Bulletin staff reports

Pac-12 preseason media poll

(First-place votes in parentheses)

Team Rec Pts

Arizona (22) 32-5 273

Southern Cal (1) 26-10 251

UCLA 31-5 223

Oregon 33-6 203

Stanford 14-17 182

Arizona St. 15-18 146

Utah 20-12 129

Oregon St. 5-27 125

Colorado 19-15 112

Washington 9-22 71

California 21-13 46

Washington St. 13-18 33

Oregon and Oregon State are travel partners for Pac-12 basketball, just usually not this literally.

Players and coaches from the Ducks and Beavers were scheduled for a Wednesday commercial flight out of Eugene to the San Francisco Bay Area for Thursday’s Pac-12 men’s basketball media day. But rain in the Willamette Valley and devastating fires in California caused the flights to get delayed, and security at the Eugene airport closed early.

“They kept on pushing our flight back further and further … so we figured why go down there at 5 o’clock for an 11:20 flight?” Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle said Thursday. “They thought the same thing. So we got there by 9:30 for an 11:20, but they had shut down the TSA.”

With a crunch to get to San Francisco for media day Thursday, the Pape family — big Oregon boosters — donated a private jet for the Ducks. Tinkle said Ducks coach Dana Altman invited him and Oregon State players Stephen Thompson Jr. and Drew Eubanks on board to join Altman and two UO players, Payton Pritchard and Elijah Brown.

“I called it Air Force Dana,” Tinkle quipped. “It was really, really nice and gracious of him to include us on that. Otherwise it would have been really tough to get down there.”

Tinkle said Altman even offered the Beavers contingent to stay at his house overnight, though “I don’t know how sincere that offer was.”

As for sharing a plane with rivals in the nation’s most-played men’s college basketball rivalry, Altman said, “That was hard to do, but it worked out all right.

“We had a good time. Talked a little basketball, talked a little recruiting, so it was an easy trip,” Altman added.

When they finally arrived in San Francisco, they learned that Oregon was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 in the preseason media poll. Oregon State, a year after getting just one conference win, was picked eighth. Arizona received 22 of 23 first-place votes and is tabbed to win the conference.

“It’s a big challenge for our team,” said Altman, who must replace four starters from a team that went 33-6 and reached the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four last season. “What does help us is the fact that we do have five guys returning that are part of a team that won 23 games. I think they want to continue that, so I think they’ll give us great leadership.”

Southern California was picked second, and UCLA was third.

“There are obviously a few teams that everybody knows. They’ve got a ton of talent,” Tinkle said. “And, boy, after that there’s teams that can finish in any order. I think it’s going to be very, very competitive from top to bottom.”

The Beavers finished 5-27 last year in one of the worst seasons in school history. But they suffered through injuries most of the season. Tres Tinkle, the coach’s son, played just six games before breaking his wrist and was granted a medical redshirt.

“It was hard to get into a groove,” Wayne Tinkle said. “We were dealing with different things week to week. We were so young, so short on depth. We were in it for 32 minutes against the best teams in the league. We just ran out of gas.”

Among those who think better things are ahead for the Beavers in the upcoming season is the same person who offered the Beavers a plane ride.

“They’ve got four really good scorers and guys that started for them last year, maybe they’ll be coming off the bench,” Altman said. “So I think they could be a surprise team.”

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