UA basketball tops pre-season media poll; ASU at No. 7

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                </div>The Arizona Wildcats are sitting at the top of the Pac-12 pre-season men’s basketball poll and generally considered a heavy favorite to win the conference title that narrowly eluded them […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The Arizona Wildcats are sitting at the top of the Pac-12 pre-season men’s basketball poll and generally considered a heavy favorite to win the conference title that narrowly eluded them last year.

But the Cats’ head coach, Sean Miller, is doing what he can to spin the results of the media poll that was just released, trying to relieve some the pressure that comes with such high expectations.

Yesterday at the annual Pac-12 media day, the fifth-year head coach called the Pac-12 “the deepest conference I have coached in” and pointed out that there are seven or eight teams in the conference that are capable of finishing in the top two spots.

“To me, we have never had more depth that we have this year as a conference,” he added.  “I think that some of the teams that have been at the bottom are much, much improved.  As a matter of fact, they might even be near the top.”

However, despite the attempt to deflect the expectations, the Wildcats received 21 first-place votes to outdistance second-place UCLA, which earned one first-place vote.  The remaining first-place vote went to Colorado.

This is the second straight year that Arizona has been the top pick in the pre-season poll, but last year they were picked to win it over UCLA by just one vote.  However, the Bruins turned the tables by winning the conference and the Cats ended up in a three-way tie for second place.

On the other side of the state, expectations for Arizona State weren’t that high, as the Sun Devils came in at No. 7 in the pre-season poll – despite the fact that sophomore point guard Jahii Carson will be a strong contender for the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Carson, who passed up the NBA draft for another year of college ball, averaged 18.5 points and 5.1 assists last season and was named to the All Pac-12 first team.

“Certainly, Jahii had tremendous expectations going into his first year with us last season,” said his head coach, Herb Sendek, at his media day interview. “And one of the things that I was most amazed with was his ability to handle that with grace and poise.  And I know he’s worked very hard in the offseason, as his teammates have, to improve and be even better this year.”

Evidently, that wasn’t enough to convince the media after the Sun Devils just managed to get to .500 in Pac-12 play last season, finishing 9-9.

But Sendek is optimistic, as is his nature.

“I’m excited about our team,” he told the media at his interview session.  “I think we have a good group of guys that are working hard.  We have good spirit, good energy in the gym.  I think our depth has improved from last year.

“And, at the same time, we’re very cognizant of the fact that we’re going to be competing in arguably the best conference in the country this year.”

(Photo: ASU Athletics)