Pac-10 Men's Basketball Season Preview
Nov. 22, 2000
Under normal circumstances, the talent-rich and experienced StanfordCardinal would be considered a shoo-in to win the Pac-10 basketballchampionship.
Stanford isn't even favored, that distinction goes to Arizona, whichsharedthe conference title with the Cardinal last season.
The Pac-10 looks loaded this year, with its strongest, deepest lineup of teams in years.
Arizona is ranked No. 1 nationally in The Associated Press preseasonpoll,with Stanford fourth, UCLA 17th and Southern California 23rd.
'I think the potential is there for Arizona to be as good a team asthisconference has produced in a long time,' Stanford coach Mike Montgomerysaid.'I think the league may have four or five teams ranked in the Top 25, andthatmakes for a good conference race.'
Arizona returns all five starters - center Loren Woods, forwardsMichaelWright and Richard Jefferson, and guards Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas -from a team that went 27-7 overall and 15-3 in the conference.
Wildcats coach Lute Olson still realizes it's not going to be easy inthePac-10.
'Stanford returns a good nucleus and has guys they didn't haven't lastyear,' Olson said. 'USC, Cal, UCLA all have some very talented young people.Arizona State returns a lot of people.
'I think it will be a very competitive league. It will be verydifficult towin on the road.'
UCLA coach Steve Lavin believes the Pac-10 will earn even morerespectability on the national level.
'You look at the last decade and you have teams doing well in thepostseason, Arizona and UCLA winning national titles. I think in the last 10years in terms of national tournaments, of players going to the NBA, therehasbeen a raised awareness in our league,' Lavin said.
Arizona is expected to stir the most interest.
Along with having their starting lineup and key reserves returning, theWildcats also get Eugene Edgerson back. The senior forward skipped lastseasonto focus on student teaching.
UCLA lost two of its better players, Jerome Moiso and JaRon Rush, whentheydeclared for the NBA draft, but the Bruins' returnees include forward JasonKapono, center Dan Gadzuric and point guard Earl Watson.
Kapono is one of the best shooters in the Pac-10, averaging 16 points agameon 52 percent shooting, including 47 percent from 3-point range.
Hobbled by key injuries last season, USC returns its starting lineupintact.Leading the way is forward-center Brian Scalabrine, who led the conferenceinscoring at 17.9, shot 53 percent from the floor and averaged six reboundsand2.8 assists a game.
California, with Sean Lampley (16.6 points, 7.4 rebounds a game) thelonesenior on a young team, could be the conference darkhorse. Oregon willfeatureFrederick Jones, a junior guard who averaged 9.6 points and 3.3 assists lastseason.
Arizona State, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State figure towindup in the bottom half of the Pac-10.
By KEN PETERS
AP Sports Writer