Casting our ballots: Pac-10

March, 2, 2011
3/02/11
12:36
PM ET
A quick look at the player and coach of the year races in the Pac-10:

Player of the Year

Derrick Williams has meant much more to Arizona than the numbers he's put up, but they're so good that we'll look at them anyway.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Williams
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireArizona's Derrick Williams is averaging 19.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
The sophomore forward averages 19.1 points (second in Pac-10) and 8.1 rebounds (fifth) while shooting 61 percent from the field and an amazing 62 percent from beyond the arc. Just how difficult is it to stop this potential NBA lottery pick? He leads the nation with 254 free throw attempts.

And aside from that, Williams is the reason Arizona is in a position to win the conference title. He's done it with highlight-reel dunks, and in a big game against Washington came up with a last-second block of a shot that might have won it for the Huskies.

Williams originally signed with USC before Tim Floyd resigned and ended up being a program-changing player for Zona, even though Williams might have been seen as the sleeper of the class. Now he's the one overshadowing the other contenders for conference player of the year.

Washington State's Klay Thompson has had a fine season, leading the league in scoring (21.4) and re-establishing himself as one of the nation's top shooters. Washington’s Isaiah Thomas is fourth in the conference in scoring (16.9) and first in assists (5.8) after carrying the team with point guard Abdul Gaddy out with a season-ending injury. USC's underrated Nikola Vucevic averages a double-double, as he's third in the Pac-10 in scoring (17.5) and leads in rebounding (10.3).

But it's Williams whose play has his team on the verge of a conference title and an NCAA tournament bid. He gets my vote.

Coach of the Year

Arizona coach Sean Miller appears to have the edge in this race, as the Wildcats head into the final week of the regular season with a share of the Pac-10 lead and have become a lock to make the NCAA tournament perhaps a year earlier than expected.

The players from Miller's first recruiting class have helped make the rebuilding project a quick one, with Williams developing into a potential NBA lottery pick and fellow sophomores Lamont Jones and Kevin Parrom also emerging.

The second-year coach has Arizona back in the national rankings again as a team that has distanced itself from preseason favorite Washington. The Wildcats lost in Seattle on Jan. 20, but they proceeded to use their high-scoring offense to win eight in a row, culminating in a big home victory against the Huskies that showed how much the McKale Center had come back to life.

But in a season when the award for conference coach of the year has been renamed for the late John Wooden, it's only fitting that UCLA's Ben Howland is making a late charge. The Bruins are also making a surprising run, as freshman center Joshua Smith has gotten better while the rest of the pro talent is blossoming for a UCLA team that is tied with Arizona for the conference lead.

Oregon's Dana Altman and Cal's Mike Montgomery also deserve mentions for keeping their short-handed teams in the middle of the pack. Altman lost numerous players to transfer after coming aboard, while Montgomery's graduation-gutted team has managed to stay competitive with top freshman Allen Crabbe leading the way.

Click here to find out who our panel of 15 experts picked in each of the nation's 10 best conferences.

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