2011 Pac-12 Basketball Predictions and Futures Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 11/8/2011
Rebuilt and rebuilding: that is the theme of college basketball throughout the country this season. It is especially true in the Pac-12 Conference.
The Pac-12 added two new programs, Colorado and Utah, and no league in the nation will see as many new starters as the boys out West. A scant 26 of 60 returning starters are back this season, which is the smallest percent of returning starters in any BCS conference over the last four years.
The results, most likely, won’t be pretty.
There are presently three Pac-12 teams gracing the Top 25. However, according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and projections there isn’t a team from this league rated within the Top 35 in the nation.
Further, over the last two years the Pac-10 has sent fewer teams to the NCAA Tournament (six) than regional “mid-major” conference the Mountain West (seven). For a league that boasts traditional powers like UCLA, Arizona and USC those numbers are an embarrassment.
Things are likely to get worse before they get better in the Pac-12. That is one free college basketball prediction. Here are the rest of my 2011-12 Pac-12 basketball predictions to help you with your college basketball picks, and the odds to win the Pac-10 are in parentheses:
The Favorite: Arizona (+125)
Like everything in this division, Arizona’s grasp on the “favorite” role is tenuous.
They dumped their exhibition opener to Div. II Seattle Pacific, and that has shot up red flags in Tucson.
The Wildcats have to replace the best player in the country not named "Kemba" (sorry, Jimmer fans, but it’s true) in Derrick Williams as well as their point guard, MoMo Jones.
This year’s Cats have a load of athletes, especially on the wings, and they welcome in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. But they don’t have a proven go-to player and they lack a leader both at the point and at center.
Arizona has talent. But this isn’t a team yet.
Sean Miller will work his magic and the Cats will be able to overwhelm some of the undermanned teams in the conference. But I don’t see a true national player unless the freshmen are a lot better sooner rather than later.
The Challenger: UCLA (+150)
The Bruins aren’t “back”. But they are getting closer.
UCLA has one of the best frontcourts in the nation. Do-it-all Reeves Nelson is their best player, but he hasn’t shown an ability (or willingness) to take over games. Center Josh Smith is a 300-pound roadblock in the paint and is Nelson’s running mate…when he can get up and down the court. The Wear twins, David and Travis, who transferred in from North Carolina, bolster that duo. They stand 6-foot-10 and have an array of skills and that foursome gives Ben Howland a lot of options.
But the major issue here is that this team has no guards. And I mean none.
That weakness is too big to ignore and it will likely make them one of the more inconsistent teams in the conference.
The two projected starters combined for 11.5 points per game last year and they don’t have much pop behind them.
Also, because of renovations to Pauley Pavilion the Bruins have the disadvantage of playing all of their “home” games on USC’s campus or at the L.A. Sports Arena.
The Dark Horse: California (+800)
Right now the Bears offer one of the best values in the league in terms of college basketball futures odds to win the Pac-12 Championship.
The Golden Bears have a solid veteran backcourt, including senior go-to guy Jorge Gutierrez. Forward Allen Crabbe was the league’s best freshman and he and war-horse senior center Harper Kamp combined to average nearly 28 points per game.
Mike Montgomery has an excellent offensive system and several role players, freshmen and transfers that piece together for a decent rotation.
Cal was an overachiever last season, finishing fourth in the league, and depth is their major issue (especially considering Kamp’s injury history).
But the Bears are an exception in a league where the majority of teams lost a lot of talent.
The X-Factor: Washington (+800)
The Huskies were last year’s preseason favorite. As I predicted, they didn’t live up to their hype, finishing No. 3 in the regular season. But they did win the conference tournament and had some moments along the way.
Washington lost a load of talent from that squad, including three starters that combined to average 43 points per game and defensive wiz and team leader Venoy Overton.
This year’s club shouldn’t be better without those players. However, they have a chance to achieve even more.
Two starters and three reserves that averaged around eight points per game are back. And the key is stud freshman Tony Wroten Jr., who may be the best freshman guard in the country, including the crop in Kentucky.
This team will run and gun. And if they can shoot nearly as well as they did last year then I don’t see a big drop off.
The Huskies have some buzz and are a team to keep an eye on.
The ATS Machine: Oregon (+1500)
The Ducks are definitely getting some preseason love and the value on them may be dropping a bit. And since they open with a game against the No. 7 team in the country, Vanderbilt, they have a chance to really up their profile.
This is a dangerous team because no one really knows what to expect from them.
There are eight new players on the roster, many of them transfers, and it is tough to predict their chemistry. But the players – specifically Olu Asholu, Devoe Joseph, Tony Woods and stud frosh Jabari Brown – have unquestioned talent.
Dana Altman is one of the best coaches in the business, and he had a chance to get this team to mesh on a trip to Italy over the summer.
I think these guys are going to make a “surprise” run in the Pac-12. They won’t have much value for long. Get on board early.
The Disappointment: USC (+1500)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: last year was a trying, troubling year of transition for this venerable Pac-12 program.
The Trojans endured issues on and off the court, and they won’t be competing in March. I wrote that before last season and it is just as true this year.
USC is a mess. Kevin O’Neill is a disaster and this roster is one of the weakest in the league.
Transfer Jio Fontan was supposed to carry this group this season but he blew out his knee, leaving just three true guards on the entire roster – and none of them are all that good.
Things are not well in L.A. and it could be an ugly year.
Arizona State (+2500)
Herb Sendek’s time at ASU is starting to follow a suspiciously similar path as his time at N.C. State – some rebuilding, some success, and then a fall off a cliff.
Arizona State finished in last place in the league last year and things aren’t looking all that warm and fuzzy heading into this season.
Much of their season will be determined this week when they find out about freshman Jahii Carson’s eligibility. If he is unable to play then the Sun Devils will rely on Trent Lockett, their lone returning scorer, to average more than six points per game.
Even in a league full of rebuilding teams the talent in Tempe is shockingly weak.
They may step out of the basement, but that’s only because newbies Colorado and Utah are worse off than the Devils.
Washington State (+2500)
The Cougars couldn’t earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament last year with NBA talent Klay Thompson on the roster. It seems a bit steep to expect them to achieve that goal this year without him.
Losing bruiser DeAngelo Casto, one of the team’s few legit post defenders, doesn’t help either. But there are still some tools here for Ken Bone.
Reggie Moore needs to have a bounce-back year after a sophomore slump hindered by injury and a drug suspension.
Marcus Capers and Abe Ludwick are now three-year starters and swingman Faisal Aiden is capable of filling some of Thompson’s scoring void.
They need to defend the basket. If they can start there and if Aiden and Moore can become one of the better perimeter attacks in the league then this team could be a surprise.
Oregon State (+1000)
The novelty of Craig Robinson being Barack Obama’s brother-in-law is wearing off and it is time for some results in Corvallis.
This team has been one of the worst offensive clubs in the nation the last several years and they won’t make a leap forward unless they find ways to put the ball in the hole more consistently.
They were No. 228 in the nation in field goal percentage, and outside of Jared Cunningham they don’t have many pure scorers.
OSU has a roster with eight freshmen and sophomores (with just four upperclassmen), and they appear to be rebuilding, still.
Don’t be fooled by a cupcake nonconference schedule; this team is still not impressive and appears headed for another lower-tier finish.
I expect Robinson’s seat to be toasty come late January.
Johnny Dawkins is now in his fourth year at Stanford. I think it is past time for him to start to produce and show why he deserves to be leading this program.
Anthony Brown, Dwight Powell and Josh Owens give the Cardinal one of the most athletic frontcourts in the region; they aren’t that big but they can all fly. Their size is their team’s strength.
But the season will be determined by the development of Top 100 prospect Chasson Randle at the point.
Stanford never really settled on a starting lineup or solid rotation last year. They need to get that figured out if they are going to find any sort of groove this year. And they better hope Randle is as good as advertised.
Colorado is screwed. The Buffs lost 75 percent of last year’s scoring and four players who averaged 27 minutes or more. Even with a pair of pros, Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, this group couldn’t do any better than an NIT bid (even if they did get screwed by the tournament selection committee).
But now they are rebuilding and over their heads in a new conference. Last year the Buffs were one of my money teams. This year they will be a team to go against all the way.
It has been a slow, steady fall from grace for these wacky Mormons.
It was not that long ago that Utah was a regional power program. But new Coach Larry Krystkowiak inherits a team of back-to-back losing seasons (28-35) that appears to be even worse off now.
Utah lost six players – only one to graduation – during the offseason and they enter the Pac-12 with one double-digit scorer (Josh Watkins), two seven-footers (Jason Washburn and David Foster) and not much else.
It looks like three straight losing years will be in the cards, and the Utes should spend their inaugural season in the league cellar.
Projected Pac-10 Standings:
7. Washington State
8. Arizona State
9. Oregon State
*Projected NCAA Tournament Teams
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has produced three consecutive profitable college seasons and four of five winning years overall. He earned his $100-per-Unit clients over $30,000 in the last five years with his nonconference handicapping. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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