what Crabbe has accomplished. It took awhile, but the former California State Player of the Year, worked himself in the starting lineup and has become a force for the Golden Bears. He’s averaging 16.2 points against Pac-10 teams and is the only freshman among the top 20 scorers.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jared Cunningham, Oregon State
Possibly the most difficult category because so many teams are playing zone defense this season. The usual candidates (Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez, UW’s Venoy Overton and Justin Holiday) haven’t played like they have in the past. Cunningham replaced Seth Tarver, last season’s DPOY, as the leader of OSU’s 3-2 zone. He leads the Pac-10 with 58 steals. UCLA’s Malcolm Lee is another strong candidate as well as Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Harper Kamp, California
Lots of candidates, including Oregon’s Joevan Catron, Stanford’s Josh Owens, Cunningham and Holiday who may get the nod in a few weeks. But so far, Kamp has had to lead the young Golden Bears. He’s their leading scorer, averaging 14.5 points and third in rebounds (5.4). The 6-foot-8, 245-pound junior sat out last season due to lingering effects from knee surgery. As a sophomore he averaged 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Montgomery, California
The Bears lost four starters, five of its top five players and 90 percent of its scoring from last season’s Pac-10 regular-season champions. Only two returning players had two two years of experience. Cal incorporated six newcomers. The Bears starting point guard, freshman Gary Franklin, decided to transfer after playing in just one Pac-10 game. Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Cal’s only senior, has been unable to practice fully because of lingering foot problems. Gutierrez began the year at point guard, but that experiment didn’t work and has moved to shooting guard. And Cal is relying on first-year starter Brandon Smith at point guard. Despite the adversity, Montgomery has Cal in a fourth-place tie with WSU at 5-4. He’s playing more zone defense than he ever has before, which proves that even old coaches can learn new tricks.
FIRST TEAM
Matthew Bryan-Amaning
, UW
Thomas
Thompson
Nikola Vucevic, USC
Williams
Note: Williams, Thomas and Thompson have elevated themselves above everyone else in the conference. Bryan-Amaning and Vucevic are the best of the rest.
SECOND TEAM
Catron
Cunnigham
Holiday
Kamp
Reeves Nelson, UCLA
Note: This could be a little high for Holiday. He’s the third best player on one of the best teams, but he’s contending with guys who have to carry their teams without much help. Nelson could play himself on to the first team if he leads the Bruins to a strong finish.
THIRD TEAM
Ty Abbott, Arizona State
Casto
Lee
Reggie Moore, Washington State
Owens
Note: This is where things get dicey. Moore was the last person to make the cut primarily because there was just one other point guard (Thomas) on the all-conference teams.
DEFENSIVE TEAM
Casto
Cunningham
Lee
Thomas
Vucevic
Note: Lee is the best lock-down defender in the league so far. Vucevic is a good help defender. Casto leads the conference in blocks. Thomas has been impressive in three games where he erased the opposing point guard.
FRESHMAN TEAM
Crabbe
Maurice Jones, USC
Joshua Smith, UCLA
Dwight Powell, Stanford
Terrence Ross, UW
Note: It’s Crabbe and everyone else. Smith was the preseason favorite, but he’s been inconsistent. Jones and Powell are solid role players. Ross is a sixth man scoring machine.
Special thanks to contributors: FSN analysts Ernie Kent and Francis Williams and KJR broadcasters Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton.

Comments | Topics: Reggie Moore, top 25, UCLA

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