The Pac-10 Conference is slated to announce its awards today, based on a vote of the coaches. With that in mind, on the link we’ll take a look at the major awards and who will probably win them. There usually is a surprise or two, but for the most part the coaches play it pretty close to chalk. Read on.
• Around the Pac-10: Before we get to links, let’s look at the awards. … Player of the year: My pick would be Cal’s Jerome Randle, the same guy I voted for last season. My criteria for player of the year is based on who makes his team better, not the guy with the flashy stats. Randle has those of course (18.7 points per game, 4.53 assists), just like Stanford’s Landry Fields (22.2, 8.7 rebounds) and UW’s Quincy Pondexter (20.2, 7.8, 54.3 shooting percentage) are instrumental in helping their team win. But I see Randle as the on-court glue that makes the Bears run, and Cal won the conference title. That is the trump card. College basketball is about winning. I’m not sure about this award but I think Fields just might win in an upset. … Coach of the year: I’m pretty sure Arizona State’s Herb Sendek is going to win, because the Sun Devils exceeded expectations, but Cal’s Mike Montgomery is my choice. And not just because the Bears won. Losing Harper Kamp early was a blow that took a while to adjust to. There were injuries to other key players and the egos of four pretty damn good seniors to massage and appease. Montgomery – and his staff – did all this. Were the Bears the best team? Sure. But the best team doesn’t always win. Actually, I would like to see Ernie Kent win. After all, if reports are true, the guy won three of four games after being fired. That’s tough to do. … Freshman of the year: This is a lock. Arizona’s Derrick Williams (15.7 ppg, 7 rpg, 58.8 percent) will win easily and deserves it due to his pretty consistent play. WSU’s Reggie Moore should make the all-freshman team. … Defensive player of the year: The coaches will probably pick OSU senior Seth Tarver, who leads the conference with 2.33 steals per game. But I believe this one’s a no-brainer. WSU’s DeAngelo Casto is playing out of position at the 5, going up against players bigger and taller than he is on a nightly basis. Yet he leads the conference – by a wide margin – with 63 blocked shots, pulls down 6.9 rebounds and must be in the top 5 in hustle plays and floor burns. It’s funny, but most of the others mentioned for this award are guards, possibly because most people watch the ball 90 percent of the time. But great defenders do their best work off the ball, helping their teammates, and the team, succeed. We’ll see what the coaches think. … Most improved player: There is a good chance ASU’s Ty Abbott (12 ppg) will win this award, if only because he suffered through such a terrible season as a sophomore. But I would give it to Fields, and make it sort of a career-achievement award. This guy has come further than anyone in the conference since his freshman year and did make a huge jump this season. Though he won’t win, WSU’s Nik Koprivica deserves strong consideration, considering the senior scored more points this season than in his three previous ones combined. Plus, at 6-foot-6 and playing the 4, he finished 15th in the conference in rebounding at 5.1 per game. … All conference: The coaches pick 10 players and another five for the second team, but I’m going to pick three groups of five, by position, because that’s all that plays at one time. And I’m putting together a team, with each guy expected to play a spot, even though they might not play there for their school. Power forward: Pondexter; small forward: Fields; center: Eric Boateng (ASU); point guard: Randle; shooting guard: Klay Thompson. Off the bench: power forward: Williams; small forward: Patrick Christopher (Cal); center: Nikola Vucevic (USC); point guard: Derek Glasser (ASU); shooting guard: Isaiah Thomas (UW). Rest of squad: power forward: Casto; small forward: Dwight Lewis (USC); center: Jamal Boykin (Cal); point guard: Nic Wise (UA); shooting guard: Jeremy Green (Stanford).
• We do have a couple links for you, though not a lot. … Ernie Kent, reportedly done at Oregon, still thinks the Ducks can win the Pac-10 Tournament. They start with WSU on Wednesday night. … The tourney is crucial to everyone, but maybe none more so than ASU.
• That’s it for this morning. We’ll be back later today with news from Pullman and we’ll pass on the Pac-10 awards when we get them. Until then …