2013 Pac-12 Tournament Picks and NCAA Basketball Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/12/2013
Last year at this time the Pac-12 was a complete afterthought on the national college basketball scene. On the eve of the Pac-12 Tournament they had exactly zero teams in the Top 25 and were on the way to an insulting two bids – both double-digit seeds – in the NCAA Tournament.
It marked the end of a long fall for what has been one of the preeminent basketball conferences in America.
But this year things are different for the boys on the Left Coast. UCLA, Arizona and Oregon have been Top 25 staples once again, and the league is enjoying a bevy of national exposure thanks to last year’s $3 billion television deal. (You’d like to think that has nothing to do with their on court resurgence, but it’s not a coincidence.) They have likely locked up four tournament bids – more than the SEC – and could add a fifth if certain teams can get hot this weekend.
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Things are on the up-and-up as the Pac-12 Tournament begins Wednesday, March 13. It is being held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and the championship game is set for Saturday evening. Here is Doc’s Sports Pac-12 Tournament picks and NCAA basketball betting odds:
The Favorite: UCLA (+250)
Beleaguered coach Ben Howland and his talented but insanely inconsistent Bruins have had a maddening season. From lofty preseason expectations to players leaving the team in November to a late January losing skid, the Bruins have been shaky since jump. But UCLA has gone 5-1 in its last six games and managed to win the regular season Pac-12 crown. This team has played its best basketball over the past month, and they look like they are starting to figure some things out. Shabazz Muhammed isn’t nearly as good as he thinks he is. But the freshmen can score in bunches and gives the Bruins a go-to guy. They have a veteran point guard in Larry Drew and a pair of solid big men in Travis and David Wear. This is a pretty well-rounded team. But we’ll see if they can overcome their inconsistencies to earn another banner for this storied program.
The Contender: California (+500)
On Jan. 27 Cal was 11-8 overall and 3-4 in league play, and they were 50-50 to make the NIT. They have since won nine of 11 games and enter the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed. Cal has perhaps the best backcourt in the country with amazing and underrated point guard Justin Cobbs leading the way. But the real devastator for this team is unguardable Allen Crabbe. Crabbe is an all-American and the best player in the conference. When he gets going – watch out. And that duo, along with fellow junior Richard Solomon, are good enough to carry a team through the weekend. But Cal has a severe weakness on the interior, and they can have lapses defensively. But they have favorable matchups on the bottom of the bracket and will be a tough team to send home.
The Dark Horse: Arizona (+200)
At one point the Wildcats were 20-2 overall and 8-2 in league play and they looked like they would run away with the regular season crown. But Arizona dropped four of its last eight games and has been all over the map over the last few weeks. Arizona is the most athletic team in the conference and has the benefit of a trio of seasoned seniors to lean on. However, Arizona’s lack of a point guard has been the teams’ Achilles’ heel since MoMo Jones transferred two years ago. Shaky guard play is a crippler this time of year. Nick Johnson needs to take a step forward, and Mark Lyons needs to stay under control. If either of those things can happen, then this is definitely a team that can run roughshod through the field.
The Spoiler: Stanford (+1500)
There are several potential spoilers in this tournament. But I don’t know that any team has underachieved as much as the Cardinal this season. But three of Stanford’s nine league losses were by two points or less, and they also had tight defeats on the road at UCLA and Arizona. This team might be better than its record suggests. I am a huge fan of junior forward Dwight Powell, and he is a top-end talent that can carry this group. They also have two of the better guards in the league in Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle, although the duo have taken a step back this season after a breakout 2011-12. Stanford can pop Arizona State’s NCAA Tournament bubble in the opener, and then they could spring an upset over in-state rival UCLA. This is the team that I think can do the most damage to the Pac-12 bracket.
The Matchups (with projected college basketball odds):
No. 8 Stanford (-3.5) vs. No. 9 Arizona State (3 p.m., Wednesday, March 13)
If the Cardinal is going to play the role of spoiler, they will first need to knock off pesky Arizona State. The Sun Devils had been one of the league’s pleasant surprises this season. They had been flirting with the league title and an NCAA Tournament bid before losing six of their last eight games, including four straight to close the regular season. ASU freshman point guard Jahii Carson is one of the best point guards in the nation and an electrifying perimeter player. An assortment of wins and post players orbit around Carson, and ASU is at its best when scoring is low and possessions are scarce. Stanford won the only meeting this season, and they hammered ASU by 20 in last year’s tournament The Cardinal have won six straight, covering the spread in all, and are favored to advance here.
No. 5 Colorado (-5) vs. No. 12 Oregon State (5:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 13)
Colorado is another Pac-12 team that is on the razor’s edge of making and not making the NCAA Tournament. I feel like they are easily one of the better teams in the country and deserve an at-large bid. But they absolutely can’t afford to lose this game to a tricky Oregon State team that has been very competitive in league play without the wins to show for it. Colorado could get a boost this week if Andre Roberson announced that he would be available. Perhaps the best big man in the league and the defensive player of the year, Roberson has been dealing with mono and has missed Colorado’s last two games. The Buffs need him if they have any hope of advancing to The Big Dance.
No. 7 USC (-2) vs. No. 10 Utah (9 p.m., Wednesday, March 13)
The Trojans have had as tumultuous of a season as any team in the nation. They fired their coach mid-season, and they have been trying to meld together a hodgepodge of transfers, recruits and players back from injury. It has not gone smoothly. USC has lost four of its last six games, and they will be without starting center Dewayne Dedmon and backup center James Blasczyk due to an off-court incident from last weekend. But this team still has experience, and guys like Eric Wise and Jio Fontan are playing for their careers. Utah has been scrappy and swept the Oregon schools at home last week. They had lost 13 of 16 league games prior to that
No. 6 Washington (-1) vs. No. 11 Washington State (11:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 13)
This is an obvious rivalry game, and the winner will have more than just bragging rights. Washington won both regular season meetings, taking down the Cougars by just five and four points. They have now beaten Wazzou five straight times and in seven of the last 10 meetings. The Huskies have had their worst Pac-12 season in years and are looking to salvage something from a lost year. Washington State has won two straight, and they are on a 3-0 ATS run. They will also have the best player on the court in forward Brock Motum, and they have the obvious revenge angle. Unfortunately, they will have to play without athletic wing DaVonte Lacy, who is out with a knee injury.
2013 Pac 12 Tournament picks: Go with the chalk here as UCLA should win the conference tournament title to go with their regular season crown.
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