2014 Pac-12 Tournament Picks and College Basketball Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 3/10/2014
College basketball bettors in Las Vegas are going to have front row seats - literally - to one of the best conference tournaments in the country this week when the Pac-12 tournament gets underway.
The Pac-12 Tournament begins Wednesday, March 12. It is being held in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and the champion will be crowned on Saturday.
This should be one of the most interesting, and heavily-wagered-on, tournaments in the country this week. Arizona is looking to lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while teams like Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford, California, Utah and Colorado each battle to secure their own bid to The Big Dance.
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Here are Doc's Sports Pac-12 Tournament picks and predictions:
The Favorite: Arizona
This one shouldn't be a surprise. Arizona has been one of the best teams in the country all season long, and they have a lock on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats won the Pac-12 by three full games and laid out several beatings along the way. Arizona's strength is its exceptional defense. Playing exclusively man-to-man, the Wildcats were No. 1 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 6 in the nation in points allowed. Arizona lost starter Brandon Ashley for the season in mid-February, leading to a mini-slump. But they are locked in now and capable of playing at an extremely high level. Nick Johnson has been the best and most valuable player in the conference and will lead the Wildcats. Point guard T.J. McConnell has been the ball handler and floor general the Wildcats have missed since Momo Jones left. And freshman Aaron Gordon is a mini-Blake Griffin. Free throw shooting and 3-point shooting can be spotty. And depth is a concern. But this is clearly the league's top team.
The Contender: UCLA
New coach. New season. Some new players. But still the same shaky Bruins. UCLA kept it together enough to finish No. 2 in the conference and go 18-12 against the spread this year. When things click with this bunch they have enough talent to run past opponents. They are in the Top 20 in the country in scoring, field goal percentage and 3-point shooting and can beat teams a multitude of ways. Jordan Adams (17.5 PPG) and Kyle Anderson (14.9 PPG) are two of four double-digit scorers. But the Bruins are young. And as such they are woefully inconsistent. UCLA ended its regular season with an embarrassing 18-point loss against wretched Washington State, and they have dropped three of their last five games. This is the type of team that's dangerous this time of year. They can sucker you in with talent and potential and then break your heart, like the Wear Twins have been doing for years. Or they can catch a bolt of lightning and ride it to a title.
The Dark Horse: Stanford
I think that things have set up well for the Cardinal to make a run. This has been one of the most disappointing teams in the country over the past two years. This is the final chance for guys like Dwight Powell, and it very well may be the last chance for coach Johnny Dawkins. Stanford is desperate, and the bracket sets up perfectly for them. They open with Washington State, one of the worst teams in any BCS conference. Then Stanford draws shaky No. 3 seed Arizona State. The Sun Devils have lost four of their last six games, and they A) haven't won outside of Tempe since January and B) have won outside of Tempe just twice since Dec. 7. The teams split the regular season series, and I think Stanford will be up to the task. If they win there then whoever is standing from the Oregon-Oregon State-UCLA setup is the only thing between Stanford and the finals. This bunch of losers has come up short time after time after time. And they may here. But it won't be because the road is too tough, that's for sure.
The Spoiler: Oregon State
There are a lot of teams I could've listed here. I think Utah has a great chance to knock off Arizona in the quarterfinals. Colorado could drive a dagger through Cal's NCAA Tournament hopes in the quarterfinals. But I am going with Oregon State. Like Stanford, Oregon State is a veteran team with a bunch of players and a coach that have their backs to a cliff. This is it. They have underachieved the last several seasons. But the Beavers are certainly capable of upsetting archrival Oregon in the opener. Then the Beavers would face UCLA, a team they beat on Feb. 2 and lost to by just five points on March 2. Seniors Devon Collier and Angus Brandt, and junior Eric Moreland, were each key players on the State team that made a surprise run to the semifinals in 2012. And guard Roberto Nelson is one of the league's most explosive scorers. It's a long shot, but I'm not counting them out just yet.
The Matchups (with projected college basketball odds):
No. 8 Utah (-6) vs. No. 9 Washington (3 p.m., Wednesday, March 12)
The Utes began last Saturday with a shot at the No. 4 slot. Instead they slunk to No. 8 and a date with dangerous Washington. Utah is one of several teams teetering on the brink of an NCAA Tournament berth. But this is probably a must-win game against the Huskies. The teams split the season series, with Washington winning 59-57 at home and losing 78-69 in the return game. Utah has won six of nine games, and their only losses were against Arizona (in OT) and UCLA as well as a one-point loss at Stanford. Wings Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge are Utah's go-to players, and the Utes are a team on the rise. The Huskies are terrible defensively and weak on the road. But they have the best player on the floor in C.J. Wilcox (18.5 PPG) and a veteran coach with a lot of postseason wins under his belt.
No. 5 Colorado (-7) vs. No. 12 USC (5:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 12)
When Spencer Dinwiddie blew out his knee in January it looked like Colorado's season would spiral out of control. But they have done a brilliant job of holding things together and should make the NCAA Tournament with ease. USC is in the middle of a drastic rebuilding effort, and they won just two league games under new coach Andy Enfield this year. They do have some veteran guys that can play, though, and may put up a fight. Colorado won the first matchup by 21 and the last by nine. But the Buffs are one of the youngest teams in the country (No. 342 in experience) and shouldn't look past the Trojans.
No. 7 Oregon (-7.5) vs. No. 10 Oregon State (9 p.m., Wednesday, March 13)
Nothing like a monster rivalry game to get your postseason tournament started, eh? This is a redux of the Civil War, and the stakes are high in this one. Oregon likely punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament with its thrilling overtime win over Arizona on Saturday. That was their seventh straight win, and they enter the tournament with a head of steam. But the Ducks could be ripe for a letdown here. And three of their starters - transfers Joe Young, Mike Moser and Jason Calliste - are playing in their first Pac-12 Tournament ever. The Ducks are hot. But they are also vulnerable. Oregon State earned a split this year, and, as I mentioned, they have the chance to be a spoiler this week in Vegas.
No. 6 Stanford (-9) vs. No. 11 Washington State (11:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 13)
I already said I think that Stanford is going to make a move this week. If that's going to happen then they'll need to dispatch of Ken Bone's Cougars swiftly. Yes, Wazzou is riding high after its surprise blowout of UCLA. But this team had lost five straight games by double-figures prior to that and lost by 32 at Stanford in the first meeting.
Pac 12 Conference Tournament Picks: I have really had to pick my spots in the Pac-12 this season because I'm a fan of so many of these teams. It really has been one of the more interesting leagues in the land this year, save for Arizona's wire-to-wire domination. Because the second tier of this conference is so deep and unpredictable, I think it is going to make for a wild week. Even the Wildcats, for all their dominance, could have their hands full with Utah in the quarterfinals. And an UCLA-Oregon quarter would be a must-see game. I think that if Arizona beats Utah they are going to the finals. However, I don't think the Wildcats will win it all. I think that there are too many other teams - UCLA, Oregon, Stanford chief among them - capable of getting a hot hand and winning the title. So I'll call for a non-Arizona winner this week and plenty of close, entertaining games.
Robert Ferringo keeps proving himself to be one of the best college basketball handicappers in the nation. Robert has posted 11 of 16 winning college hoops weeks and 17 of 20 winning college hoops months. He has banked nearly $10,000 in profit with his side plays this year and almost $17,000 in profit since Nov. 11, 2012. Robert is a profit machine and you can take advantage of our free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert's college basketball selections. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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