Being picked to finish last in your conference can mean one of two things to your team. It can be the kiss of death or the ultimate motivator.
Arizona baseball coach Jerry Kindall hopes it will serve as the latter.
Over the weekend, the Pacific 10 Conference Southern Division coaches cast ballots to predict the order of finish for the division's six teams, with Stanford and Southern Cal each receiving three first-place votes. The Wildcats were picked to finish last.
The Cardinal Ä also ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America and College Sports Ä and the Trojans each received 23 points. Arizona State, fresh off a berth in last year's College World Series, received 17, with UCLA (12), California (10), and Arizona (five) rounding out the poll.
Kindall said he cast his top votes for Stanford and USC. He realizes that people don't expect much from his team.
"We understand," Kindall said. "Polls are based largely on returning players and last year's performance."
Arizona sports a young but talented team trying to erase the memory of last year's 15-40 campaign.
"We're not ashamed of it," Kindall said of the poll. "We also intend to change it."
Arizona hopes to show the Pac-10 what Penn State already knows Ä polls mean nothing.
Said freshman Russ Brown: "We'll be a surprise team."
For the first time since 1982, the winner of the Southern Division will play the winner of the Northern Division (Washington, Washington State, Gonzaga, Portland State and Oregon State) in a three-game series to determine who will get the Pac-10's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament at the end of May.
Arizona's schedule this season begins as such:
ù New Mexico, at Frank Sancet Field, Jan. 27-29.
ù Brigham Young at Sancet, Feb. 2-4.
ù St. Mary's College at Sancet, Feb. 6-7.
ù Cal State-Fullerton at Sancet, Feb. 9-10.
ù All-Pro Alumni exhibition game at Sancet, Feb. 11.
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