The Pac-10 is expected to announce its postseason awards today and I’m sure the coaches will do a fine job. Just in case someone hasn’t submitted their vote, here’s some friendly advice that might help.
I’ve taken a stab at this once this season. We doled out mid-season awards last month. It’s interesting to note who played well down the stretch and earned themselves postseason recognition.
Remember folks, it’s all about the finish.
So let’s get to it.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Derrick Williams, Arizona
This was a tight race at the start of the season, but a few weeks ago it became a no-brainer. Williams should be the unanimous pick. It’s not as if others aren’t deserving. But he’s the best player on the best team and he’s been on of the most consistent players in the conference. Williams failed to score in double figures in just one game this season. He’s third in Pac-10 in scoring (18.5 points) against league teams and fifth in rebounding (9.0).
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Allen Crabbe, California
You can make a strong argument for UCLA’s Joshua Smith. Ben Bolch, who covers the Bruins for the Los Angeles Times wrote: “He was a game-planning nightmare for opposing coaches and gave UCLA a presence unmatched in the Pac-10 with his 6-foot-10, 305-pound-plus body.” Still Crabbe emerged midseason and led Cal in scoring with a 16.4 points per game average against Pac-10 opponents.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jorge Gutierrez, California
Just because USC coach Kevin O’Neill is campaigning hard for Marcus Simmons doesn’t mean he deserves this award. Besides O’Neill’s track record is a little spotty. Still questioning his “Jio Fontan is our best player” comment at the start of the season. This is a tough category to pick, but we’re going with Gutierrez who had some amazing games on the road at Oregon and Oregon State.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Joevan Catron, Oregon
Another tight race. A month ago I would have given this award to Cal’s Harper Kamp, who missed last season and returned to lead the Bears to a fourth-place tie in the conference. But Catron has done more with less. He’s been the heart and soul of the Ducks. He’s given them low-post scoring and he can step out and knock down a perimeter shot. Catron has raised his scoring average from 5.5 last season to 15.3 this season. That’s the highest increase in the conference.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Montgomery, California
He’s had better teams, but this is probably Montgomery’s finest coaching performance in his 30 years on the job. The Bears had very little talent returning from a team that won the regular-season title last year. Still Montgomery made them significant this season. He turned Gutierrez, a defensive specialist into a consistent scorer who increased his scoring average from 5.5 points per game last season to 14.6. Montgomery is starting two freshmen in Brandon Smith and Crabbe. He’s coaxed a solid season out of senior forward Markhuri Sanders-Frison, who has had foot problems. Montgomery has dealt with off-the-court issues recently. He’s been reprimanded by the conference for criticizing officials and placed on a two-year NCAA probation for recruiting violations. Still that doesn’t detract from what he’s done on the court.
Reeves Nelson, UCLA
Nikola Vucevic, USC
Note: The coaches select 10 players on the first team, which is rather strange. We’ll stay traditional and keep it to five. Nelson is the only addition from the mid-season team.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning, UW
Malcolm Lee, UCLA
Note: There’s a big separation of talent between the first team and the second team. Lee was the last to make the cut here and this could be a little high for him.
DeAngelo Casto, Washington State
Jared Cunningham, Oregon State
Jeremy Green, Stanford
Lamont Jones, Arizona
Note: Maybe Crabbe should go higher, but three Cal players on the second team seemed a little strange. Cunningham is a good player on a bad team. Green had a shaky start, but finished strong. Jones was the last player to make the cut. Seems odd that so few Arizona players are being touted for postseason accolades.
Venoy Overton, Washington
Note: Cunningham is one of best in the country in steals, but you have to wonder if that’s just a byproduct of Oregon’s 1-3-1 zone. Gutierrez, Simmons, Lee and Overton are outstanding on-ball defenders. Overton has been plagued with injuries, but recently he’s returned to form.
Maurice Jones, USC
Dwight Powell, Stanford
C.J. Wilcox, UW
Note: Not a very strong class this season. Among this group, only two players are starting (Crabbe and Powell). Wilcox gets the nod over UW’s Terrence Ross because he’s had a better February.