When the AVCA released its preseason Top 25 last week, the Pac-12 was well-represented. Voters from around the country saw the Pac-12 as the deepest conference, placing seven of the 12 teams in the Top 25 and landing two more in the “other receiving votes” category.
When the conference released its own coaches’ preseason poll today, though, the opinions were a bit at odds with the national opinion. For Arizona, it showed that the conference coaches have a greater belief in their potential to compete in the conference than the national voters do.
One reason to believe that will happen is the unbalanced schedule. The Arizona schools only face Stanford once this season, while everyone else in the league must face the pre-season No. 1 team in the nation twice. After the first week of conference play, the Wildcats will be done facing the Cardinal.
Arizona, along with ASU and Cal, were one of three conference teams that weren’t mentioned in the AVCA poll. The conference coaches agreed that ASU and Cal would be at the bottom of the league this season, but disagreed that Arizona would be there with them.
In fact, the coaches who see the Wildcats the most felt they would be in a battle with the nationally-ranked No. 19 Utah Utes, who must face Stanford twice.
Stanford was picked No. 1 in both polls. They were followed by USC, who was ranked second in conference and No. 10 in the nation.
Oregon (18th nationally), UCLA (11th), Colorado (15th), and Washington (17th) rounded out the top half of the Pac-12 poll.
The bottom half of the conference poll was led by Washington State, who landed in the ORV list of the national poll last week.
Utah and Arizona followed, separated by a single point in the projections. Oregon State (who also received national votes), ASU, and Cal completed the poll.
With a conference as deep as the Pac-12, being in the bottom half of the league at the end of the year still gives a team a good chance at the NCAA tournament.
If Arizona takes care of business in pre-conference and at least lives up to the conference coaches’ predictions in league play, they will put themselves in a strong position to return after a one-year absence.
“It’s really a process of trying to get the players to develop the skills to be able to compete at the upper level of the conference and then just emotionally and mentally trying to get them a little bit older.” Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said. “And going through a year like we did last year certainly allows us go through that. As much as you don’t like it, sometimes those things happen and I think we’ll benefit from last year.”