Pac-10 hopes this is year of resurgence

Updated: November 3, 2004, 10:38 PM ET
Associated Press

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 it.''

Nikki Blue and Noelle Quinn
APNikki Blue, left, and Noelle Quinn hope to return UCLA to the top of the Pac-10.
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 year.

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 Wheeler (Arizona).


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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