The Pac-12 conference (or the “Conference of Champions,” as Bill Walton calls it) had a much more successful year compared to years past. As many as seven teams are in the discussion for an NCAA Tournament bid, which is a pleasant surprise for a conference that flirted with being a one-bid league recently. The Oregon Ducks won the regular-season conference championship by one game over the surprising UCLA Bruins. The top six teams in the conference were separated by just three games.
Here is a breakdown of all the favorites, dark horses, and longshots to win the PAC-12 tournament (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
Oregon heads to the Pac-12 tournament as winners of six of their last seven games. They are led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Payton Pritchard. Pritchard is one of four Pac-12 players ever to lead the conference in both scoring and assists.
The Ducks are the best team in the conference in terms of adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. They are also best in the conference at taking care of the basketball, as they turn the ball over on just 17% of their possessions. Additionally, their 39.6% shooting percentage from three-point range ranks second nationally.
Oregon’s depth will be tested in the conference tournament. Their second-leading scorer Chris Duarte will miss the Pac-12 tournament and is questionable for the NCAA Tournament after undergoing a procedure on a broken finger. However, the Ducks have won the last three games without Duarte by an average of 20.6 points per game, so they know that they have reserves to count on.
There may not be a more talented team in the conference than Arizona. The Wildcats have three future pros on their roster in Nico Mannion, Zeke Nnaji, and Josh Green. However, the Wildcats are in terrible form, as they have lost four of their last five games entering the tournament.
Many have questioned the timing of Mannion’s decision to announce that he was leaving for the NBA Draft at the end of the year. Could this have anything to do with Arizona’s recent slide?
There’s not enough value for Arizona at odds of +450 here, considering that the Wildcats have to play one extra game after not earning a first-round bye.
The Buffaloes are in a similar position as Arizona, as they have short odds despite having to play in the opening round. They do benefit from being on the opposite side of the draw from Oregon, however, and they would not play them until the championship. However, a team that has to win four games in four days and who enters the tournament on a four-game losing streak is an easy one to avoid.
The Bruins must be wondering what they have to do to earn a little respect. They finished as the No. 2 seed after going 12-6 in Pac-12 play, yet they still find themselves squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. That’s in large part due to a NET ranking of 76. Many bracketologists have pegged the potential UCLA-Stanford quarterfinal matchup as an NCAA Tournament play-in game.
While the Bruins finished the year with the league’s second-best record, the metrics still suggest that this is a mediocre basketball team. They rank fifth and eighth respectively in the conference in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. One category UCLA does excel at is offensive rebounding, as they rank best in the conference. They will be a motivated bunch playing for their NCAA Tournament lives, but they do not seem capable of winning three games in three days against league competition.
USC (+1000), Arizona State (+1200), Stanford (+1300)
Of this group, Arizona State and USC benefit from a first-round bye and one fewer game to play. The Sun Devils appear the biggest threat to Oregon from this group. They are a matchup nightmare, as their up-tempo attack gives opponents fits. Arizona State split two games with Oregon this year, so they know that they have what it takes to beat the league’s best.
Arizona State is best-equipped for the grind of three games in three days. They have ten players who average more than ten minutes per game. They also have a bonafide stud in Remy Martin who can take over any game. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game, and a third head-to-head matchup between him and Payton Pritchard would be must-watch television. The Sun Devils’ draw is manageable, and they are a tough team to prepare for with no off days in between. They force turnovers at the highest rate in the conference, and when they are hitting shots, they can beat anyone.
Washington (+5000), California (+7500), Oregon State (+7500), Utah (+7500), Washington State (+7500)
Of this bunch, Washington is the only team worth consideration. Coach Mike Hopkins employs a 2-3 zone that is long, active, and tough to prepare for. The Huskies have two former McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster and are way more talented than their 5-13 conference record suggests. Other than that, no other teams look capable of winning more than one game.