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UCLA picked to win Pac-12 basketball title, but the vote is close

The Bruins, who are ranked 17th in AP's preseason poll, receive 14 first-place votes from conference media members, just ahead of California (13) and Arizona (11).

October 28, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • UCLA Coach Ben Howland responds to a question during a media session that included guard Lazeric Jones, right, on Friday.
UCLA Coach Ben Howland responds to a question during a media session that… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)

Playing basketball away from Pauley Pavilion shouldn't keep UCLA from making itself at home wherever it goes in the Pacific 12 Conference.

At least that was the assessment of conference media members who picked the Bruins to win the Pac-12 title in a close race with California and Arizona.

UCLA, which will play most of its home games at the Sports Arena this season while its permanent home receives a makeover, received 14 first-place votes to Cal's 13 and Arizona's 11.

"It doesn't help us win one game," Bruins Coach Ben Howland said Friday at L.A. Live during Pac-12 media day. "All it does is make the bull's-eye even bigger, and you've already got the bull's-eye because you have those four letters on your chest. We've got to go out and prove it."

Washington was picked fourth, followed by Oregon, Stanford, USC, Oregon State, Arizona State, Colorado and Washington State (tied for 10th), and Utah. The Times does not participate in media voting.

UCLA returns three starters and features one of the most imposing front lines in the country with 6-foot-10 center Joshua Smith, 6-10 forwards David and Travis Wear and 6-8 forward Reeves Nelson.

The Bruins also checked in at No. 17 in the first Associated Press poll, marking the first time they have been ranked since the end of the 2008-09 season. Arizona was No. 16 and Cal No. 24.

UCLA could be without reserve center Anthony Stover when it opens the season against Loyola Marymount on Nov. 11. Stover was diagnosed with a partial cartilage tear in his left shoulder two days after injuring it in practice. Stover is officially listed as day to day but could be sidelined a week or more.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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