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West Region

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Posted: Monday October 30, 2000 3:54 PM
Updated: Wednesday November 01, 2000 10:26 AM

  Tara VanDerveer Tara VanDerveer will have four returning starters to help the Cardinal's cause. Todd Warshaw /Allsport

By CNNSI.com

It's difficult to know where to look for the West's best chance at making a run deep into the next NCAA tournament.

Stanford? The Cardinal, the last team from this side of the Mississippi to win a national title (1992), appear to be the best that the not-so-scary Pac-10 has to offer. Oregon or Santa Barbara? Things were looking up until their best players -- Oregon's Shaquala Williams and Santa Barbara's Erin Buescher -- went down and/or out. Or is it time for USC, Pepperdine or Utah? New blue-chip recruits classes and solid chemistry from returning starters could make all the difference. We'll see.

Teams That Will Make the NCAA Tournament
Arizona (Pac-10)  Southern Methodist (WAC) 
Montana (Big Sky)  Stanford (Pac-10) 
Oregon (Pac-10)  UC Santa Barbara (Big West) 
Pepperdine (West Coast)  USC (Pac-10) 
Santa Clara (West Coast)  Utah (Mountain West) 
 

Top Storylines
Wait! Someone's missing. So much for star security when injuries and changes of heart, mind and spirit strike. Defending Pac-10 champion Oregon will have go without Pac-10 Player of the Year guard Shaquala Williams (torn ACL in left knee) for the season and senior guard/forward Lindsey Dion (torn lateral meniscus in right knee) for six weeks. UCLA's only returning starter, sophomore guard Nicole Kaczmarski, a former Gatorade national player of the year, decided not come back to school for the fall quarter for personal reasons and a nagging foot injury (plantar faciitis) that could require surgery. And Erin Buescher, the three-time Big West player of the year and All-America candidate, won't be back at UC Santa Barbara for her senior season. For religious reasons, she has transferred to The Master's College, a Christian school in Santa Clarita, Calif.

Hello again, Stanford. After a few seasons of rebuilding and slight sputtering, coach Tara VanDerveer and the Cardinal are back. Four starters -- 2000 All-Pac-10 freshman of the year Jamie Carey and conference honorable mentions 6-0 Lauren St. Clair, 6-6 Carolyn Moos and 6-2 Bethany Donaphin -- return from last season's 21-9 squad that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. Starting point guard Milena Flores is gone, but freshman Susan King could be stepping in. And then there's another one of VanDerveer's trademark big-time recruiting classes, which includes 6-2 Nicole Powell, 6-3 Chelsea Trotter and 6-2 Rebecca Bonner, ready to go. Already, the Cardinal is the preseason favorite in Pac-10 coaches' preseason poll, taking nine first-place votes in the conference, and is among the Top 15 in several preseason polls.

Teams
On the Rise
USC
• The Pac-10 coaches' preseason poll picked the Trojans to finish third in the conference. The Trojans, who went 16-14 last season, carry the momentum of going 7-2 in the second half of conference season and earning a bid to the postseason Women's NIT. Two starters -- junior Tiffany Elmore (10.6 ppg) and senior Tashara Carter (10.0 ppg) -- are among eight returning letterwinners on an all-around, much improved team. Add to that 6-2 freshman center and Parade All-American Ebony Hoffman, who will give plenty of defenses trouble.
Pepperdine
• Four starters are back from last season's 21-10 team that earned the school's first NCAA bid. Reigning West Coast Conference player of the year Rasheeda Clark and WCC freshman of the year Damaris Hinojosa again make up the starting backcourt. This and a highly touted recruiting class made the Waves an obvious and overwhelming favorite in the conference coaches' preseason poll.
Southern Methodist
• Last season, the Mustangs went 22-9, claimed the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. Coach Rhonda Rompola has built something good, with three starters, including All-America candidate D-dra Rucker (16.0 ppg), back this season for the conference frontrunners.
Rebuilding
Arizona
• In the back court, the Wildcats lost Pac-10 career three-point leader Lisa Griffith and All-Pac-10 guard Felecity Willis, and in the front court, leading rebounder Tatum Brown and leading scorer Angela Lackey. Junior forward Elizabeth Pickney is the top returning scorer (9.8) and rebounder (4.5) from last season's team that went 25-7 and finished a school-best-tying second in the conference. Guard Reshea Bristol ( 8.6 ppg, 3.1 apg) is the lone senior. There'll be plenty of competition for starting sports in the back court, and USA All-America honorable mention guard Candice Allen could be called upon to contribute early.
UCLA
• This project may take some time. The Bruins lost six seniors, including four starters in Maylana Martin, Erica Gomez, Janae Hubbard and Marie Philman. They were the heart of the 1999 NCAA Elite Eight and accounted for nearly 60 percent of the scoring for last season's 18-11 team that fell short of title expectations with its first-round NCAA tournament defeat. Missing the fall quarter (seven games) will be the Bruins' only returning starter, 2000 Pac-10 all-freshman guard Nicole Kaczmarski (11.7 ppg), who is home for the fall quarter for personal and health reasons; and the Bruins' the sole senior, 1999 All-Pac-10 guard LaCresha Flannigan, who is academically ineligible. But coach Kathy Olivier is keeping her team together, looking to junior guard Michelle Greco for leadership and quick frontcourt help from Texas junior college transfers Shalada Allen and Malika Leatham, both 6-2, and Stacy Robertson, a 6-foot forward.
Santa Barbara
• Four-year point guard Stacey Clinesmith went to the WNBA. All-America candidate and three-time Big West Player of the Year Erin Buescher (17.3 ppg., 9.7 rpg) transferred to a Christian school. Finding replacements won't be so simple for these two players who led Santa Barbara to a 30-4 record, which including the nation's longest win streak of 26 games. This year, a tough schedule, which includes Oregon, USC and Penn State, brings even more challenges. The Gauchos will soon find out if Lindsay Taylor, a 6-8 redshirt freshman center, and top recruit Syretta Coleman, the heir apparent to Clinesmith's spot, are the real things.

Players
Five New Faces to Watch
Ebony Hoffman, USC
• A first-team All American selection by Parade and listed by USA Today as the No. 2 recruit in the nation, the explosive 6-2 Hoffman led Narbonne High (Harbor City, Calif.) to 111-10 record in four years and a mythical national championship as a senior. She averaged 17 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the floor, 47 percent from three-point range.
Nicole Powell, Stanford
• The 6-2 small forward from Phoenix (Mountain Pointe) was a first team selection by USA Today and Parade. She passed on Duke and Notre Dame to take her all-around, WNBA-bound game to Stanford.
Chelsea Trotter, Stanford
• Another member of Stanford's impressive recruiting class, the 6-3 star will compete for time in the middle. She led Brea Olinda (Calif.) to a second straight title, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Syretta Coleman, Santa Barbara
• The fast, 5-9 player from Chandler, Ariz., averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 assists, five rebounds and 4.2 steals in guiding her team to consecutive state 5A crowns.
Shalada Allen, UCLA
• One of three front court junior college transfers on the Bruins, the quick, 6-2 junior from Kilgore College (Texas) averaged 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds. She had 30 steals in 28 games
Five Familiar Faces to Watch
Jamie Carey, Stanford
• The 2000 Pac-10 freshman of the year set a school-record with 81 three-pointers, third highest total in Pac-10 history. The 5-6 sophomore averaged a team-high 12.4 points in conference play.
Angelina Wolvert, Oregon
• With star Shaquala Williams taking a medical redshirt year, the 6-3 senior forward/center could see more opportunities to flash her pro potential. She was second in team scoring (11.8) and first in rebounds (6.0) last season.
Linda Fröhlich, UNLV
• A 6-2 junior, Frolich was the 2000 Mountain West Conference player of the year, leading the conference in scoring (21.1, No. 6 nationally), rebounding (11.4) and steals (3.21 spg). She ranked in the conference top five in assists, free throw percentage. and blocked shots.
Loree Payne, Washington
• The 6-0 sophomore is the leading returning scorer in the Pac-10, having averaged 17.4 points while playing 34.5 minutes a game last season. She looks to end the Huskies' losing ways this season.
Rasheeda Clark, Pepperdine,
• The 2000 West Coast Conference player of the year, the 5-10 senior led the Waves and was fourth in the conference with 15.5 ppg. She played on the 12-person U.S. National team at the World University Games this summer.

Coach to Watch
Caren Horstmeyer, Cal
She is the only new head coach in the Pac-10 this season, taking over for Marianne Stanley at Cal. The Golden Bears, who haven't had a winning season since 1992-1993, were 11-17 last season. Horstmeyer posted a 221-124 record in 12 seasons at Santa Clara and led her team to six West Coast Conference titles and four NCAA Tournament berths. She might just be the change the Golden Bears need.

Toughest Schedule
UCLA
This is nothing new for the Bruins, which had it much tougher last season. This year, they face ranked preseason opponents Duke, Georgia, Utah, Old Dominion and go on the road against Colorado. No game will be easy given all the rebuilding coach Kathy Olivier has to do right away and without projected starters Nicole Kaczmarski and LaCresha Flannigan -- both expected to return for the Pac-10 season.

Toughest Schedule
Mac Court, Eugene, Oregon
Oregon captured its second-straight Pac-10 title last season while averaging a league-high 5,852 fans, one of the top marks in the nation. When it's loud, the Ducks win. They were 23-8 last season.

Things You Didn't Know
• For the first-time in school history, Utah begins a season as the defending regular season and conference tournament champions. Thanks to the nation's best defense and solid three-point shooting, the Utes (23-8) have won or shared a conference title each of the past five years.
• Last season, Arizona set or tied 23 school records, including most wins in a season (25), highest winning percentage (.781), most points (2,484) and most three-point field goals (162).
• UTEP returns three starters, including Amy Pack, the 1999-2000 WAC freshman of the year and the first freshman in league history to lead the WAC in conference-game scoring, averaging 18.5 points per game.
• San Jose State's team will be the tallest in school history with six players six-feet or taller.

Mark Your Calendar
Connecticut at Pepperdine, Nov. 21
• Facing the defending national champion Huskies will show the Waves where they are as a program.
Arizona State vs. Tennessee, Dec. 27
• This game for the AstraZeneca Hoops for the Cure Classic at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Ariz. could set for the NCAA attendance record.
Stanford at Oregon, Jan. 13
• The battle of the Pac-10's two top teams at the toughest place to play.
USC at Stanford, March 1
• If USC wants the Pac-10 title, the Trojans will have to be able to take the favorite Cardinal down.


 
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