Basketball practice doesn’t begin for another month, but Athlon Sports magazine has hit the shelves and offers its picks for the upcoming season.
Athlon predicts Duke will beat Purdue in the national championship game, with Kansas and Michigan State also advancing to the Final Four. No Pac-10 team will reach the Sweet 16, the magazine says.
Defending Pac-10 champion Cal is picked to finish sixth this season, and junior guard Jorge Gutierrez was tabbed as the league’s top defensive player.
The league’s entire order of finish, according to Athlon: 1. Washington; 2. Arizona; 3. UCLA; 4. Arizona State; 5. Washington State; 6. Cal; 7. Oregon State; 8. Stanford; 9. USC; 10. Oregon.
(Note: I contributed preview stories on Cal and Stanford — and the Big West Conference — but had no hand in making the magazine’s Pac-10 predictions).
My early view of things: The top three or four seem about right, Cal could be a spot or so higher, WSU a spot or two lower, and I’d never pick USC as low as ninth.