2017 Pac-12 College Basketball Predictions with Conference Odds and Betting Picks
While this Pac-12 basketball season will serve as a rebuilding season for most of the top programs in the league, there is one that will be experiencing a Renaissance. USC has been under renovation for several seasons, and now Andy Enfield is ready to watch the Trojan wreck shop along the West Coast and challenge Arizona for league supremacy.
Arizona will once again open the season in search of the school's first Final Four appearance since 2001 and their first national title since 1997. They are No. 5 in the first preseason poll and actually received tw o of the poll's 32 first-place votes. And after losing out to Oregon for the regular-season crown each of the past two seasons the Wildcats are intent on restoring themselves as the Pac-12's most dominating program.
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Two years ago the Pac-12 sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament. Last year that number plummeted to just four. But heading into this season I think it is going to take quite an effort from one of the second-tier squads to top that number. Pac-12 basketball will be a two-horse race. And two horses only. But one of the key storylines will be how the league's other top programs - UCLA, Stanford, Oregon - perform and whether or not they are able to keep the rest of this conference propped up in national stature.
Here are Doc's Sports 2017 Pac-12 basketball predictions and Pac-12 basketball rankings (with odds to win the conference title in parentheses):
The Favorite: Arizona (+150)
There's good news and bad news in Tucson. The good news is that with a star-studded freshman recruit class, a star backcourt of Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins, and veteran role players Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic, the Wildcats have a loaded team and a national title contender. The bad news is that distractions, in the form of an FBI probe and possible sanctions, have cast a dark cloud over the program heading into the season. Sean Miller has another massive, physically-imposing team in the desert. But they are again a young group, and Miller may be feeling the squeeze from both the NCAA and his inability to finally break through and make a Final Four. This will be a team to watch.
The Challenger: USC (+125)
The Trojans have all the makings of a legitimate title contender for the first time in decades. USC has size, athleticism, scoring from inside and out, high-end NBA-caliber talent and experience. Jordan McLaughlin, Bennie Boatwright and Elijah Stewart are all three-year starters and the core of this outstanding squad. Boatwright and fellow forward Chimezie Metu form an imposing post combination that combined for 30 points and 13 rebounds a game last year. The Trojans have three other guards that averaged at least seven points per game and welcome in All-American freshmen Charles O'Bannon Jr. and Jordan Usher. This team will run past most opponents, and they will be a group we hear about all year long.
The Dark Horse: UCLA (+300)
The Bruins lost as much talent and production as any team in the country this offseason, with four players that averaged 14 or more points moving on. But Steve Alford has done a masterful recruiting job and has a freshman class that includes five Top 100 players. LiAngelo Ball, the brother of superstar point guard Lonzo, is one of those rookies that will don the UCLA baby blue this season. Thomas Welsh is a nice piece as a stretch-5. But I'm not as high on this team as some people because I think that junior point guard Aaron Holiday is awful. But if this year's freshmen are anything close to last year's crop then this team will be in the mix.
The X-Factor: Stanford (+650)
Jerod Haase enters his second season at Stanford with an intriguing, spoiler-esque team. The Cardinal's upperclassmen have mainly been a huge disappointment in their time on campus. But three-year starters Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey should be able to hold their own with the mammoth post players on the league's top teams. Guards Dorian Pickens and Marcus Sheffield have shown flashes as well. And if anyone from their five-man freshman class, which includes three Top 100 recruits, can make an instant impact then Haase might have a team that could threaten a return to the NCAA Tournament.
The Disappointment: Oregon (+800)
Last year was just about a dream season for Dana Altman's group. After shaking off some early-season injuries, the Ducks took off, winning 33 of 39 games and making it to the Final Four. However, seven of their top eight scorers - on a team that played only eight guys - are gone. Altman has two exciting freshmen that were high school All-Americans. And he scoured the transfer market for gems like Elijah Brown and MiKyle McIntosh. But there is no doubt that Oregon is going to take a significant step this year. Fortunately for the Ducks, most of the rest of the Pac-12 is rebuilding as well. And an easy nonconference schedule will give Altman time to work his magic. But this team isn't even close to last year's, and the Ducks could end up as a dud at the window.
Utah (+2000) - Larry Krystkowiak is a local hero and a guy that's done a great job rebuilding this program while it transitioned into the Pac-12. But a spate of transfers and early entries over the past two seasons - 11 to be exact - have led to a suspicious amount of roster churn. Utah has a cornerstone to build on with former Utah State transfer David Collette. But that's really it. Only one of their other top six scorers is back, and the rest of the roster is made up of bit pieces. Krystkowiak's job is secure. But another missed NCAA Tournament, which is likely, could at least get people talking.
Colorado (+1500) - Tad Boyle seems to be at a bit of a cross roads. He's produced three first-round NBA draft picks in seven years at Colorado, more than the previous 25 years combined. And Boyle has guided the Buffs to the NCAA Tournament in four of the past six seasons. But Boyle lost four of his top six players and has a roster comprised of exactly nine freshmen and sophomores and three seniors. This is obviously a rebuilding year. And they will likely miss the tournament for a third time in four years. So it remains to be seen exactly what he is building in Boulder.
California (+2000) - Cuonzo Martin leapt from this sinking ship, taking the Missouri job and leaving the Golden Bears in the hands of assistant coach Wyking Jones. Wyking will likely be asking "Why me?" by January as the Golden Bears have one of the worst rosters in the league. The transfer of point guard Charlie Moore was a crippler, and Cal is without eight of its top 10 scorers from last year. No one on the team averaged more than 4.6 points per game last season, and only two guys averaged more than 2.0 points per game. Ouch.
Oregon State (+3000) - It is not at all a stretch to say that Oregon State endured one of the worst seasons of any team in the country last year. They went 5-27 overall and just 1-17 in league play just one year after making the NCAA Tournament. Injuries were a big factor. As was fielding one of the nation's youngest rosters. But I think the Beavers will be able to bounce back this season as long as forward Tres Tinkle stays healthy and effective.
Arizona State (+5000) - I actually like this Arizona State team, and if you're looking for a team that could blow its preseason projections out of the water this is it. Bobby Hurley has patiently rebuilt the Sun Devils roster. He enters the season with one of the better backcourts in the league with vets Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice all set as senior starters. Redshirt freshman Romello White will be the inside presence they desperately needed last year. And if one or two of the other young frontcourt players can step up then Hurley might have something here.
Washington State (+8000) - Bless Ernie Kent's heart; the man is really trying. Washington State is a hoops wasteland, however. And after losing four of five starters, including outstanding forward Josh Hawkinson, the Cougars look like they are completely rebuilding. Kent has a team built to run and gun. But I have a sense that they are going to run themselves right out of a lot of gyms this winter.
Washington (+3000) - Long-time Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins will make his much-overdue head coaching debut this season in Seattle. He takes over a Huskies program that has been able to attract big-time talent but that hasn't enjoyed consistent success at any point this decade. Hopkins, a high-energy guy, will bring SU's patented 2-3 zone defense to Washington. And he has some decent pieces, particularly junior three-year starters David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle and Noah Dickerson. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.
Projected Pac-12 Standings:
7. Oregon State
8. Arizona State
11. Washington State
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has an unrivaled run of 10 of 11 winning nonconference seasons and 10 of 11 winning regular seasons. Robert's $100-per-Unit clients have banked $22,330 in profit with his sides and totals the last four years alone and he has raked in a remarkable $60,200 in the last 11 years with his nonconference picks (November and December) alone. There is no better moneymaker in the nation and Robert is looking forward to another amazing season. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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