Arizona's Derrick Williams may have dominated our 10th annual Pac-10 Basketball Writers Survey as no one has, but Cal's Jorge Gutierrez found his way into the mix, as he always seems to do.
The 27 panelists who participated in the survey -- all writers covering Pac-10 basketball -- identified all-conference selections Tyler Honeycutt and Klay Thompson as the Pac-10's two most overrated players, gave a nod to Arizona's Sean Miller as coach of the year, and said they'd pick Cal's Mike Montgomery to coach one game.
As the Pac-10 tournament unfolds Wednesday night in Los Angeles, no team surprised the writers this season more than Oregon or was a bigger disappointment than preseason favorite Washington.
Two games are on the Pac-10 schedule Wednesday at Staples Center, with Stanford facing Oregon State at 6:10 p.m., followed by Arizona State vs. Oregon at 8:40. Four quarterfinal games are set for Thursday, beginning with Cal vs. USC at 12:10 p.m.
Williams, the sophomore forward who led the Wildcats to their first Pac-10 title in six seasons, was a landslide winner as player of the year. He was the choice of 92.6 percent (25 of 27) of our voters, easily a higher percentage than any past winner.
Last year, by contrast, Cal's Jerome Randle edged Stanford's Landry Fields 13 votes to 12.
Williams was judged a cut above on a team without great talent otherwise.
"Without him, Arizona would finish fourth or fifth," one voter suggested.
Said another: "Without Williams, Arizona would've been Oregon State."
"Incredibly consistent, and he did it with nine fingers," added another panelist, referring to Williams playing the final several weeks with a heavily wrapped sprained pinkie.
Williams also was the clear choice as having the best NBA future.
"Needs to get a little bigger, stronger, meaner, more selfish," one voter said. But, said another, he has an "invaluable NBA skill: Can get fouled whenever he wants."
Gutierrez, Cal's ferocious junior guard, earned top billing as both the league's most underrated player and the most fun to watch.
"Nobody impacts the game at both ends, nobody brings a more physical attitude and nobody inspires his team the way Gutierrez does."
"Toughest (player) in the league and has gone from being a role player to a dominant guy."
"If he was on Duke, everyone in the country would love him or hate him."
Honeycutt picked up five votes as most overrated in a category where 11 players were mentioned. The consensus was Honeycutt's performance doesn't always match his reputation. "All hat, no cattle," said one panelist.
WSU's Thompson, who earned 23 votes for our five-man all-conference team, had four detractors, possibly owing to his marijuana citation last week. "Yes, he has NBA game," one voter said, "but he often disappears in big moments, and the pot charge showed a serious lack of leadership and judgment, especially considering the timing of it."
Miller outpointed Montgomery 14-9 for coach of the year by directing the Wildcats to the Pac-10 crown in his second season.
"No team in the league plays harder. And while the Wildcats might have the Pac-10's best player, UCLA and Washington are miles ahead in overall talent," one writer said.
"He turned an absolute mess into a league champion in two seasons," another offered.
Montgomery outpolled UCLA's Ben Howland -- a three-time Final Four participant -- as the writers' choice to coach one game.
"What was that Bear Bryant line?" one panelist asked. "He can take his and beat yours and he can take yours and beat his."
Although Oregon tailed off at the finish, the Ducks were tabbed as the biggest surprise by winning seven conference games in coach Dana Altman's debut season.
But few were impressed by UW, which finished third after being the overwhelming preseason pick. Said one voter: "The Huskies are something you don't often see: A bubble team with Final Four talent."
Pac-10 player of the year:
1. Derrick Williams, Arizona 25
2. Nikola Vucevic, USC 2
1t. Isaiah Thomas, Wash 27
1t. Nikola Vucevic, USC 27
1t. Derrick Williams, Arizona 27
4. Klay Thompson, Wash. St. 23
5. Reeves Nelson, UCLA 12
Others: Jorge Gutierrez, Cal 8; Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington 5; Allen Crabbe, Cal, Malcolm Lee, UCLA 2 each; Joevan Catron, Oregon, Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA 1 each.
most underrated player:
1. Jorge Gutierrez, Cal 9
2t. Joevan Catron, Oregon 4
2t. Nikola Vucevic, USC 4
Others: DeAngelo Casto, Washington St. 3; Marcus Simmons, USC 2; Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington, Jared Cunningham, Oregon St., Jeremy Green, Stanford, Malcolm Lee, UCLA, 1 each.
most overrated player:
1. Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA 7
2. Klay Thompson, Wash. St. 5
3. Roberto Nelson, Oregon St. 3
Others: Ty Abbott, Arizona St., Allen Crabbe, Cal, Jio Fontan, USC, Malcolm Lee, UCLA, Venoy Overton, Washington, Joshua Smith, UCLA, Alex Stepheson, USC, Isaiah Thomas, Washington, 1 each.
Most fun player
1. Jorge Gutierrez, Cal 9
2. Isaiah Thomas, Wash. 7
3. Derrick Williams, Arizona 5
Others: Jared Cunningham, Oregon St. 2; MoMo Jones, Arizona, Reeves Nelson, UCLA, Joshua Smith, UCLA, Nikola Vucevic, USC, 1 each.
Who will be
the best NBA player:
1. Derrick Williams, Arizona 11
2. Joshua Smith, UCLA 5
3t. Klay Thompson, Wash.St. 3
3t. Nikola Vucevic, USC 3
Others: Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA 2; Allen Crabbe, Cal 1.
Coach of the Year:
1. Sean Miller, Arizona 14
2. Mike Montgomery, Cal 9
3. Dana Altman, Oregon 3
Others: Ken Bone, Washington St., Ben Howland, UCLA, 1 each.
Who you'd pick
to coach one game:
1. Mike Montgomery, Cal 16
2. Ben Howland, UCLA 7
3. Sean Miller, Arizona 2
Others: Kevin O'Neill, USC 1.
What was the league's surprise team:
1. Oregon 13
2. Cal 9
3t. UCLA 2
3t. USC 2
The biggest disappointment:
1. Washington 16
2. Arizona St. 6
3. Oregon St. 4
Others: Washington St. 1.
Will either Colorado or Utah finish in the upper division of the new Pac-12 next season:
The favorite to win
the Pac-12 next season:
1. UCLA 19
2. Arizona 3
3t. Cal 2
3t. Washington St. 2
Note: Voting was anonymous and not every participant cast a vote in every category.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/ap;
DOUG DURAN/staff; Matt York/ap
Pictured, from top: Jorge Gutierrez; Mike Montgomery, Sean Miller