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The preseason accolades continue to roll in for the California men's basketball team. After being named by numerous polls as a top-25 team and a dark horse candidate to win the Pac-12, two of the team's stars -- Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe -- were selected on Monday as among the 50 players in the nation named to the 2011-12 John R. Wooden Award Watch List.
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The list, chosen by a preseason poll of national college basketball media members, is comprised of student-athletes who, based on last year's individual performance and team records, are the early frontrunners for college basketball's highest honor.
Gutierrez was an All-Pac-10 first-team selection in 2010-11 and was also a member of the conference All-Defensive Team. His play on the court also earned him USBWA All-District honors, but his achievements off the court placed him on the Pac-10's All-Academic second team.
Gutierrez led the Bears in scoring last season with a 14.6 ppg mark, and was named the team's MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Gutierrez reached double figures in points in 25 of 33 games and led the team in scoring on 12 occasions, posting a career-high 34 points to go along with three steals and six assists in the Bears' Feb. 20 win over UCLA. His 54 swipes overall in 2010-11 rank seventh on Cal's all-time single-season list.
Crabbe was last year's Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and received all-conference honorable mention. He set the school record for three-pointers made by a freshman with 62 treys, and climbed the school charts for three-point percentage (62-155, .400) and free-throw percentage (72-88, .804) by a freshman. Crabbe was the Bears' premier scorer during conference play, leading the team with a 16.4 ppg average and finishing third on the team with 5.3 boards per game during Pac-10 play.
Cal was among several schools to have more than one player named to the watch list but was joined only by one other Pac-12 squad -- UCLA -- who had junior forward Reeves Nelson and big sophomore center Joshua Smith selected to the top 50.
Ohio State sophomore forward Jared Sullinger was the only returning Wooden Award All-American and was a finalist for the award a year ago after averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds before he opted to return to Columbus for a second season.
Transfers, freshmen and medical redshirts are not eligible for the preseason list. The players on the preseason list are considered strong candidates for the midseason list and the official voting ballot, both of which are open to freshman and transfer students. The national ballot consists of about 20 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA. The Wooden Award All-American Team, which consists of the nation's top 10 players, will be announced during the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament.
The 36th annual Wooden Award ceremony marks the 25th anniversary of the selection of the Naval Academy's David Robinson as the Wooden Award winner. The 2012 event will honor the Men's and Women's Wooden Award winners, and will include the presentation of the Wooden Award All-American Teams and the Legends of Coaching Award. It will take place the weekend of April 6-8, 2012.
For the first time, a school had four players chosen to the Preseason Top 50 when North Carolina returners Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller were selected. Ohio State (Sullinger, William Buford and Aaron Craft) and Vanderbilt (Festus Ezeli, John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor) had three players chosen. Six schools had two players named to the preseason List: California; Connecticut (Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi); Memphis (Will Barton, Joe Jackson); Syracuse (Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph); and UCLA.
Nineteen of the 50 players named came from two conferences, the Big East (10) and Big Ten (9). The SEC had seven players chosen, followed by the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 each with four; and the Atlantic 10, Big West and Conference USA with two each. Conferences with one player named include the Horizon League, Ivy League, MAAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West and WCC.