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Cougs picked to finish sixth in Pac-10

The Pac-10 preseason media poll was released today. As usual, pretty safe picks following conventional wisdom:

Rank Team (First Place Votes) Points
1 UCLA (37) 379
2 Arizona State (1) 325
3 USC 292
4 Arizona 241
5 Washington 217
6 Washington State 188
7 Oregon 147
8 Cal 143
9 Stanford 115
10 Oregon State 40

Picking the Cougs sixth seems like the rational choice, although I think it still reflects a certain amount of distrust of the Cougs' accomplishments over the past two years. It's almost like people need to see Bennett do it with someone other than Low and Weaver before they'll really believe that the Cougs consistently belong in the top half of the conference. In my mind, you could make a pretty good preseason case for elevating the Cougs as high as No. 4, given Arizona's turmoil (although I'm guessing the poll was done before Olson's retirement) and UW underachievement the last two seasons.

The rest all seems about right to me. UCLA is clearly better than everyone, Arizona State probably deserves to be second based on the "known quantity" factor, and USC probably deserves to be third thanks to a highly touted recruiting class. You probably could make a case for either Arizona or UW in the 4/5 spots. Oregon seems like a clear No. 7.

It'll be interesting to see if the bottom of the conference turns out to be as weak as it appears. Cal at No. 8 seems like more a vote for Mike Montgomery than anything, while Stanford's drop to No. 9 shows just how much that team relied on Brook Lopez. And, of course, the Beavs are right where they belong.

By the way, the Bruins were that one first place vote to ASU away from a perfect 380. In perhaps the upset of the season so far, Oregon State was a not a unanimous last-place pick. Either two writers picked them ninth, or one writer picked them eighth. Either way, I can't fathom how anyone who knows anything could vote the Beavers anything other than 10th. But then again, as myriad sportswriters have proved, just because you cover sports for a living, doesn't mean you know enough to predict anything.

For the record, the Pac-10 media generally are pretty good at picking the top -- they've correctly picked four of the last six champs.

If you're curious, here's last year's poll ... and how it turned out:

Rank Team (First Place Votes) Points Actual
1 UCLA (33) 339 1
2 WSU (1) 273 t-3
3 Oregon 240 5
4 Arizona 238 7
5 Stanford 205 2
6 USC 184 t-3
7 Cal 140 9
8 Washington 132 8
9 Arizona State 81 6
10 Oregon State 38 10

Then, of course, there's the ever awesome 2006-2007 poll. Remember this one?

Rank Team (First Place Votes) Points Actual
1 UCLA (21) 335 1
2 Arizona (13) 280 4
3 Washington 236 7
4 Oregon (1)
193 3
5 Cal 177 8
6 USC 160 5
7 Stanford
127 6
8 Oregon State
75 9
9 Arizona State
69 10
10 Washington State 54 2

That will always make me smile.