Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Courtside Conversations with Paul Johnson
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 22, 2004
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Paul Johnson is employed by the UA as the women's basketball play-by-play announcer. He has 20 years of sports broadcasting experience, including the last six years as the voice of Arizona women's basketball. Every Wildcat women's basketball game this year will be broadcast live on KJLL 1330 AM, with Paul calling all the action.

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Coaches are an unusual breed. They are, for the most part, bright, talented, hardworking and committed to success. They come in all shapes and sizes and from different backgrounds. Unfortunately, this season's Pac-10 women's basketball coaches have one thing in common -- they are wrong, they are dead wrong! I am referring, of course, to the annual preseason coaches poll that is filled out by each coach before practice begins.

This season, the group correctly picked powerhouse Stanford to win the Pac-10 title, but after that things go haywire. An over-achieving Washington team is picked as runner-up, an under-achieving USC club third, and one-year wonder Arizona State is notched into the fourth position.

But where are the Wildcats? After all, this is a team that has consistently contended for six straight seasons and is coached by Joan Bonvicini, a 500-game winner. The answer to this question is very simple. The coaches are looking at rosters that, on paper, do not translate into wins and losses, and that's why Arizona is expected to languish with Oregon in a fifth-place tie.

Yes, the Wildcats lost budding star Veranda James, back-up center Michelle Mitchell, and star recruit Shawntinice Polk (she may play beginning in January) from this year's team. However, a look at the Cats' incoming players, combined with their returning stock, tells me that Arizona will once again be in the thick of the Pac-10 race.

Here is why Arizona will surprise everyone this season. First, Julie Brase is back. Julie sat out last season with a wrist injury, and her presence on the floor is incalculable. She will bring leadership and scoring to an inconsistent offense. Then, there are returning players led by Elizabeth Pickney, who is possibly the best player in the Pac-10. LaKeisha Taylor has a ton of talent and can be a 20-point scorer, while Candice Allen, and Aimee Grzyb got plenty of game experience last season.

Finally, Arizona's group of incoming freshmen could be spectacular. Guards Dee-Dee Wheeler and Katrina Lindner can score and play defense, forward Robin Roberson can light it up if she is on, and post players Michelle Tibbetts and Danielle Adefeso provide strength on the inside. As usual, the Cats will play a running game and focus on a trapping defense. There is no better coach in the Pac-10 than Joan Bonvicini, and she will get the most out of this talented group.

So, don't be surprised if Arizona wins 12-14 Pac-10 games and contends for its first conference championship. The pieces of the puzzle are there, and only time will tell us if I am right. I will guarantee one thing -- Joan Bonvicini will use that fifth- place preseason ranking to her advantage. It should be fun to watch her team exceed all expectations this season!

See you on the radio!
Paul Johnson

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