The wildcats may be weaker after losing Sean Elliott and Anthony Cook to the NBA, but no team in the conference is capable of razing Arizona. Only UCLA will make a credible challenge. The Bruins have the league's best forward tandem in Trevor Wilson and Don MacLean. Wilson, a 6'8" senior, has led the Fac-10 in rebounding for the past two seasons, and MacLean, a 6'10" sophomore, was UCLA's top scorer in 1988-89.
However, the Bruins' most remarkable returnee is sophomore guard Gerald Madkins. On July 25, 1988, Madkins was riding his moped to a Westwood movie theater when he was hit head-on by a car. His pelvis was broken, and his spine was rotated almost completely around. He endured two operations, in which steel pins and metal plates were inserted into his abdomen. Now, after redshirting last season, Madkins has played himself into the starting lineup.
If Gary Payton of OREGON STATE surpasses his 244 assists of last season by just 14, he'll be the NCAA's alltime dish leader. He and his mates should get plenty of chances to run under a frisky new coach, Jim Anderson. He replaces Ralph Miller, who has retired after 19 years on the bench in Corvalis. Talk about patience, loyalty and perseverance: Anderson, 52, has been at Oregon State as a player or coach for all but two years since he enrolled at the school in 1954.
New coach Lynn Nance will make WASHINGTON resemble those Husky squads on which he played in the early '60s. He returns via St. Mary's ( Calif.), which was among the nation's defensive leaders during his three years as coach, and the FBI, for which he earlier served as a special agent. Nance may have to draw upon his experience as a G-man because, beyond guard Eldridge Recasner, the Huskies are suspect.
Coach Lou Campanelli will be hard pressed to continue the turnaround at CALIFORNIA. The Bears won 20 games last season after winning only nine in 1987-88. Senior guard Keith Smith, who broke Kevin Johnson's single-season assist record last year, will cushion the fall. No team in the conference will drop as far as STANFORD, last season's Pac-10 runner-up. The Cardinal must replace four solid starters—All-America Todd Lichti among them.
Arizona State's new coach has a way of inspiring his players to new heights—but so far only by leaving. At least Bill Frieder, who coached Michigan until accepting the Arizona State job two days before the Wolverines began play in the NCAA tournament they would go on to win, won't be accused of squandering talent with this team, which won only five conference games in 1988-89. Also unraveling is USC, which has finished last in each of George Raveling's three years as coach. Last season the Trojans lost nine games by five points or fewer. Raveling won't have to worry about his team gagging in the clutch again. The games won't be close.
Washington State, which lost its best player from a 10-19 team, will have only OREGON to abuse. The Ducks should pick up where they left off last season—by extending their nine-game losing streak.