SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After Arizona and Stanford shared the
Pac-10 title last season, the media chose both teams to finish
first again this year.
Neither program wants a tie.
"It's a taste we want to feel again this year, but we want to
win it outright,'' Wildcats senior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler said
Tuesday at the conference's media day. "We have the talent to do
Arizona and Stanford each finished 14-4 last season, then met in
the championship of the Pac-10 tournament, won by the Cardinal
51-46. Stanford went on to reach the final eight of the NCAA
Tournament. This is the first time since the inception of the media
poll seven years ago that two teams have been chosen to win.
UCLA was picked third in the preseason media poll after the
Bruins also reached the tournament last season. They were followed
by Arizona State, Washington, Oregon, Southern California, Oregon
State, California and Washington State.
Stanford lost All-America forward Nicole Powell, the two-time
Pac-10 player of the year, but has five seniors back to lead the
way in coach Tara VanDerveer's 19th year. Included in that group is
point guard Susan King Borchardt, a fifth-year senior who fought
injuries her first two seasons and decided to return for a final
VanDerveer has a more athletic team than she has been accustomed
to in recent seasons. The coach said she might play 10 or 11
players on a given night and that the Cardinal will be more
aggressive on both ends of the court.
While opposing defenses have always keyed in on Powell the past
four years, VanDerveer believes it will be more difficult to single
out one player now.
"We have a very different team,'' she said. "It's a whole new
show. We have one of our most athletic teams. That has not been a
trademark of Stanford basketball.''
The Cardinal, who move back into renovated Maples Pavilion in
December, will receive early tests from Tennessee and Texas Tech.
Arizona is headed to the Preseason WNIT next month, while UCLA has
nonconference games against powerhouses Texas and Purdue.
Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne believes this could be
a season when five or six teams from the conference reach the NCAA
Tournament if they make strong showings early.
"I'm really excited about our conference. We're going to
finally see the resurgence we've been waiting for,'' she said. "We
have veteran teams and we're all healthy. ... We have certainly
positioned ourselves to make a huge statement nationally.''
At Washington, the Huskies welcome back guard Kayla Burt, who
hasn't played since teammates helped save her life when her heart
stopped on New Year's Eve 2002. Washington, among the most
inexperienced teams in the conference with seven sophomores and
five freshmen, also returns Kristen O'Neill following a year on the
sidelines nursing a stress fracture in her left foot.
Arizona State's Jill Noe will miss the season after re-tearing
the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee -- the same injury
that kept her out all of last year.
The five players chosen to the media's preseason All-Pac-10 team
are: guard Nikki Blue (UCLA), center Shawntinice Polk (Arizona),
guard Noelle Quinn (UCLA), guard Kelley Suminski (Stanford) and