Originally created 11/05/04

Arizona, Washington could finish 1-2



LOS ANGELES - Arizona is back in its accustomed spot, picked by the media to win the Pac-10 basketball title.

Washington is in new territory, with a predicted second-place finish.

The Wildcats have won 10 of the last 18 Pac-10 championships under coach Lute Olson. They were third last year and second two years ago.

"I'm a little surprised by it," Olson said Thursday at the conference's media day. "We lost to Washington three times last year and they have everyone back, plus some good recruits. But I think it's a compliment to the program that we're being looked at in that position. We better be a whole lot better than we are right now if that's going to happen."

The Huskies lost their first five conference games last season before winning 14 of their final 17 to finish second - their best showing since 1986.

"The group that is now an upperclassmen-dominated group is the same group that lost a lot of ballgames," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Just the fear of going back into poverty, if you will, is something that helps us deal with any expectations."

The Wildcats and Washington were the only teams to receive first-place votes in a poll of media who cover the conference. Arizona received 19 first-place votes and Washington had seven.

Romar said being picked second has more to do with prestige than how the Huskies will fare.

"It does mean something to our program because we have been down for so long," he said. "It's a compliment to our program. It doesn't give us a free ticket to the NCAA tournament, but it shows there is progress. It could be worse. It could be like before when no one cared."

Defending champion Stanford was selected third with 194 points. Oregon was fourth with 167 and UCLA fifth with 156.

"The league won't be decided until that final weekend and I would not be a bit surprised if the winning team doesn't have five losses," Olson said. "That's how closely matched a lot of the teams are."

Southern California was sixth with 116, followed by California (87), Oregon State (86), Washington State (73) and Arizona State (64).

Ike Diogu of Arizona State, the lone returning two-time all-conference player, disagreed with the media.

"We know we're definitely not going to finish last place," he said. "We shouldn't have finished last place last year. People fail to realize that we lost a lot of close ballgames last year."

Meanwhile, Leon Powe of California, the Pac-10 freshman of the year, will redshirt after undergoing two offseason operations on his left knee.

"Leon is resigned to this being a redshirt year," coach Ben Braun said. "He wants to come back stronger next year."