BERKELEY, Calif. – The case for Allen Crabbe as Pac-12 Player of the Year is his presence, the junior guard’s ability to take over a game for surging California.
He leads the conference in scoring at 19.8 points per game, and has scored 20 or more points in six conference games this season.
He has been the catalyst as the Golden Bears have won five of their last six games and three in a row, with victories over the top three teams in the conference during that stretch, averaging 17.3 points on 48.8 percent shooting with 6.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
He has delivered impact plays, including high-energy dunks, critical defensive stops, and his second-half eruption to lead the comeback win over USC last Sunday after being pushed by head coach Mike Montgomery.
The case for Dominic Artis as Pac-12 Player of the Year is his absence. The freshman guard has missed the last seven games with a stress fracture, with all three of Oregon’s conference losses in that span.
Without Artis, who is not expected to play at Matt Court on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN2), the Ducks are committing 16.5 turnovers per game, as opposed to 12.8 with him in the lineup.
Cal (16-9, 8-5 Pac-12) was able to exploit those ball-handling issues in the first meeting at Haas Pavilion less than three weeks ago, turning 22 Oregon turnovers into 25 points in a 58-54 win.
“They had a tough turnover weekend in the Bay Area, for sure,” Montgomery said. “I think that was getting used to a new guard.”
And while Oregon (21-5, 10-3 Pac-12) seems to have stabilized those issues recently, continued defensive pressure will be important for Cal to secure the season sweep.
The bigger issues might be how Cal responds to the fallout from the shove, which became a national news story and drew unprecedented attention to the team’s weekly press conference.
“The team is pretty positive right now,” Montgomery said. “They don’t seem to have much of an issue with it. I think we trust each other and hopefully we can move on.”
Crabbe clearly bristled at the provocative line of questioning, while Montgomery expressed regret that the incident was overshadowing such a critical game for Cal’s NCAA tournament and possible Pac-12 title hopes.
“It was blown out of proportion,” Crabbe said. “It was just an emotional game. I didn’t take anything negative out of the situation.”
“There are five games left,” Montgomery said. “That’s what is important right now.”
Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.