Defending champion UCLA was picked to win the Pacific 10, receiving 21 of 35 first-place votes at the conference's annual media day Thursday at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton.
"I don't put much stock into it," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said about the poll of media members. "I wish it meant we were going to finish first, that would be great. Three people picked us for first last year."
The Bruins, who return leading scorer Arron Afflalo and a host of other contributors, had 335 points with Arizona the second choice with 13 first-place votes and 280 points. Washington was picked third, and Oregon, which received the other first-place vote, was chosen fourth. USC was picked to finish sixth.
In 2001-02, UCLA was picked to finish first but wound up sixth. UCLA was picked to finish fourth last year.
With less than two weeks to go before the season opener, freshman Daniel Hackett has emerged as the frontrunner to be USC's starting point guard when the Trojans play South Carolina on Nov. 16 at the Galen Center.
Hackett is battling freshman Kevin Galloway to play a position that is not the natural spot for either player, though they both played it sporadically in high school.
"Hackett's probably a little further ahead right now because he doesn't turn it over as much," Coach Tim Floyd said. "Hackett's probably got a little better grasp of what we're trying to run, but that doesn't mean that Galloway won't a week from now because they're both talented guys."
The Trojans will be without junior guard Gabe Pruitt for at least their first 10 games because he is academically ineligible. Floyd has barred Pruitt from practice so that he can focus on his schoolwork.
USC junior swingman Nick Young said he was disappointed that he and Pruitt were not included on the list of 50 preseason Wooden Award candidates. Both were first-team All-Pac-10 selections as sophomores and are the two leading returning scorers in the conference.
"I believe we worked hard and tried to do a good job out there, and it really didn't pay off," said Young, who averaged 17.3 points and 6.6 rebounds. "I guess by being at USC it makes us the underdogs. It makes us work harder, really."
Floyd said he could understand how Pruitt, who averaged 16.9 points, might not be included because of his academic situation.
"Nick Young has done enough," Floyd said. "He should be on there."
USC freshman forward Kasey Cunningham is progressing slower than expected from a torn knee ligament and might not be able to return until conference play starts in late December at the earliest, Floyd said. A redshirt season is a possibility.
"We've got to sit there and say, 'Is it worth it to try and throw this guy in there in the Pac-10 and have him give up a year of eligibility?' " Floyd said.
Injuries for teams around the conference seemed to be the theme at media day.
Spencer Hawes, a talented 7-foot freshman at Washington, hasn't had a full practice yet because of arthroscopic knee surgery. Coach Lorenzo Romar said Hawes should be back next week.
Arizona Coach Lute Olson said Jawann McClellan was still struggling with a knee injury that sidelined the junior guard for part of last season, and that senior center Kirk Walters has a concussion.
Stanford Coach Trent Johnson said, "My enthusiasm is tempered a little bit going into the year," because the Cardinal is so far missing highly regarded freshman Brook Lopez, one of a pair of 7-foot twins (Robin is the other) on the team.
Lopez had back surgery and hasn't practiced yet and junior center Peter Prowitt fractured a knee bone two weeks ago.
Oregon Coach Ernie Kent was a no-show. Assistant Scott Duncan said Kent had shoulder surgery Tuesday and couldn't fly.
Ben Braun, starting his 11th year as California's head coach, said the conference was "as deep a conference as I've seen," and Olson said he thought the Pac-10 is "as deep a conference as there is."