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Cal's Jerome Randle received plenty of praise from Jeff Faraudo's annual Pac-10 men's basketball writers' survey.

The 31 panelists who participated in our ninth annual Pac-10 Basketball Writers Survey found common ground on the league's best coach, best freshman, most entertaining player and most surprising team.

They even reached a consensus in tone when asked to describe this historically mediocre Pac-10 season in a single word:

Homely ... Pac-None ... compost ... mid-major ... Ishtar ... loopy ... parity (or parody) ... cuckoo ... SunBelterrific.

What our voters couldn't agree on is who deserved to be the Pac-10 player of the year. Cal's Jerome Randle, who got the nod from league's coaches, edged Stanford's Landry Fields 13 votes to 12 in the tightest vote we have ever had in this category.

Randle led the Golden Bears to their first regular-season Pac-10 title in 50 years, while Fields was the top scorer and No. 2 rebounder in the conference.

"Randle is the one guy who is unstoppable," one voter said. "Yes, he's had bad games, but ... if he's playing like he can, no one can shut him down."

"The best player on the best team," said another contributor to our anonymous survey of writers who regularly cover the Pac-10. "He's not exactly my idea of the ideal point guard (he's probably not Mike Montgomery's, either) but they have forged a very effective partnership."

Fields received plenty of support.

"Because he is the BEST player in the conference," one voter said. "Stanford is 0-18 without him. He led the league in scoring and minutes, and was second in rebounding. What's not to love?"

Said another, acknowledging Stanford's shallow talent pool, "He's done more with less."

That was the common refrain from voters who favored Arizona State's Herb Sendek as coach of the year.

"No one tops Sendek. He took a lemon and made a surprisingly potent Limoncello," one writer said.

If Sendek outscored Montgomery 18-8 largely because ASU exceeded expectations, Cal's coach got some love, too.

"He's without question the best coach," one voter said. "Sure he was expected to win it, but sometimes it doesn't happen."

Randle secured 14 votes to dribble-drive past the field as the league's most entertaining player. "Scares you to death, either way," said one voter with mixed emotions.

Randle, Fields and Washington's Quincy Pondexter were unanimous all-conference selections, with Arizona's Derrick Williams and Cal's Patrick Christopher completing the five-man squad.

Williams was a landslide winner as top freshman, grabbing 30 of 31 votes. "For stretches, he wasn't just the conference's best freshman," one voter said. "He was its best player."

While ASU appeared on 22 ballots as the most surprising team, UCLA scored a predictably tight 12-10 edge over defending champion Washington for most disappointing club.

"Wouldn't you think a Los Angeles school with UCLA's pedigree could find a decent point guard somewhere on the planet?" one writer wondered.

"Departures, injuries, whatever ... deal with it. You're UCLA," another said.

Said one critic of Washington: "Pondexter and (Isaiah) Thomas, plus decent supporting cast. Good enough that the Huskies should have not been such a joke on the road."

When polled about who might become Oregon's next coach, if a change is made, Gonzaga's Mark Few earned seven votes. Eighteen others got at least one, including an unlikely candidate inspired by the success of Oregon State's Craig Robinson.

"Start interviewing the brothers of former first ladies and see if any of them can hoop," one voter said. "Heard Tony Rodham has an impressive crossover dribble."

Washington, armed with greater depth and desperation, got the nod over Cal as favorite to win the Pac-10 tournament that begins tonight in Los Angeles.

But Oregon, which spent much of the season in last place, got two votes.

"This season," one writer said, "needs a fitting end."