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Pac-12 basketball player of the year a crapshoot

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Tyler Besh
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Pac-12 basketball season has been wild, and its anybody’s guess as to who will finish on top.

The race for conference player of the year might be even more volatile.

UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad is probably the most talented, but statistically, Cal’s Allen Crabbe is the best, and I’m not sure if a player has been more valuable to his team than Jahii Carson at ASU.

That’s not even to mention Arizona’s Solomon Hill, Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie, UCLA’s Larry Drew II, Stanford’s Dwight Powell and Oregon’s E.J. Singler.

The debate for the award starts with a question of criteria — do you go with the best player on the best team, or the player individually having the best season?

“You like to a pull a kid that’s on a winning team at the top or near the top,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery.

Colorado coach Tad Boyle said, “I think you have to start with teams at top of the league and then the player on that team you would pick having the best year.”

In a conference with three teams jockeying for a spot at the top — Cal, Oregon and UCLA, with Arizona and Colorado close behind them — that becomes a bit tougher to judge.

“I think it’ll be pretty close,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman, “because I don’t think there’s a guy that’s distinguished himself on a consistent basis. There’s not a runaway winner in the league. It probably will be a close vote and one that I think can go any way.”

Arizona head coach Sean Miller seems pretty set on who he’s voting for.

After losing to UCLA 89-78 on Saturday, he called voting for Drew a no-brainer, should the Bruins win the conference.

He reiterated that in Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches conference call.

“If UCLA wins our conference, I don’t really even think it’s a close vote,” Miller said. “I think Larry Drew is the MVP of our conference.”

According to Richard Paige, the UA’s sports information director for basketball, in voting, the coaches rank their all-conference selections in order, 1-15. The player at the top of their ranking receives 15 pts, the second player listed receives 14 pts, and so on. The player who receives the most points becomes the player of the year.

The games this weekend will probably dictate who wins the award, but Miller sounds pretty set on Drew already.

So, what might Miller’s ballot look like at the end?

Here’s a look at how Miller might vote, based off who he’s talked about throughout the season and players’ performances against (and for) the Wildcats. Will Sabatino Chen make the cut?

1. Larry Drew II, UCLA

Position: Point guard

Numbers (per game): 7.3 points, 7.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.3 turnovers

Against Arizona (two games): 10.5 points, 9.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 3.0 turnovers per game

Sean says: “Anytime you can break the all-time single season assist record at a program of UCLA’s stature, that in and of itself shows you the dominance that he has, and the command he has of the team and the game.”

Note: Drew is 10 assists away from setting a UCLA record. He currently has 227 assists in 29 games.

2. Allen Crabbe, Cal

Position: Shooting guard

Numbers: 18.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.0 3-pointers
Against Arizona (Feb. 10): 31 points, 7 rebounds, five assists, 12-of-15 shooting

Sean says: “He’s truly a great player. Today I think he showed everybody, with a performance like that, how special he really is. We had no answer for him.” — After losing to Cal.

Note: Crabbe is the Pac-12’s leading scorer.

3. Jahii Carson, ASU

Position: Point guard

Numbers: 17.8 points, 5.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 46 percent shooting on 13.9 shots per game

Against Arizona (Jan. 19): 22 points, four assists, 7-of-13 shooting

Sean says: “He makes everybody better. An electric player, a fun guy to watch, he gets the ball out in transition. He gets his teammates easy shots, and then you look at how easy it is for him to get to the foul line and score.” — before the ASU game in January.

4. Solomon Hill, Arizona

Position: Forward

Numbers: 13.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.6 3-pointers

Sean says: “Solomon Hill has had an all-conference season. It would be really disappointing if Solomon wasn’t an All-Pac-12 performer. He’s gotten better and better with each passing week.” — before the USCUCLA road trip.

5. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

Position: Shooting guard

Numbers: 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 3-pointers, 46.1 percent shooting on 13.9 shots per game

Against Arizona (two games): 20.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 2.0 3-pointers

Sean says: “He’s a great, great player.” — before Jan. 25 loss to Bruins.

6. Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Position: Point guard

Numbers: 15.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4 3-pointers

Against Arizona (two games): 16.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists

Sean says: “He’s a great player. To me he’s one of my favorite players I watch in our conference. He’s made more free throws this season in the Pac-12 then all but six players have attempted. If you think about that statistic, I think that shows what a terrific player he is. He’s an excellent defender. I look at him as one of the best guards of the country.”

Note: Dinwiddie has made 159-of-195 free throws (81.5 percent)

7. E.J. Singler, Oregon

Position: Forward

Numbers: 11.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 3-pointers

Against Arizona (Jan. 10): 14 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals

Sean says: “He’s a winner. He’s tough, plays the game really hard and he’s also a smart player.” — After loss to Oregon

8. Mark Lyons, Arizona

Position: Point guard

Numbers: 15.1 points, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.9 3-pointers
Sean says: “I don’t know if we’d have 23 wins without Mark. As a matter of fact, I do know we wouldn’t.” — In Tuesday’s conference call

9. Justin Cobbs, California

Position: Point guard

Numbers: 14.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.2 steals
Against Arizona (Feb. 10): 21 points, four assists, two steals, 8-of-14 shooting

Sean says: “Justin Cobbs’ continued development at Cal and his great play here in the last month has really spearheaded Cal’s great stretch that they’re in.” — In Tuesday’s conference call

10. C.J. Wilcox, Washington

Position: Guard/Forward

Numbers: 17.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks, 2.2 3-pointers

Against Arizona (two games): 13.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals.

Sean says: “I think they have one of the most dynamic players, not only in our conference, but in the country, in Wilcox.” — before Jan. 31 game

The rest:
11. Andre Roberson, Colorado
12. Nick Johnson, Arizona
13. Carrick Felix, ASU
14. Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon
15. Jason Washburn, Utah

Just missed the cut: Eric Wise and Jio Fontan, USC; Brock Motum, Washington State; Jordan Loveridge, Utah; Dwight Powell, Stanford

— Zack Rosenblatt is a Journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or via Twitter at @ZackBlatt

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