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Originally published February 1, 2011 at 10:02 PM | Page modified February 1, 2011 at 10:51 PM

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Bud Withers

A look at the Pac-10 at the halfway point

Washington's Isaiah Thomas gets shaky vote as Pac-10 player of the year through the first half of the conference season.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

In a matter of two hours, everything seemed to change: Washington's unquestioned destination as Pac-10 regular-season champions in basketball. The races for player of the year and coach of the year.

And Washington State's postseason outlook.

Of course, one game can't be so cataclysmic, but WSU's 87-80 upset of Washington on Sunday night gives us pause, and more reason to anticipate the second half of Pac-10 play.

That said, gimme the envelope for the annual Demis, marking a half-season of Pac-10 hoops:

All-conference: Derrick Williams, Arizona; Isaiah Thomas, Washington; Klay Thompson, WSU; Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington; Nikola Vucevic, USC.

Player of the year:

1. Thomas. He's been mostly marvelous in replacing injured Abdul Gaddy (leading the league by a wide margin in assists), but not so much in Pullman. Count this as a trembling, shaky, precarious vote on the basis that UW still looks like the best team in the league. That's why they play the second half.

2. Thompson. He occasionally forces shots and is prone to foolish fouls, but the guy is a triple-double waiting to happen. He leads the league in scoring and is top-five in assists, steals, free-throw and three-point percentage. He's also tied for seventh in blocked shots, of all things, and everybody ahead of him is a so-called "big." If the Cougars get to the NCAA tournament, he probably swings this vote.

3. Williams. He's the man of mind-bending numbers, scoring 2.19 points for every shot he takes (Jared Sullinger is at 1.64, Jimmer Fredette at 1.54) and hitting an ethereal .706 of his three-point shots (24 of 34). Imagine if Arizona ran regular stuff for him.

Coach of the year: It's easier to name the guys who aren't in the running (there might be four).

1. Mike Montgomery, California. All Monty did was lose Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson, and come back with a 12-9 team that, if he hadn't overscheduled the first month, might be a serious NCAA contender.

2. Lorenzo Romar, Washington. It's hardly been a seamless season on Montlake, but he has had UW playing at a generally high level.

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3. Ken Bone, WSU. Could take the Cougars from last place to the NCAA — although I'd question whether they ever should have been last a year ago.

4. Sean Miller, Arizona. Will take the Wildcats back to the NCAA, where they lived annually until last season.

5. Ben Howland, UCLA. Bruins (14-7) seem poised for a run back to the NCAA, although it's fairly unforgivable that they should ever have the 14-18 record of last season.

6. Dana Altman, Oregon. Laugh, but Altman has turned the usual throwaway first year of a coaching tenure into a team (10-11) that plays hard and is beating some people.

Freshman of the year:

1. Allen Crabbe, Cal. The next great scorer in the Pac-10, he's averaging 16.2 in league games.

2. Terrence Ross, Washington. In the long run, I think the Huskies made out better getting the less-heralded of the two Terrences from Jefferson in Portland.

And what's more ...

• UCLA hosts USC on Wednesday night, then St. John's and ex-coach Steve Lavin on Saturday. Howland says the series was already in place when Lavin got the job with the Johnnies, and "we could have walked away, but that wouldn't be the right thing to do."

• The Bruins-St. John's game is at 10 a.m. Good grief, who else is in the consolation bracket?

• If OSU coach Craig Robinson had hair, he'd be tearing it out. The Beavers (8-12, 3-6) are 277th nationally in three-point field goal percentage (.301) and 316th in overall field-goal defense (.468).

• Through circumstance or preference, USC coach Kevin O'Neill has usually played a short rotation, and he admits it's happening again. O'Neill on freshman G Maurice Jones: "At Arizona State he played great, and at Arizona he played awful."

• Some of WSU's tournament hopes are now riding on snow — elsewhere, not its own. Baylor (14-6), a victim the Cougars badly need to get rolling, had its Tuesday-night game at Oklahoma postponed until Wednesday afternoon because of the severe Midwestern storm.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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