College Basketball Handicapping: Pac-12 Hoops Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 1/13/2012
It has been a long time since the Pac-12 (or the conferences that came before it) has been among the very best in college basketball, but they have always been respectable. This year, though, the conference is a mess.
If the NCAA Tournament were to start today there would be no locks to get in. In fact, if the regular conference champion and the conference tournament winner were the same team then there is a very good chance that that would be the only team in the field.
Early on last year the conference looked like it was in trouble, but they saved themselves late thanks to Arizona and Washington. Compared to this year, though, last year looks like the good old days.
The conference not only ranks last of the big six conferences in RPI by a wide margin, but they rank ninth overall behind the Mountain West, A-10, and even the Missouri Valley.
Betting on a struggling conference is challenging. Only four of the 12 teams in the conference have been profitable against the spread this season, and only one — the very underwhelming Colorado Buffaloes — have returned a nice profit at 8-4 ATS. Let’s take a look at the major players in the conference in turn:
Arizona (75/1 to win national championship)
The Wildcats are coming off a huge year, and were forced to deal with the loss of Derrick Williams.
The team had momentum coming into the year, though, and strong recruiting should have had the cupboards full despite losing the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft.
It hasn’t turned out well.
The team has played four good teams, and lost to all four. Freshman point guard Josiah Turner was supposed to lead the way, but he has been in the doghouse and is really struggling to find his way.
Last year this team was very tough and relentless. Now calling them soft wouldn’t be inaccurate.
They have a very strong recruiting class for next year, and they will need it because this year will be a major letdown start to finish. As negative as that sounds, though, they’d still be my prediction to win the conference. That’s how bad this group is.
At first glance Stanford looks great on paper. They are 14-3, they’re leading the conference at 4-1, and they have won by some wide margins.
When you look closer, though, you’ll be far less impressed.
The Stanford Cardinal basketball schedule has been impossibly bad — their strength of schedule falls outside of the top 200 in the country.
They lost to a Butler team that is a shadow of where they have been the last two years. They were outclassed by Syracuse. They needed four overtimes to get past a bad Oregon State team last week.
Remember when Ben Howland used to be a good coach? He used to routinely have elite national contenders loaded with great players. Those days are long gone, and with each passing year it’s hard to believe that they will be back any time soon.
These odds to win it all are completely ridiculous. You have to make the tournament field to win it, and it would take a miracle for that to happen.
Not only have they lost to some decent teams like Kansas and Michigan, but they were thoroughly crushed by those opponents. They opened with five losses in seven games.
They rank 202nd in rebounds, and 166th in scoring. They just aren’t good, and the way they are playing — often unfocused, inconsistent in effort, and too often lazy — they aren’t going to get any better.
The Bears are tied with rivals Stanford atop the conference, but they are not the real deal. When a team’s best win is against Denver they just aren’t that good.
They were humiliated by Missouri. And UNLV. They threw away a win against San Diego State. They have as good a chance as any team in this mess of a conference of making the tournament, but they will be a non-factor when they get there.
The team has been the ATS star of the conference, and at 3-1 in the conference they are near the top of the standings. Total fluke.
They would need at least two big wins to prove that they are a real contender, but in the Pac-12 they won’t really get a chance for those.
Two results this year sum up this team. Last week they had a chance to make a nice statement early in conference play. Instead of making the most of it, though, they lost at Colorado then limped by Utah.
Far worse, though, is that this team lost to South Dakota State. At home. By 19! Ouch.
Hopes were reasonably high heading into the season. Dana Altman was a big name coach heading into his second season. The team had a lot of new players, but it was an intriguing group full of Altman types who could be real sleepers.
Pretty much nothing has worked out.
Stud freshman point guard Jabari Brown transferred to Missouri in November. The rest of the group has been inconsistent at best.
Altman is struggling to establish his system, and the team isn’t strong at either end of the court. They lack a good win, and they just got beat up by Cal at home.
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