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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Record six Pac-10 teams grace Associated Press top 25

    For the first time ever, six Pacific 10 Conference teams are ranked in this week’s Associated Press poll.

    Along with No. 24 Arizona, the other ranked squads are No. 2 UCLA, No. 13 Oregon, No. 14 Washington State, No. 19 USC and No. 25 Stanford.

    “”I’m so excited right now,”” said UCLA head coach Ben Howland. “”That’s great. It’s great for the league and great for the West Coast.””

    But after spending some of the season as the top-ranked conference in the RPI, this week the Pac-10 checked in at No. 3 in kenpom.com’s rankings, just behind the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference.

    UA head coach Lute Olson said he is happy that nearly a quarter of the AP poll are from his conference.

    “”I think that it’s indicative of how tough this conference is, and what’s really great about it is the recognition nationally,”” Olson said. “”I think there’s been years when out West we knew that was the case, but it wasn’t known in other parts of the country, so I think that speaks volume for the league and what’s going on in the league.””

    L.A. schools set to clash

    In what is becoming the conference’s biggest natural rivalry, the Bruins and Trojans clash tonight in Pauley Pavilion with first place on the line.

    USC (9-2 Pac-10) would tie UCLA (8-3) in the conference standings with a win while evening up the season series. The Bruins won on the Trojans’ home floor, 65-64, on an Arron Afflalo game-winner in the teams’ Jan. 13 contest.

    “”I don’t know whether or not we can duplicate that type of defensive intensity on the road,”” said USC head coach Tim Floyd. “”I think that will be the key to us having a chance over there.””

    Both Floyd and UCLA head coach Ben Howland said they hope that the competition becomes as prominent as those on the East Coast, like the North Carolina-Duke rivalry. But for that to happen, the second-year USC head coach said it’s up to his squad.

    “”We’re growing as a program,”” Floyd said. “”I think they’re there, they’ve established themselves with last year’s championship game. We’ll have to be the ones that make it a game of importance nationally, and to do that we’ll have to beat them somewhere along the way or have some national success.””

    Cougars barely pull one out

    Of the Pac-10’s ranked squads, Washington State is arguably the biggest surprise team, and it keeps on winning despite the competitiveness of the conference.

    Behind Pac-10 Player of the Week Daven Harmeling, who hit the game-clincher against Arizona and scored 16 at ASU in their weekend sweep, the Cougars (19-4, 8-3) remain just one game behind the Bruins and are poised to be one of the best WSU teams in the past 30 years.

    The Cougars, who have clinched their fist winning season since 1995-96, will almost certainly make their first NCAA Tournament since ’93-94 and may win more games than the ’82-83 Cougars, the last to win 23 games.

    “”You’ll enjoy those all after the year,”” WSU head coach Tony Bennett said. “”We talk about keeping our eye on the prize.””

    The Cougars also almost suffered the biggest upset in conference play, beating the conference-winless Sun Devils by a single point, with guard Christian Polk missing a potential game-winning look.

    “”I’m just very thankful we got the victory down there,”” Bennett said. “”When you get to this stage of the year, obviously a win’s a win, you take it, but we’ve got to really be focused on the quality of our play.””

    UA Notes

    Bayless picked for junior national team
    Arizona signee Jerryd Bayless was named to the 2007 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Monday, just the latest honor for the rivals.com top-10 recruit.

    Bayless was one of 10 players chosen, including top recruits O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, Kyle Singler and Derrick Rose.

    The squad will compete in the 10th annual Nike Hoop Summit in Memphis, Tenn., April 7 against a World Select Team comprised of the best international players under 19.

    Bayless averaged 11.0 points per game for the 2006 Team USA Under-18 national squad.

    Walk-on won’t travel to Oregon

    James Smith, the Arizona basketball program’s newest walk-on, will not be traveling with the squad to Oregon this weekend, said UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough.

    Smith, a 6-foot-4 forward from Tucson Flowing Wells High School, started practicing with the Wildcats Jan. 29 so the squad would have enough bodies to scrimmage without injured big men Mohamed Tangara and Kirk Walters.
    Arizona found Smith after Rosborough contacted UA women’s basketball assistant coach Todd Holthaus for a list of possible practice players.

    “”I’m doing my best to get him in something other than street clothes,”” Rosborough said.

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