2019 Pac-12 Tournament Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
I invented a drinking game for watching Pac-12 college basketball games that noted UCLA alum calls as an announcer. Every time Walton says the phrase, "conference of champions" you take a drink. I can assure you that you will be hammered by halftime.
The Pac-12 does not look like the conference of champions in college basketball these days. In fact, it looks like an absolute disaster.
The Pac-12, once one of the premier college hoops leagues in the nation, does not currently have a team ranked in the Top 35 according to any major ranking metric. The Washington Huskies, the regular-season champions, are the only Pac-12 team that has earned an NCAA Tournament bid (assuming they don't win the league's automatic bid). And if the Huskies win the conference tournament, there is a realistic shot that the league will only get one bid - ONE! - this year.
Arizona State, Oregon and Colorado are all hoping to join Washington in the NCAA Tournament field. But for any of those teams to have a realistic hope of earning a bid, they either have to win the Pac-12 Tournament this weekend or at the very least make an impressive run (while getting some help from elsewhere, nationally). It's not likely.
The Pac-12 Conference Tournament will be played at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The tournament begins on Wednesday, March 13, and the champion will be crowned on Saturday. Here is Doc's Sports 2019 Pac-12 Tournament preview and predictions (odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag):
The Favorite: Washington (+220)
I was on the Washington bandwagon early. They rewarded backers with a 19-4 start to the season and they had firm control of the Pac-12 by late January. The Huskies have a nice blend of talent and experience, with four senior starters supporting breakout sophomore Jaylen Nowell. Washington can throw the ball inside to big man Noah Dickerson. And when they are hitting from the outside (they are just No. 158 in 3-point shooting), then they can be very tough to beat. Washington relies on Mike Hopkins' version of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. And this zone has proven itself effective at throwing teams off this time of the year. Washington showed some vulnerability late in the season. But these seniors will be tough to deny in their final attempt for a league title.
The Contender: Oregon (+330)
Dana Altman has done yeoman's work with this group. The Ducks season hit the wall when Bol Bol, the 7-foot-2 stretch-five freshman phenom, went out for the year back in December. Oregon has soldiered on. It hasn't been enough. Oregon won four straight games to close out the regular season, including an impressive win at Washington. We'll see if that momentum can carry over into the tournament. However, the Ducks haven't won five in a row yet this year. Oregon is a big effort team, and defensively they can play with anyone. There just aren't enough offensive options for this team to perform consistently.
The Dark Horse: Arizona State (+350)
Every time someone mentions Arizona State, they automatically have to bring up the fact that the Sun Devils beat Kansas this year. Unfortunately for Arizona State, that was one of only three victories they have scored this year over tournament-bound teams. The Sun Devils have been maddeningly inconsistent. That is to be expected, though, when a team starts a freshman and three sophomores. Luguentz Dort is one of the more underrated freshmen guards in the country and is a future pro. Remy Martin is a solid point guard, and Zylan Cheatham is an exceptional glue guy. The Sun Devils just need to do two things: make outside shots and get consistent post play from undersized Kimani Lawrence and Romello White. If they can do that, then they stand a chance this weekend and have hope of an NCAA at-large bid. If they don't, they can enjoy the NIT.
The Spoiler: Colorado (+700)
The Buffaloes have used a late flurry to project themselves onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. They are one of the rare "hot" teams in the Pac-12 right now, winning eight of their last 10 games. The Buffs are young, fearless, and they have a lot of guys that want to shoot a lot of 3-pointers. They don't make a lot of them, but they sure like to shoot them. The biggest question about the Buffs is whether they can win on the road. They aren't very good outside of their own gym, and their last five wins have all come in Boulder.
Early Round Game To Keep An Eye On:
No. 8 USC (-7) vs. No. 9 Arizona (3 p.m., Thursday, March 14)
It has certainly been a humbling year for Arizona. Last season the Wildcats ran roughshod through the Pac-12 field en route to a tournament title. This year they are the No. 9 seed and staring down the likelihood of an NIT bid. A horrendous 80-57 loss to USC on Jan. 24 kicked off a seven-game losing streak, and the Wildcats enter this tournament having lost 10 of 13 games. This is an ugly offensive team, and it lacks any of the star power and NBA-caliber talent we've come to expect out in Tucson. USC has some excessively overrated talent, like proven dud Bennie Boatwright. Though they have lost seven of nine and aren't feeling any better about themselves heading to Vegas. Neither team should be as bad as they are. But welcome to the Pac-12. The winner will get a chance to knock off No. 1 seed Washington. And this USC-Arizona matchup will most likely come down to which team does the fewest dumb things down the stretch.
2019 Pac 12 Conference Tournament Predictions: This league has been such a mess this year that it is nearly impossible to try to predict how this slop of mediocre teams are going to perform this week. By my count, there are four teams that have a realistic chance to win the tournament: Washington, Arizona State, Utah and Oregon. It will absolutely not surprise me if none of those teams end up cutting down the nets. Washington is clearly the best team in the league. I'll back them out of the sheer simplicity of it. They have four seniors, and in a wide-open field like this I will go with experience. I think their toughest game might be their first one. And I can see the Huskies getting a rematch with Oregon in the championship game.
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 12 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and will have an 8-Unit Conference Tournament Game of the Year this week. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here .
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