At least six Pac-10 coaches already have made up their minds: Cal's Allen Crabbe deserves to be voted the conference's freshman of the year.

"He doesn't play like a freshman," said USC's Kevin O'Neill, whose Trojans (13-12, 5-7 Pac-10) visit the Bears (13-12, 6-7) on Thursday night. "He plays with poise, he shoots it. To me, he's the best freshman in the league, without question."

Four Pac-10 coaches said it's too early to cast a vote, but others on a weekly media teleconference said Crabbe, a 6-foot-6 guard averaging 15.2 points in Pac-10 games, is an easy call.

"The first time we played them, he was very difficult for us to defend. He was a very good freshman," Arizona's Sean Miller said. "When we got to the second time, he had emerged as one of the conference's best players.

"His ability to move without the ball at such a young age "... his size allows him to get his shot off. ... He's having a special year."

Oregon's Dana Altman, Oregon State's Craig Robinson and Arizona State's Herb Sendek also said they favor Crabbe.

Of course, so did Cal coach Mike Montgomery.

"My freshman of the year is Allen Crabbe," Montgomery said. "You asked. He's mine. He's done a really good job."

  • Crabbe, who sustained a minor concussion last Thursday at Washington and missed the Washington State game two days later, sat out practice again Wednesday but might play against USC.

  • USC junior Nikola Vucevic averages 16.9 points and a conference-best 10.1 rebounds per game and has 14 double-doubles this season. But he scored just six points against Cal's zone defense last month in the Bears' 68-66 win in Los Angeles. O'Neill said Vucevic was hit in the jaw early in the game, then got into foul trouble and lost his aggressiveness. "Here's the one thing I'll say about Nik: If we didn't have Nik, we'd have four wins overall," O'Neill said. "That's just the way it is."

  • It's likely back to the bench for Cal freshman Jeff Powers, who replaced Crabbe with about 10 minutes to go in the first half against the Huskies and responded with 27 points in the two games, including his first start at Washington State. "It would have been unreasonable to expect he would play that well," Montgomery said. "It was good for his confidence. If we need somebody to put in, he now can go in and potentially do some stuff."

    thursday's game
    USC (13-12, 5-7 Pac-10) at Cal (13-12, 6-7), 7:30 p.m.