Third-year coach Nikki Caldwell has the UCLA women's basketball team on the upswing.
The Bruins were picked to finish second in the preseason Pac-10 women's basketball coaches poll, the conference announced Monday. Defending champ Stanford received each of the nine possible first-place votes (coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team). UCLA got the other vote -- meaning Tara VanDerveer, who is entering her 25th season at Stanford, believes the Bruins have the best shot at dethroning her team.
The two have some recent history. UCLA fell to Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament championship game last season. Still, Caldwell earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors by leading the Bruins to a 25-9 record -- the most wins for the program in over a decade. UCLA reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to No. 1 seed Nebraska.
The second-place preseason projection is UCLA's highest since it was picked to take the conference crown before the 1999-2000 season. The Bruins, who return four starters, open the season Nov. 12 at San Diego State.