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UA’s Williams should grab player of the year

With Pac-10 play just past the halfway point, the conference contenders are separating themselves from the pretenders.

The same can be said for the favorites for the conference’s major awards. Here is a look at the favorites heading into the second half.

Player of the Year

Derrick Williams, UA (19.5 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game)

With UA vaulting to the top of the conference standings, Williams has strengthened his case to be named Pac-10 Player of the Year.

With no other player averaging double digits for the Wildcats, the focus and the pressure has been on Williams, and he has responded every night. He’s been in double figures every game, while leading the conference in both field goal percentage and three point percentage.

This is his award to lose.

Other contenders: Klay Thompson, WSU; Isaiah Thomas, UW

Freshman of the Year

Allen Crabbe, California (12.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG)

The highly touted recruit has certainly lived up to the hype and will likely run away with this award.

No other freshman has had his impact.

After fellow freshman Gary Franklin left the Cal program, Crabbe has stepped up his game, averaging 16.6 points per game in conference play.

There shouldn’t be any debate about this one. Crabbe will walk away with freshman of the year honors.

Other contenders: Joshua Smith, UCLA; Dwight Powell, Stanford; Maurice Jones, USC; Terrence Ross, UW

Defensive Player of the Year

Malcolm Lee, UCLA

After leading the Bruins in scoring a year ago, Lee has really improved as a defender in 2011.

This award will be hotly contested and a case can be made for a few players to win this award.

Playing in a man-to-man defense helps Lee stand out and his ability to shut down his opponent’s best scorer make him the favorite at the halfway point.

Other contenders: Jorge Gutierrez, Cal; Jared Cunningham, OSU; Justin Holiday, UW; Ty Abbott, ASU; Venoy Overton, UW; DeAngelo Casto, WSU

Most Improved Player

Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington (15.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG)

Bryan-Amaning was an offensive afterthought last season. Now he is one of UW’s main offensive threats.

The big man from London has developed into a force in the post, making the Huskies that much more difficult to defend.

Like Defensive Player of the Year, this award features a lot of deserving candidates and will not be decided until the bitter end.

Other contenders: Trent Lockett, ASU; Jared Cunningham, OSU; Harper Kamp, Cal; Joevan Catron, UO; Josh Owens, Stanford

Coach of the Year

Mike Montgomery, California

My idea of the deserving coach of the year is the coach that did the most, with the fewest expectations.

Montgomery lost four seniors that were the rocks of his conference champion team last season.  He now has taken a team filled with freshmen, a player returning from injury and a defensive specialist and turned them into the Pac-10’s hottest team, even after losing one of his top recruits midseason.

But there still is a lot of time left for others to knock Montgomery off his perch.

Other contenders: Sean Miller, UA; Dana Altman, UO; Ben Howland, UCLA; Ken Bone, WSU

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