Pac-12 Tourney Preview: Arizona is favored, but keep an eye on UCLA (Presented by BracketFanatics
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The 2022 Pac-12 Tournament starts today and runs through Saturday, and has two big teams to look at when it comes to who’s going to win the tournament in Arizona and UCLA. There is always the opportunity for some unpredictability like what we saw last year in Oregon State surprising everyone and winning, so the gambling aspect of this tournament could be fascinating because of the surprises this tournament has produced before.
Here are the odds by DraftKings Sportsbook:
Washington State (+3000)
Arizona State (+5000)
Oregon State (+50000)
The Favorite - Arizona (-120):
Arizona has taken the college basketball world by storm in Tommy Lloyd’s first season, exceeding every opportunity and then some. Lloyd has implemented a free-flowing system which has allowed the players to thrive incredibly well this year. They have an NBA lottery pick on their roster in Bennedict Mathurin, another future NBA player in Azuolas Tubelis, one of the best defensive players in the country in Christian Koloko, the best glue guy they could ask for in Dalen Terry, and a player whose swagger emulates off the entire team in Kerr Kriisa. That’s also just the starting lineup. The depth of this team is one of the biggest reasons why they are the favorites in this tournament and one of a few favorites to win the whole thing.
Arizona’s biggest weakness all year has been turnovers, and sporadic shooting droughts from behind the arc, only shooting 34.4% from three. If they can hang on to the ball and get consistent shooting, then this team is borderline unstoppable and should run through the tournament in Vegas easily.
Does the second favorite have value – UCLA (+160):
UCLA is an excellent team, but the answer to whether or not they have "value" at these odds is "no." The Bruins opened the season as the overwhelming favorite in the conference, but they’ve disappointed a little bit. They lost 3 of 4 in February but have rebounded to win six of seven before the postseason starts. A four-guard lineup of Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jacquez, Jules Bernard, and Tyger Campbell, as well as Cody Riley being utilized down low will give teams fits in Vegas. However, UCLA has been proven to not be nearly as trustworthy this year as everyone had previously thought.
UCLA has a huge talent advantage compared to almost every team in Vegas, but they have an Achilles heel for rebounding. Both Arizona and USC, are two of the tallest teams in the country, and both could easily end up outrebounding the Bruins, which could spell trouble, and is another reason why I think there’s not much value here for picking the Bruins to win in Vegas.
Best Value – Colorado (+4000):
Colorado has won seven of its last eight, including a shocking 79-63 upset over Arizona. Colorado’s hot streak has allowed it to jump to the No. 4 seed in the tournament and gives it a bye before the quarterfinals. Colorado currently isn’t in the NCAA Tournament picture, but it’s a confident team with scoring balance, good outside shooting, and decent rebounding. Jabari Walker is the leading scorer and is a player that teams need to consider when game planning for Colorado.
Colorado would be considered a bid stealer and should be looked at as a team that could win this tournament. They come into the postseason at 20-10 and but aren’t on the radar of the NCAA Tournament right now because of a lackluster non-conference schedule and a subpar record against Quadrant 1 teams at 2-5.
Oh, and keep in mind, if they win their conference tournament opener - they would get Arizona in the semifinals. They are the only team in the last month to beat the Wildcats.
The value here is undeniable and at +4000 isn’t as much of a longshot as one might think.
Stay Away – USC (+1000):
In the last week USC got throttled at home by Arizona and then also lost to UCLA in their first loss to UCLA in six games, to end their regular season. Also, they won their previous three games before that by a combined six points against Washington State, Oregon State, and Oregon. It screams that betting on the Trojans will be insanely stressful. They do have a lot of talent though and are clearly the third best team in the conference. Isaiah Mobley leads the charge for them with Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis also being threats for opposing teams to look out for.
Be smart though and avoid pulling your hair out every time you watch the Trojans. They have been very lucky to escape their past few wins, and then also stumbled recently, so while the Trojans have talent, be wary, and stay way.
Longshot – Washington State (+3000):
Kyle Smith’s team has a lot to like this year, and the improvement has been noticeable each year he’s been the coach in Pullman. Washington State faces a potential matchup with UCLA and USC in consecutive games if they get to the quarterfinals and semifinals, and then Arizona as well in the championship game, which would be a murderer’s row to win the title, but the Cougars could still do it. They are probably a year away from an NCAA Tournament bid, but they have potential this year to disrupt things in Vegas.
Washington State’s seeding is due in part to a stretch in February where they lost five straight games, but they finished strong where they won four out of five games and are a team that will cause issues in Vegas. They are a balanced team that plays very smart basketball and have Michael Flowers who needs to be accounted for every game as their leading scorer. The Cougars also play very good defense as well. Overall, the Cougars play very efficiently, and that could be key down the stretch in March.
Prediction: Arizona (-120)
Arizona has been the best team in the conference all year, and it’s difficult to see really anyone else winning the tournament, including UCLA. Vegas has become McKale Center north as well, with thousands of Arizona fans coming to watch the tournament, which gives them a distinct homecourt-like advantage over every team as well. Arizona should also come into Vegas very motivated because they have a chance to lock-up a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Taking Arizona at -120 is a decent bet, considering how good Arizona’s been all year. The Arizona Wildcats will take home the Pac-12 Tournament Title over the UCLA Bruins, and will also cement themselves as a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Follow Jake on Twitter @Jake_Faigus
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