2018 Pac-12 Basketball Tournament Odds and Expert Predictions
The Pac-12 Conference has been under a microscope for all the wrong reasons this year. The regular season started with three highly-touted UCLA freshmen getting arrested in China, and it ended with Arizona coach Sean Miller answering questions about whether or not his career is over. In between there were injuries, suspensions, eligibility questions and a lot of poor play in what was a down season for the league.
Now the Pac-12 will try to salvage a disappointing season with what they hope will be an exciting, controversy-free championship. The Pac-12 conference tournament will be held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Play begins on Wednesday, March 7, and will conclude Saturday, March 10, with the championship game.
Here is Doc's Sports 2018 Pac-12 Tournament preview and predictions:
The Favorite: Arizona (+190)
I don't know if any team in the country has been a bigger circus than Arizona over the last two weeks. Sean Miller was named in an FBI probe, and his status was up in the air. Deandre Ayton was named in an FBI probe, and his status was up in the air. Allonzo got busted doing drugs (again), and his status was up in the air. But at the end of the day Arizona won another Pac-12 title and they are the clear favorites to defend last year's title and win their third tourney championship in four years. Arizona has been shaky this season, as indicated by their 11-18 mark against the spread. They don't really defend. But they have more NBA-caliber talent than anyone else in the league, and they appear to be motivated by their recent off-court issues.
The Contender: USC (+400)
The Trojans have been all over the map this season. But when the regular season closed they had quietly played their way into the No. 2 seed with 12 league wins. They lost Bennie Boatwright for the season and then went 4-4 without their starting power forward. But I contend that this team will be better off without him. Boatwright was not having a good season, and the Trojans already have experience playing without him last season. Senior guards Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart will have to carry the load, and this team will have to dig down and show some heart on the defensive end if they want to be anything but fodder over the next two weeks.
The Dark Horse: UCLA (+540)
I think that Steve Alford deserves a lot of credit for what he's done this year. UCLA lost as much talent as any team in the nation from last year's squad. And then the Bruins lost even more talent when three freshmen were suspended for the season before the first game of the year. Aaron Holiday has had an outstanding season and really stepped his game up. And the post duo of Thomas Welsh and Gyorgy Goloman has been rock solid. The Bruins won at Arizona in the only meeting this year, and they match up pretty well with the Wildcats, their potential semifinal opponent. UCLA has not been very good on the road this year, but we'll find out what this team's ceiling is when they take on Arizona for a second time.
The Spoiler: Utah (+750)
The Utes are one of the few Pac-12 teams that actually enter the tournament with momentum. They have won six of their last seven games and nine of their last 12 to leap up to the No. 3 seed. The Utes have gone 3-0 against their potential quarterfinal opponents, Oregon and Washington State, and I think they would love a third shot at USC, a team that beat them twice in the regular season. Super seniors David Collette and Justin Bibbins can be a handful. Utah defends, they make free throws, they take care of the ball, and they could be a team that comes out of nowhere to play its way into the finals.
Bubble Team To Watch: Washington (+3200)
Maybe it is because I am partial to ex-Syracuse player and coach Mike Hopkins, but I like this pesky group of Huskies. This is a nice young team that has wins over Kansas and Arizona on its resume. They are a long shot for The Big Dance. And they will have to play their way into the NCAA Tournament with a run here in Las Vegas. The Huskies have a rematch with Oregon State, a team they beat just last week, and then would take on vulnerable USC, whom they also beat in the only regular-season meeting. Hopkins' squad may be a year away from making some serious noise. But they are one to keep an eye on this week and could do some damage.
Early-Round Game To Keep An Eye On:
No. 1 Arizona (-7) vs. No. 9 Arizona State (3 p.m., Thursday, March 8)
Arizona has dominated their in-state rivals. They've beaten the Sun Devils six straight times and won 13 of the last 16 meetings. But this one would be entertaining for a variety of reasons, assuming ASU can get past Colorado. First is the obvious rivalry implications. Second is that Arizona State is trying to play their way into the Big Dance. Third is the fact that Arizona has been such a mess the last two weeks. ASU has some really good senior guards that would be going all out in this one. And Arizona wants to make a statement of its own.
2018 Pac-12 Conference Tournament Predictions: This tournament is definitely Arizona's to lose. They are head and shoulders more talented than the rest of this league. But they are a shakier favorite than their odds suggest because there's really no telling where they are at mentally with everything they've had to deal with the last two weeks. UCLA could absolutely be game for an upset. I think there will be on the other half of the bracket, where USC and Utah are about as shaky of a No. 2 and No. 3 seed as you will find. Oregon is lurking. And I think that the winner of the Utah-Oregon quarterfinal game will matchup with Arizona for the championship. If the Wildcats get that far it will be tough to think that they won't cut down the nets. (If not we could see UCLA peak for a weekend.) It looks like Arizona will be too much for this shaky field.
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 posted 10 of 11 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and will have an 8-Unit Conference Tournament Game of the Year next week. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here .
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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