Staff picks


Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 21, 2003

Men's national champion

Mr. Bacon does have school spirit! That's right, and I'm going with the Wildcats to win the championship this year. The team seems spookily similar to the national champions of 1997, so why couldn't we cut the nets in March? Andre's determination + Hassan's vertical Gardner's shooting drought + Mustafa's youth Channing's cement hands X Salim's quick release / Dunn's two-week notice + Ranne's Homecoming crown = Lute's second ring (and no underage drinking).


Arizona

Women's national champion

The problem with women's basketball is that upset factor. Not only do you have the Gonzagas and Valparaisos of the big dance, but the kids that climb the beanstalk either come from Tennessee of Connecticut. So after many hours of heads and tails, I have concluded that UConn will win the national championship. The Huskies will cruise through the regular season with fewer than two losses.


Connecticut

Men's national player of the year

I'm a dark horse kind of guy, and right now, Gonzaga's Blake Stepp is as appealing as Paris Hilton's film career. The 6-foot-4 senior from Eugene, Ore. averaged 18 points and six assists last year and tried to end the Wildcats' hopes of a national championship before he saw how close he was to the goal and clanked it off the backboard. His court vision is that of a bigger, stronger Luke Ridnour.


Blake Stepp, Gonzaga

Women's national player of the year

You know when you're playing ball at the rec and that short kid keeps hitting the back of your hand until there isn't anything else to do except shove him on the hardwood? Yep, that's Diana Taurasi of UConn - and not only is she the best collegiate player of the last two years, but she could possibly be the best Connecticut player of all time (Sorry, Rebecca Lobo).


Diana Taurasi, Connecticut


Men's national champion

Everyone is picking U Conn, but the Huskies have been jinxed so bad that a title's out of the question. Duke's way overrated as usual, and Dick Vitale will be crying into his Mike Kdsjkfepiorwejkdfhs sheets again. Kansas lost too many players and has Bill Self for a coach. And I think Missouri is not going to be allowed in the tourney, so they can't win. So that leaves the Spartans. (Or maybe someone else?)


Michigan State

Women's national champion

The Huskies return all their starters from last year's title team, so UConn's the choice, of course. UConn will win three national championships in a row because they have the best depth. That, and I'm pretty sure there is some rule preventing anyone besides UConn and Tennessee from winning a national title - and the Huskies have the Lady Vols' number, having beat them in the past two title games.


Connecticut

Men's national player of the year

The Huskies can't win in all four of these categories, but they can come pretty damn close. Everyone likes Emeka more than Michael Jackson likes little bo... I mean, being white, and for good reason. He can score, rebound and, best yet, block shots with the best of 'em. Okafor will easily be a lottery pick next June, but he is also a whiz in the classroom. Watch him take a bunch of the "competition" in the Big Least to school.


Emeka Okafor, Connecticut

Women's national player of the year

Diana Taurasi won it last year, so why not? I'd like to say Polkey, but she's a year or two away from this honor. Taurasi's got the big-game experience and she has the benefit of a very good, experienced supporting cast. Taurasi is also clutch, and of course, she's one of, like, five non-Arizona players I know, so she gets the nod.


Diana Taurasi, Connecticut


Men's national champion

Arizona is the easy choice here - or is it? The Wildcats are strong, fast and possibly underrated. However, you must look past UConn, Duke and Michigan State to the team that will win it all: Missouri. The Tigers are laden with depth and primed for an outstanding season. They'll have their work cut out for them however if they wish to avoid being last year's Texas. If Missouri falters, watch out for Arizona.


Missouri

Men's national player of the year

Women's national champion

Connecticut, Duke and Texas? Am I looking at the men's poll here? UConn has to let someone else win for a change. That being said, I will go with an ole reliable: Tennessee. You know legendary coach Pat Summit will have the Lady Vols playing right come tournament time. Arizona will be good, but they won't even win the Pac-10.


Tennessee

Men's national player of the year

Jason Ranne, because I didn't mention him in any of the Wildcat's stories this issue. Ranne's successor is the harder pick. It's difficult not picking Emeka Okafor, but watch me. This year's top player will be Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph's. How else could the Hawks be ranked 13th in the country? Nelson better not have too good a season, though, or he'll find himself playing for the Atlanta Hawks next year.


Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph's

Women's national player of the year

Got to go with the front-runner in this one. Diana Taurasi is the hands-down pick, and not just because she's the only women's player I've heard of whose last name isn't Polk. She not only averaged 26.2 points during last season's national tournament, but she did it with persistent back and ankle pain. Polkey: Remember me for renting you the good basketballs at the rec center.


Diana Taurasi, Connecticut