More likely to win Pac-12 POY as a senior: Tarah Murrey or Jorge Gutierrez?

Both enjoyed breakout seasons in 2010-2011, becoming two of the conference’s best players in their respective sport.

While Gutierrez skyrocketed from valuable reserve to first team All-Pac-10 selection, Murrey was a revelation last fall after under-performing in her first two years. She hit a solid .314, finishing the season second in the conference in both kills and points.

The 6-foot-4 Murrey routinely came up big for the Bears in pivotal moments, becoming one of the nation’s elite outside hitters and earning first team All-American honors as a junior.

In the team’s new up-tempo offense, Murrey showcased her athleticism and the volleyball world took notice.

(It can be hard not to when Murrey was literally knocking liberos over with her powerful slams.)

With an unproven Elly Barrett running the show in place of all-everything setter Carli Lloyd, Murrey will be the focal point of her team’s offense — that gives her an edge over Gutierrez in this discussion.

To be sure, Cal’s shooting guard will be the heart and soul of his team come hoops season. In 2010-2011,
his gritty play and “contagious” work ethic helped define Montgomery’s blue-collar Bears. And after the squad lost nearly all of its offense from the year before, Gutierrez blossomed into a effective, versatile scorer. At home against UCLA he put on a show, willing his way to the basket and decimating the Bruins with a 34-point masterpiece.

Helping his case, the conference has lost a lot of prominent players to the NBA — Klay Thompson, Derrick Williams, Isaiah Thomas and Nikola Vucevic, to name a few.

The only problem? His top competition for Pac-12 Player of the Year may be his own teammates.

Reigning conference Freshman of the Year Allen Crabbe was arguably Cal’s most consistent scorer in the second half of the season, averaging nearly 17 points per game in Pac-10 play. Mongtomery already considered him to be among the league’s top players last year, and the 6-foot-6 Crabbe looks poised for a sensational sophomore campaign.

Forward Harper Kamp, a fellow senior, could also work his way into the award discussion.

Gutierrez, meanwhile, is known for his unselfishness — he’ll contribute all over the court and doesn’t need the ball to make an impact. That style of play will again win the hearts of Bears fans, even if it doesn’t earn him more hardware.

The Pick: Murrey

Image source: Emma Lantos/The Daily Californian