Because coaches can't vote for their own players in Pac-10 postseason award balloting, Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller had to say somebody other than Derrick Williams is the conference's Player of the Year.
Not many others may have done so.
Although USC's Nikola Vucevic made a late push for the award, which will be announced today, two of the other top candidates appear to have dropped off. Washington's Isaiah Thomas slightly faded down the stretch and WSU's Klay Thompson was arrested last week on charges of marijuana possession.
Meanwhile, the offensively efficient Williams is not only among the top five Pac-10 players in both scoring and rebounding during conference games, despite playing the second half of the conference season with a severely injured pinkie, but he also now can get the votes from coaches such as UCLA's Ben Howland who say they usually vote for the best player on the best team.
That team success often leads to individual awards is a point Miller has made all season, and a point Williams sounds as if he has bought into.
"I don't really care about that," Williams said of the POY award. "If I win it, I win it. I'm just trying to win, trying to win a championship. All the other individual stuff will come later. As long we keep winning, we're all going to win some type of award."
Along with Williams, Miller could earn the Pac-10 Coach of the Year award when the honors are announced. In addition, Kyle Fogg may be considered for the all-defensive team and Jordin Mayes for the all-freshmen team.
The Pac-10 has a 10-man all-league first team, and a five-man second team, plus five-man defensive and freshmen teams. Last year, Williams was the Pac-10's Freshman of the Year while he and Nic Wise made the 10-man all-league team.
If Williams does earn the Player of the Year award as a sophomore, he doesn't appear too likely to defend the title as a junior next season.
Of all those "one more year" chants Williams was serenaded with during Saturday's game, Williams said this:
"Not even sure. Can't even answer that," he said. "The only thing I'm going to say about that is I'm trying to win now and trying to focus on these wins coming."
Draft Express projects Williams as the No. 5 pick in June's NBA Draft, while NBADraft.net has him going No. 1 overall. Even as a No. 5 pick, Williams would be guaranteed a two-year contract of over $7 million.
Beavers or Cardinal
USC's win over Washington on Saturday night put the Trojans in the No. 4 Pac-10 tournament slot and ultimately resulted in Stanford (7-11) taking the No. 8 seed because, in a complicated tiebreaker scenario, Oregon (also 7-11) gained the No. 7 seed by virtue of beating USC twice.
As a result, Arizona will now play at 3:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's 7 p.m. game between No. 8 Stanford and No. 9 Oregon State.
History suggests the Wildcats want Stanford to win that opening game.
Arizona beat Stanford twice this season, by an average of 9.5 points, while the Beavers split with the Wildcats this season and have caused them considerable trouble with their array of zones and presses.
The Wildcats beat OSU 70-59 at McKale Center on Thursday but were out-rebounded 32-23 and made only 5 of 22 three-pointers.
Stanford is also a good defensive team but plays a more straightforward style on both sides of the ball that better suits Arizona. The Wildcats beat the Cardinal 67-57 on Jan. 9 at McKale Center and 78-69 on Feb. 3 at Maples Pavilion.
Miller had not started senior forward Jamelle Horne since Dec. 22, when Jesse Perry took over the power forward spot, but Miller had no problem putting Horne back in the lineup for his final home game Saturday.
"It's the right thing, and Jamelle's a key contributor," Miller said. "If they play, it's always nice to give them the start and he played well (Saturday) for us."
Horne, who is averaging 6.3 points and 18.5 minutes, had 10 points and one rebound in 20 minutes against the Ducks.
Kyryl Natyazhko had another productive game Saturday, with six points, four rebounds and an assist in 14 minutes. Miller said last week at UCLA that Natyazhko may have played the best game of his Arizona career with two points, three rebounds and plenty of help in nonstatistical areas.
"Kyryl's getting better," Miller said. "His value in the game doesn't always show statistically, but he did a pretty good job in Los Angeles. He did a good job the other night, and (Saturday) he did a real good job. I'm happy for him because it's hard when you keep practicing and don't get the results in the game."
At Staples Center, Los Angeles. All games on FSAZ unless noted.
First round, Wednesday
• Game 1: No. 8 Stanford vs. No. 9 Oregon State, 7 p.m.
• Game 2: No. 7 Oregon vs No. 10 ASU, 9:30 p.m.
• Game 3: No. 4 USC vs. No. 5 California, 1 p.m.
• Game 4: No. 1 Arizona vs. winner of Game 1, 3:30 p.m.
• Game 5: No. 2 UCLA vs. winner of Game 2, 7 p.m.
• Game 6: No. 3 Washington vs. No. 6 Washington State, 9:30 p.m.
• Game 7: Winner of Game 3 vs. winner of Game 4, 7 p.m.
• Game 8: Winner of Game 5 vs. winner of Game 6, 9:30 p.m.
• Game 9: Winner of Game 7 vs. winner of Game 8, 4 p.m., Channel 13
• What: No. 1 Arizona vs. winner of No. 8 Stanford vs. No. 9 Oregon State
• When: 3:30 p.m. Thursday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM