The 31 panelists who participated in our eighth annual Pac-10 basketball writers survey liked Arizona State's James Harden a bit more than Washington's Jon Brockman, and they gave the nod to Craig Robinson's magic act over Lorenzo Romar's championship run for coach of the year.
But they couldn't settle on which Pac-10 player is most entertaining, except to agree that vertically challenged guards Jerome Randle and Isaiah Thomas stood above the crowd.
Randle, the 5-foot-10 (maybe) junior from Cal, and Thomas, the 5-8 freshman from Washington, each landed 11 votes as the most fun player to watch in our anonymous poll of writers who regularly cover the conference.
On Randle: "Is there a quicker player in the Pac-10?''
Or this: "The guy will gun 3-pointers from anywhere, and he thinks every one of them should go in. A lot of them do."
Or: "I'm just waiting for him to launch from halfcourt on a 3-on-1 fast break."
Thomas raised just as many eyebrows:
"Who is more creative in the paint and can hang longer in the air than this little magician?"
Or: "Everybody loves the little guy, and he has an infinite variety of imaginative moves around the basket."
Our panelists didn't regard the two as sideshows, either. Randle earned a spot on our five-man All-Pac-10 first team, and Thomas won in a landslide — 29 of 31 votes — as most valuable freshman.
"I think he's the reason they
Joining Randle on our all-league team were Brockman, UCLA point guard Darren Collison, Arizona power forward Jordan Hill and Harden, who was a unanimous choice.
Harden, a sophomore guard and the league's leading scorer, edged power forward Brockman 16-13 for player of the year.
"Nobody takes over a Pac-10 game like this guy," one voter said of Harden.
"His unselfish nature probably kept him from averaging close to 25 a game," another wrote.
"At times, he looks like a man playing against boys," a third concluded.
Brockman had his supporters.
"Class act sets tone for Huskies' chemistry," one said.
"Also named first-team All-Adhesive by Pac-10 trainers," another writer said. "More bruises than a basket of old peaches, leads with his face ... OK, he's one tough dude."
Robinson, the first-year Oregon State coach, spent much of early season fielding questions about his brother-in-law, President Barack Obama. But our voters recognized Robinson for what he did on the court, taking the Beavers from 0-18 last season to a 7-11 finish in the Pac-10.
"Maybe we put the wrong guy from this family in the White House," one voter said. "If only Obama can come up with a stimulus package that matches this guy's."
"Makes you wonder," wrote another, "if bigger schools could swoop him away after only one season."
Romar directed Washington to its first outright regular-season conference title since 1953.
"Craig Robinson seemed like a no-brainer at one point," one writer said, "but the last two weeks showed what a great job Romar has done."
Voters were asked whom they'd like to see Arizona hire to fill its coaching vacancy. Fifteen names surfaced, from interim coach Russ Pennell to Tennessee women's coaching legend Pat Summitt. Pitt's Jamie Dixon prevailed, edging Saint Mary's Randy Bennett.
But when asked whom Arizona will hire, our panelists gave the nod to Gonzaga's Mark Few over Dixon and Michigan State's Tom Izzo.