Wildcats on Top of the Heap for 2001 Season

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We know, we know.

We flubbed our Pac-10 football predictions by picking USC (ouch) to come out on top in the conference standings.

We had Oregon State pegged for an unimpressive fifth-place finish. And we had Aloha Bowl-bound Arizona State slated as a lower-tier team.

Photo Courtesy Arizona Media Relations
Jason Gardner was named National Freshman of the year after last season.

We were, to put it mildly, wrong.

But at least we get to try it again.

Just as the Cal men's basketball team is seeking redemption after a slew of nonconference losses, The Daily Californian needs some salvation.

So as a new Pac-10 basketball season is nearly upon us, we are confident that ARIZONA will finish first in the league - if not the nation - after all is said and done.

The Wildcats return all five starters from last year's No. 1 seeded-team, and have by far the best assemblage of talent in the league.

The team has managed to run up a 5-1 record this season, including a win over No. 8 Illinois and a 60-point pounding of St. Mary's - without the services of 7-foot-1 center Loren Woods.

Woods, a first team All-Pac-10 selection a year ago, missed the final eight games of the season with a back injury, and then was suspended by the NCAA for Arizona's first six games this year.

The combination of Woods and power forward Michael Wright gives the Wildcats' one of the most feared frontcourts in the nation. Wright has consistently dominated the interior, notching 15.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for Arizona last season.

Add wing Richard Jefferson, and guards Gilbert Arenas and Jason Gardner - who was voted the National Freshman of the Year despite failing to achieve the same honor in his own league - into the mix, and the Pac-10's postseason honor roll is sure to be littered with Wildcats.

As much as it pains us to say, STANFORD has the best chance of any team in the Pac-10 to upend Arizona, and the Cardinal receives our vote to finish second in the league.

Stanford lost its emotional leader in forward Mark Madsen, but has a host of young players ready to step up.

Senior Jarron Collins will lead the Cardinal frontcourt attack, and has plenty of experience after starting 31 games last season and averaging 11 ppg and 6.5 rpg.

Last year's Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year Casey Jacobsen becomes a full-time starter for the Card, and his deadly accuracy from behind the arc will fuel Stanford's offense.

Photo Courtesy USC Media Relations
Brian Scalabrine has helped to lead the Trojans to a 5-0 start to the 2000-2001 season.

Coming in third is USC, which has given opponents fits this year with its long-distance shooting.

The Trojans have converted an incredible 40-of-80 three-point shots in averaging 85.2 points per game. USC is paced by Sam Clancy, the Pac-10's current leading scorer at 19 ppg. Clancy is also averaging over two blocks a game.

UCLA always seems to have the talent to contend for a national championship, but this year finds the Bruins slightly down on the talent-meter.

UCLA's Jerome Moiso and JaRon Rush decided to test the waters in the NBA this past summer, and as a result, UCLA is riding its Tournament hopes on sophomore Jason Kapono and junior Dan Gadzuric.

The Bruins have had a less than stellar start to their season, losing to Cal State Northridge and Georgia Tech so far. Still, UCLA always seems to win the big games, and we see the trend continuing this year.

CAL also has had its share of problems, namely a blowout loss to St. Louis and another setback at UC Irvine. We believe that the Bears have the talent to finish in the upper-half of the Pac-10, but only if they can snap out of their offensive funk.

ARIZONA STATE coach Rob Evans has made a big push toward recruiting in-state talent recently, and without the scoring threat of Eddie House, the Sun Devils will need to rely on some new faces to pick up the scoring burden. However, with nine returning letterwinners, ASU could pull off some serious upsets.

OREGON and OREGON STATE will finish seventh and eighth, respectively, as fans await the start of next year's football season.

WASHINGTON and WASHINGTON STATE will round out the Pac-10 in their usual fashion, at the bottom of the league.


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