Cal coach Mike Montgomery will be back on the sideline after a scary bout of bladder cancer. Photo by Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE
LOS ANGELES — Many coaches gently chide the media when they feel their team is not rated highly enough in preseason polls. Not Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller.
“There is no way in the world we’re the third-best team in the Pac-12,” Miller said of where his team landed in the Pac-12 media poll.
“Hopefully, I won’t say that next year but I will am saying it now. There is no chance that’s where we’re at.”
Maybe the fourth-best?
In any case, it’s hard to argue with Miller after Arizona’s loss to Seattle Pacific on Thursday night.
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Arizona coach Sean Miller opens with a joke: “I guess I’m the only coach up here who is 0-1.”
He adds quickly: “We’re not the team that was in the Elite Eight. We’re a brand new team.”
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UCLA coach Ben Howland said he has had meetings about his team taking an exhibition trip to China, perhaps as early as next fall.
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Washington sophomore guard Terrence Ross averaged 8.0 points per game as a freshman last season, but could be one of the league’s premier players this season.
“Terrence is immensely talented,” Husky coach Lorenzo Romar said.
“He’s a very good offensive player. He’s a great athlete. He has a knack for putting the ball in the basket. What has taken place over last year is he has become a better defensive player. … The fact he is paying attention to being more well-rounded is really going to help his cause.”
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USC coach Kevin O’Neill on Cal coach Mike Montgomery: “Not a more respected coach in the whole country.”
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USC coach Kevin O’Neill’s team suffered a devastating injury loss when point guard Jio Fontan blew out his knee this summer. KO sat at the interview table at Media Day with sophomore guard Maurice Jones and said:
“He is playing 40 minutes per game this year. I’m informing him of that right now. He’s going to have to.”
USC doesn’t really have a second ball-handler.
“If Mo gets hurt, we can’t really even play the games,” O’Neill said. “Don’t come to the games. It will be ugly.”
But O’Neill vowed, “We’re going to guard you. That’s going to happen, no matter what.”
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Cal coach Mike Montgomery sat down at the interview table and said, “It’s good to see everybody and, in light of recent circumstances, it’s good to be seen.”
Montgomery was diagnosed about a month ago with bladder cancer.
“Through a series of extremely fortuitous events, we were able to get in, get the little polyp, tumor, out and everything since that time has been all clear, all clear, all clear. Essentially I went from having high-grade bladder cancer to cancer-free at this point.”
Montgomery said he was resumed some basketball duties and that he will have no physical limitations this season.
“I will be back full-time Monday, much to the players’ chagrin,” he said.
He said that the doctors told him that if he had been checked six months earlier, the cancer would not have been detected. Six months later, he said, and it would have been too late.
“It’s scary,” he said.
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Colorado is paired with Utah as a travel partner in the new Pac-12, which might — or might not — create a rivalry.
“I don’t know if you pick a rival,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. ”
“I know everybody is trying yo make Utah our rival and maybe that is what it will end up being, but I’m more of the mind that rivalries develop.”
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New Utah coach Larry Krystowiak was asked by one of his local beat writers this morning what it felt like to be picked a “distant last” in the Pac-12 media poll.
“Distant last? What’s distant last?” Krystowiak said he replied.
“Then I looked and we were the only team with two digits.”
He was referring to the fact Utah had 74 points in the poll; Colorado and Washington State tied for 10th with 119 points.
“For us, we have so many internal things to try to improve on and learn than we really haven’t had a lot of time to sort out where we might fit in in the overall scheme of things,” Krystowiak said. “Just because we’re picked last has no relevance to me. There are always two or three teams in every league that exceed expectations.”
Further showing his dry wit he noted that the league media had correctly picked the winner of the conference in 12 of the past 19 years and wondered what’s the record for picking the worst team.
“Hopefully, that is not quite as high a number,” he said.
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Washington State guard Marcus Capers is asked which player in the Pac-12 is toughest to guard. His answer: Cal’s Allen Crabbe, the league Freshman of the Year last season.
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Washington State coach Ken Bone on new Utah coach Larry Krystowiak, the former coach at Montana and an ex-NBA coach: “Larry is intense. They play relentless basketball and will bring it. They are going to be a team to be reckoned with, there is no doubt about it.”
Utah doesn’t have the personnel to compete right away, but it has the tradition to be a factor in a few years. The Utes have eight new players and only four returning players.
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Oregon is a bit of a mystery with eight newcomers — eight very talented newcomers that includes Louisiana Tech transfer Olu Ashaolu (who could be a rebounding machine in the Pac-12) and, more notably in recruiting circles, freshman guard Jabari Brown.
He will play a significant role; how much is to be determined,” coach Dana Altman said. “He shoots it well from the perimeter and is getting better at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket.”
As for the impact of those eight new scholarship players?
“We like our increased athleticism; we like our increased depth,” Altman said. “It will take some time for us to jell as a team. I think team chemistry is going to be important.”
Oregon was widely picked last in the league last season but went 7-11 and tied for seventh. The Ducks are picked fifth in this season’s media poll.
“This year, people are expecting some things,” said senior guard Garrett Sim.
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Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins is bullish on his point guard position. He said sophomore Aaron Bright “is probably our most improved player.” And then there is touted freshman Chasson Randle.
“Chasson Randle definitely gives us depth there and definitely answers some of our questions as to how do we compete in the Pac-12,” Dawkins said.
“When I first saw Chasson, I thought he was a winner. I also saw a young man who was very versatile in his play. … I think he adds another dimension to our team.”