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College basketball notes: WCC honors Olynyk
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It was a given that Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk would win the West Coast Conference's Player of the Year award, which was handed out Tuesday. After all, the 7-footer from Canada was the best player on the best team, a team that went 16-0 to win the league and is ranked No. 1 in both major college basketball polls for the first time in school history.

Can Olynyk win at least one of the many national player of the year awards? He is a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, which is given out annually to the top player in college basketball by the United States Basketball Writers Association.

The big fella seems to be gathering some steam but still is considered a long shot. Having redshirted last year, Olynyk wasn't even on the all-WCC preseason team.

Olynyk simply didn't get the preseason hype, the run-up to the year, like Jimmer Fredette did in 2010-11 when he was the consensus national player of the year for BYU.

In other WCC honors announced Tuesday, Gonzaga's Mark Few is the WCC Coach of the Year, GU's Mike Hart is the Defensive Player of the Year and Pepperdine's Stacy Davis is the Newcomer of the Year.

The 10-member all-conference team comprises Olynyk, GU's Elias Harris and Kevin Pangos, BYU's Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws, Saint Mary's Matthew Dellavedova, San Francisco's Cole Dickerson, Santa Clara's Kevin Foster and Marc Trasolini and LMU's Anthony Ireland.

No so fast, coach

UCLA coach Ben Howland found himself apologizing Monday for something he said Saturday after the No. 23 Bruins' fourth straight win, a 74-69 victory over slumping Arizona. No, Howland didn't criticize the Wildcats or the officiating.

The coach said that star freshman Shabazz Muhammad was going to leave UCLA for the NBA at the end of the season after just one season in Westwood.

Turns out, Howland had not discussed the matter with Muhammad, who was surprised to hear his coach say he was outta here.

Several NBA mock drafts have the 6-foot-6 forward from Las Vegas going in the top 10. Muhammad is the leading scorer among freshmen in the country, with an 18.3 average. He's a shoo-in to win the Wayman Tisdale Award, given annually to the top freshman in college basketball.

For his part, Muhammad didn't seem too concerned that his coach said he had just played his last game in Pauley Pavilion. But he reiterated that he hasn't decided yet.

"I never said I am not coming back even though I know I am in pretty good position draft-wise," he told ESPN on Monday. "I am looking at our team next year and we could be really good. ... Whether I want to come back or not, that will be [decided] after the season."

Impressive Lobos

A lot of people in the West are talking about No. 1-ranked Gonzaga as a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and deservedly so. The Zags (29-2) are terrific, as some 20,000 fans learned last Thursday in the Marriott Center when GU didn't play all that well but still held off BYU, 70-65.

But don't go to sleep on New Mexico, which conceivably could get a No. 1 seed if Gonzaga falters in the WCC Tournament.

The Lobos (25-4) already have wrapped up the Mountain West Conference regular-season title with a 12-2 record with two games left to play: at Nevada on Wednesday and at Air Force on Saturday.

Yes, this is the same team that scored only 34 points in a blowout loss at San Diego State on Jan. 26. But the Lobos have lost just once since then, a 64-55 setback at UNLV, and have won five straight.

New Mexico's other two losses were at Saint Louis (60-46) and, perhaps the most puzzling of all, a 70-65 loss to South Dakota State in the Pit on Dec. 22. That loss very well could cost UNM a No. 1 seed, some experts believe.

Tough, hard-nosed defense has been the team's calling card this season, coach Steve Alford told The Associated Press after a win over Wyoming last week.

"There is nobody that plays tougher than the Lobos," Alford said. "This team is downright nasty."

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay —

No so fast, coach

UCLA coach Ben Howland found himself apologizing Monday for something he said Saturday after the No. 23 Bruins' fourth straight win, a 74-69 victory over slumping Arizona. No, Howland didn't criticize the Wildcats or the officiating.

The coach said that star freshman Shabazz Muhammad was going to leave UCLA for the NBA at the end of the season after just one season in Westwood.

Turns out, Howland had not discussed the matter with Muhammad, who was surprised to hear his coach say he was outta here.

Several NBA mock drafts have the 6-foot-6 forward from Las Vegas going in the top 10. Muhammad is the leading scorer among freshmen in the country, with an 18.3 average. He's a shoo-in to win the Wayman Tisdale Award, given annually to the top freshman in college basketball.

For his part, Muhammad didn't seem too concerned that his coach said he had just played his last game in Pauley Pavilion. But he reiterated that he hasn't decided yet.

"I never said I am not coming back even though I know I am in pretty good position draft-wise," he told ESPN on Monday. "I am looking at our team next year and we could be really good. ... Whether I want to come back or not, that will be [decided] after the season."

College basketball • Olynk did not earn preseason all-WCC honors.
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