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Basketball: Arizona picked to win Pac-12; Cal tabbed 7th

Arizona was a near-unanimous pick to win the Pac-12 men’s basketball championship, according to a poll of 32 media members who cover the conference.

Cal was voted seventh.

The Wildcats, picked for the third straight year to win the league, collected 31 of 32 first-place votes to easily outdistance Utah and Colorado in the Pac-12 poll, announced Thursday at media day.

Arizona accumulated 383 total points, with Utah second at 317 and Colorado one point back in third. UCLA, which secured the only other first-place vote, was fourth with 290 points.

Stanford, coming off a Sweet 16 appearance, was picked fifth with 264 points and Cal, under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin, is tabbed to finish seventh. Washington was picked sixth with 189 points, one more than Cal totaled.

Finishing eighth through 12th are Oregon, Arizona State, USC, Washington State and Oregon State.

The media have correctly picked the conference winner 13 times over the past 22 seasons.

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Football: Pac-12 media day leftovers

A few more items from Pac-12 media day on Wednesday in Hollywood . . .

In all my running around Paramount Studios, never managed to post results of the annual media poll on BearTalk. Of course, you probably didn’t expect Cal to finish on top, anyway.

In fact, the Bears were picked last in the Pac-12 North, collecting 41 total points. That means only two of the 39 voters picked Cal as high as fifth place. Everyone else has them finishing sixth again.

Oregon received 37 first-place votes to easily outdistance Stanford for the top spot in the North, followed by Washington, Oregon State and Washington State.

UCLA got 37 first-place votes to top USC in the South division, followed by Arizona State, Arizona. Utah and Colorado.

Twenty-four voters picked Oregon to win the Pac-12 title game, with 13 votes going to UCLA. One voter each picked Stanford and USC.

*****

Cal coach Sonny Dykes said senior Chris Adcock, who missed the final eight games last season with a knee injury, likely will regain his starting center spot. Adcock is expected to be eased into workouts, beginning Aug. 4, but Dykes said he should be ready to play the Aug. 30 opener at Northwestern.

That will allow junior Jordan Rigsbee, who finished last season at center, to shift to right tackle, where no one has stepped forward to secure the position.

If everything falls into place, here is Cal’s projected O-line: LT Steven Moore, LG Chris Borrayo, C Chris Adcock, RG Alejandro Crosthwaite, RT Jordan Rigsbee.

*****

Dykes said there is no word still on whether James Looney will be granted the waiver he has requested to be immediately eligible after transferring last spring from Wake Forest.

A sophomore defensive tackle, Looney would be an impact player for the Bears, Dykes said, if available.

*****

Looney’s presence would be doubly important because, as I reported last week, Dykes confirmed that sophomore DT Jacobi Hunter has left Cal. Hunter was married earlier this year and will play at a small school in his home state of Texas.

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Pac-12 media day: No DirecTV deal near

There likely will be no agreement between the Pac-12 Networks and DirecTV for the third straight football season, conference commissioner Larry Scott said.

“There is no latest, unfortunately. It looks very unlikely under the present ownership of DirecTV that they’re going to carry us,” Scott during Wednesday’s Pac-12 football media day at Paramount Studios.

AT&T announced in May its intention to purchase DirecTV in a $48.5-billion deal that is not yet finalized.

“I’m much more hopeful that when AT&T buys DirecTV we’ll have different kinds of discussions and outcomes,” Scott said.

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Pac-12 media day: Commissioner Larry Scott optimistic about future of college athletics

Two days after Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby outlined a grim future for college athletics, his Pac-12 counterpart painted a very different picture.

“While we’ve heard some doomsday and some threats over the last week, I am very confident and optimistic about where college sports is going,” Pac-12 commission Larry Scott said Wednesday during the league’s football media day at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

Scott touted the presidents and chancellors of the Pac-12 for advancing an agenda intended to “bring college sports into the modern era.” He said he embraces proposed reforms that include promoting student-athlete health and welfare, integrating them more broadly into campus life and providing them greater financial support.”

Bowlsby, the former Stanford athletic director, warned that the NCAA’s enforcement staff is toothless to halt cheating and that “a strange environment” featuring lawsuits by former athletes threatens college sports.

He argued against unionization of college athletics and said paying athletes could spell the end of many Olympic-sport programs.

Scott doesn’t envision such a bleak horizon.

“We know there are some significant challenges out there, and we know it’s time to make significant changes,” he said. “Today requires that we do more for student-athletes who work so hard to find balance for their passions for their sport while still wanting to get an education.”

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Basketball: Cal’s Roger Moute a Bidias selected to Pac-12 all-star squad for summer trip to China

Cal sophomore forward Roger Moute a Bidias has been chosen to participate with a Pac-12 Conference all-star squad on a four-game tour of China, beginning Aug. 10.

Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak will coach the Pac-12 team, featuring 13 players from 10 different conference schools. The tour is part of the Pac-12′s Globilization Initiative.

Moute a Bidias played sparingly for Cal last season as a true freshman.

Other players on the Pac-12 squad include Utah forward Jordan Loveridge (14.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg), Colorado forward Xavier Johnson (12.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Washington guard Andrew Andrews (12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and Washington State guard DaVonte Lacy (19.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg).

The Pac-12 squad will play one game against a Chinese university all-star team and play three vs. Chinese professional teams, including one against the Shanghai Sharks. The Shanghai franchise is owned by former eight-time NBA all-star Yao Ming and features former Cal center Max Zhang.

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Evaluating the Pac-12 presidents’ proposals

The Pac-12 presidents covered a lot of territory in their proposals for NCAA changes outlined in a letter sent to their counterparts of the four other major football-playing conferences.

Some good ideas, a few that need substantial detail, and at least one that ain’t happening. Here’s my reaction:

– Permit institutions to make scholarship awards up to the full cost of attendance.

Reaction: That’s right, full scholarships do not necessarily– and in most cases don’t — cover the full cost of a student attending a school. Especially for kids whose families don’t have a lot of resources, this is an issue. There is plenty of money available at the big schools, no matter what anyone says, and this is right and reasonable.

– Provide reasonable ongoing medical or insurance assistance for student-athletes who suffer an incapacitating injury in competition or practice. Continue efforts to reduce the incidence of disabling injury.

Reaction: It’s unthinkable this is not standard procedure. Should be at the top of the list.

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Pac-12 presidents call for sweeping NCAA reform, including stipends, conference autonomy

The Pac-12 presidents have sent a letter to their counterparts at the four other major football conferences, asking for substantial changes to the way the NCAA functions, including stipends for athletes, better medical coverage and autonomy for the leagues.

The letter, obtained by the Associated Press, said the league’s 12 presidents were unanimous in their endorsement of the sweeping changes.

Click here for the full story.

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Basketball: Two weeks to go, little resolved

There are two weeks left in the Pac-12 regular-season race and although Arizona appears to have a firm grip on first place, there are critical issues left unsettled.

The top four finishers earn first-round byes in the Pac-12 tournament and at least five more teams have legitimate designs on those spots.

“With the four games left,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said, “some people have tougher jobs than others, but eveyrone’s got a chance.”

Here’s a look at the upper half of the conference and what lies ahead for each team:

* ARIZONA (12-2, 25-2)
vs. Cal, Wednesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
vs. Stanford, Sunday, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
at Oregon State, Wednesday, March 5, 8 p.m. (FoxSports1)
at Oregon, Saturday, March 8, 1 p.m. (CBS)

* UCLA (10-4, 21-6)
vs. Oregon, Thursday, 8 p.m. (FoxSports1)
vs. Oregon State, Sunday, 6 p.m. (FoxSports1)
at Washington, Thursday, March 6, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
at Washington State, Saturday, March 8, 8 p.m. (FoxSports1)

* CAL (9-5, 18-9)
at Arizona, Wednesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
at Arizona State, Saturday, 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
vs. Utah, Wednesday, March 5, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
vs. Colorado, Saturday, March 8, 3:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

* STANFORD (9-5, 18-8)
at Arizona State, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
at Arizona, Sunday, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
vs. Colorado, Wednesday, March 5, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
vs. Utah, Saturday, March 8, 11:30 a.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

* COLORADO (9-6, 20-8)
at Utah, Saturday, 11 a.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
at Stanford, Wednesday, March 5, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
at Cal, Saturday, March 8, 3:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

* ARIZONA STATE (8-6, 19-8)
vs. Stanford, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
vs. Cal, Saturday, 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
at Oregon, Tuesday, March 4, 8 p.m. (FoxSports1)
at Oregon State, Saturday, March 8, 1:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

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Basketball: Dave Butler to Pac-12 Hall of Honor

Dave Butler, a four-year (1983-86) starting forward who helped Cal to its first postseason bid in 26 seasons, will be inducted into the Pac-12 Basketball Hall of Honor on March 14 during the conference tournament at Las Vegas.

Butler still ranks 19th on Cal’s career scoring list (1,291 points) and sixth in rebounding (814). He was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 1983 and led the Bears in rebounding three times.

He still holds the Cal record of 113 career starts and set single-game school marks of 20 free throws made and 24 attempts against Arizona State in 1987.

Butler and the Bears ended a 26-year postseason drought with an NIT appearance in 1986, and they returned the next year, advancing to the tournament’s quarterfinals.

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Basketball: UCLA tips off big week for Bears

With three weeks left in the Pac-12 regular season, the possibilities for the Cal and Stanford men’s basketball teams seem to be growing, not shrinking.

For Cal (18-7, 8-4), tied for third with Arizona State after a road sweep in Washington, there suddenly is a path opening to the conference championship.

And for Stanford (16-8, 7-5), still residing in the upper division of a conference getting increased respect from the bracketology crowd, the road to its first NCAA tournament bid in six seasons has become less cluttered.

But it all starts this week with UCLA.

The 23rd-ranked Bruins (20-5, 9-3) visit Cal on Wednesday and Stanford on Saturday. UCLA was impressive in beating both Bay Area schools in Los Angeles a month ago, but has shown vulnerability on the road in losses at Utah and Oregon State.

If the Bears or Cardinal can hold serve at home, the race at the top tightens.

Cal’s win over then-unbeaten Arizona demonstrated the Bears can play with anyone in the Pac-12, when properly inspired. They should be plenty motivated against UCLA, given what’s at stake.

Click here to read the rest of my college basketball column.