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Arizona Clear Favorite At Pac-12 Hoops Media Day

Easily lost in the shuffle midway in the football season, the Pac-12 nevertheless held Media Day for the upcoming hoops season today in Walnut Creek, CA, and Arizona is the overwhelming favorite to claim the conference title.

The Wildcats, ranked 5th in the USA Today Coaches Pre-Season Poll, were the nearly unanimous pick of the media members in attendance, garnering 21 of 23 first place votes. UCLA and Colorado, picked to finish second and third in a very tight, 1 place point race, each received 1 of the other 2 first place picks.

Oregon St. was picked to finish 10th, very slightly behind Utah, and only slightly ahead of USC.

Oregon and California were closely grouped for 4th & 5th, and Stanford and Arizona St. form another tier, at 7th and 8th.

Washington was picked 8th, and there's considerably separation on both sides of the Huskies. Washington St. is so distantly in last place that the opinion was clearly that the Cougs could finish 13th in the 12 team conference.

Here's the complete poll:

Team Points First place votes
1. Arizona 273 21
2. UCLA 212 1
3. Colorado 211 1
4. Oregon 196
5. California 194
6. Stanford 166
7. Arizona State 159
8. Washington 121
9. Utah 68
10. Oregon State 67
11. USC 63
12. Washington State 39

Oregon St. was represented by head coach Craig Robinson and senior guard Roberto Nelson, who defeated Oregon's Johnathan Loyd 2-0 (21-13, 23-21) in a best-of-three ping-pong match.

In other news, Bobby Dibler, the new Pac-12 head of officials, advised that there would probably be more fouls called this year, with more emphasis on reducing hand-checking, and more blocking fouls vs. charges. Oh, joy!

Here's the transcript of what Coach Robinson had to say in response to reporters' questions:

Robinson's assessment of the state of the Pac-12:

"I think the league is probably going to be as good as it's been in the five years that I've been here. It's going to be exciting for everyone. I don't think you're going to have a night off. As far as NCAA teams, I hope they take 12. No, I'm just kidding. I would say it's not out of the realm of possibility to get five or six teams."

Robinson on his statement last summer that Nelson should be "first-team all beer League:"

"That was a jab at Roberto's conditioning at that point in time. And don't poo-poo the all-beer league. I've been on some beer-league teams and we've beaten a lot of guys. It really was to let all of our guys know that at some point, you will be at a point inevitably where basketball is secondary or tertiary in your development. When you're here at Oregon State, now is not that time. We want to take our conditioning seriously."

Robinson on the Beavers' defense, which was last in the conference last season:

"Our defense is going to be a lot better. A lot of that has to do with the fact that both Daniel Gomis and Angus Brandt are going to be back in the fold. I think you'll see better man-to-man defense from us, just because we've got a full year of it under our belt. The guy sitting next to me and the rest of our backcourt are in great shape, and they embrace defending. And I think that's going to help us because I think that's where we fell down when we lost all those close games last season."

Robinson's update on the Eric Moreland suspension:

"With Eric Moreland, and I'll digress for a minute and tell you that he's handling his suspension about as well as I've seen anyone handle it. So I'm excited about that, but you can't replace an Eric Moreland. He's just a terrific player, a dynamic defender and rebounder. What we have to do is we have to replace his production as a team. So I'm asking Roberto, I'm asking Angus and I'm asking Daniel Gomis and Jarmal Reid, all to replace his production until he gets back. And really what I think is going to happen is we're going to have more tools in our tool kit once Eric does come back. And that, I know it sounds like I'm spinning it positively, but that's really the way I see it."

Robinson on his the 3 Oregon St. freshmen:

"I've got three newcomers on my team. Cheikh N'daiye, the 7-footer from Senegal ... he's going to have to help us while Eric is out. But I have two guards who I'm really impressed with. Malcolm Duvivier, who's from Toronto, Canada, and Hallice Cooke, who is from Union City, N.J., by way of St. Anthony, who are going to get significant minutes to help these guys out. And I think they're going to be ones to watch."

Robinson on why Oregon St suffered such a large drop off from 2011-12 to 2012-13:

"It's pretty easy to see what happened. We had to build this program from the ground up, and we had a terrific recruiting class that included Roberto, Joe Burton, Angus Brandt and Jared Cunningham. What took place last year is we had a team that was supposed to have Jared Cunningham, Angus Brandt, along with Roberto and Joe Burton. ... I thought we were shorthanded. What we're doing to get back on track is I have a team that has a year of hard-edged, Pac-12 experience under their belt who lost a lot of really close games. The way I look at it, you make three or four more defensive stops and you change those outcomes, you have a completely different season."

Nelson even got one question, about what the Beavers must do to reach the upper half of the conference:

"The conference is definitely deep this year, and I wouldn't be surprised as well to have multiple teams that are going to be ranked and that are going to make the tournament. But I think we're doing all of the necessary things. And one of the things we're focusing on this year is raising the bar, and going the extra degree. ... And like coach said, I used to be in the beer league. But through hard work and my teammates pushing me each day and raising the bar, I'm in the best shape in my life. Now I can push these guys and have the freshmen come in and make sure they're doing the right thing."

Basketball begins Tuesday, Oct. 29, when Oregon St. hosts an exhibition game against Corban University of Salem, OR.