NCAA Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Betting Preview: Arizona Aims to Reclaim Throne
We all like to say it in our best Bill Walton voice.
“The Conference of Champions!”
The Pac-12 tournament kicks off Wednesday with the first round live from Las Vegas, and the champion will be crowned Saturday night.
No. 2 Arizona is the No. 1 seed and faces stiff competition from No. 13 and second-seeded UCLA and No. 21 and third-seeded USC.
Defending champion Oregon State is the last seed in the field. We advise you to bet against the repetition of the Beavers as champions.
Now, despite what Walton may say, not every Pac-12 team is actually in consideration for a spot overall. Arizona, USC and UCLA are locks, while fifth-seeded Oregon needs a strong performance. Kevin Sweeney took out the Ducks at his last screening.
Pac-12 Tournament Betting Odds
No. 1 Arizona-120
No. 2 UCLA +160
No. 3 USC +1000
No. 5 Oregon +1500
No. 7 Washington State +3000
No. 4 Colorado +4000
No. 8 Arizona State +5000
No. 6 Washington +20000
No. 9 Stanford +20000
No. 11 Utah +25000
No. 10 California +50000
No. 12 Oregon State +50000
Let’s break down the field, the odds and offer a bet.
Check the latest college basketball odds at SI Sportsbook
FAVORITE: No. 1 Arizona (28-3; -120)
Arizona may not have the national buzz of Gonzaga, Duke or Baylor, but the Wildcats should be one of the four No. 1 seeds as long as they don’t suffer a bad loss in Vegas.
The Wildcats rank second in the nation – behind Gonzaga – in three major metrics: polls, KenPom and future odds from SI Sportsbook.
This is a team that can win everything.
A good barometer of potential champions is having KenPom in the top 25 on offense and defense, and the Wildcats rank eighth and 14th, respectively. Arizona ranks third in the nation in averaging 84.7 points per game, while allowing just 66.7 points per game.
They went 18-2 in conference, with their losses coming at Colorado and UCLA. Four different Wildcats are averaging at least 10 points per game.
The biggest question surrounding Arizona is their relative inexperience in big games, which seems surprising given the history of this program.
However, the Wildcats haven’t played in the tournament since 2018 and that was the last time they won the conference tournament.
Oregon, provided the Ducks win two in a row, could be a tough opponent in the semis. Arizona escaped with an 84-81 home win in the teams’ only meeting.
UCLA could cause Arizona problems in a potential conference championship game given the Bruins won by 16 in Game 1. Arizona returned the favor in their home game less than two weeks later, but UCLA superstar Johnny Juzang only played 29 minutes after missing the previous two games.
Support Arizona supports the most consistent team in the conference from start to finish and one of the elite teams in the country.
THE CHALLENGER: No. 2 UCLA (23-6; +160)
UCLA entered the year ranked No. 2 in the nation after last year’s unexpected Final Four run, but didn’t quite live up to the hype.
The Bruins have been good to very good, but not elite. Gonzaga handled them with ease early in the season, and conference losses to Oregon (twice) and Arizona State prevented the Bruins from truly challenging Arizona for the conference title.
UCLA battled availability issues with Juzang missing five games and playing limited minutes in others, while Cody Riley missed nearly two months.
The Bruins pass two key tests when it comes to betting: analysis and experience.
KenPom likes the Bruins, ranking them eighth with No. 15 adjusted offense and No. 11 adjusted defense. Those are strong marks and show they can win anything.
The Bruins also played in a lot of big games, especially in last year’s run to the Final Four. That experience could matter if they meet Arizona in the Finals.
One stat to love: UCLA went 7-1 against teams on its side of the bracket, with the lone loss coming to potential semifinal opponents USC.
Getting UCLA to plus-money seems like a great betting opportunity given the Bruins’ pedigree and ability to beat most teams on any night.
THE WILD CARD: Oregon n°5 (18-13; +1500)
Oregon entered the year as the No. 13 team in the nation, but now may need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to earn its spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Four losses in non-conference play didn’t help and an 11-9 mark in a heavyweight conference puts them in a precarious position. The Ducks have lost their last three games, including a pair of road losses to mediocre teams in Washington and Washington State.
But here’s why Oregon is a wildcard: The Ducks are more than capable of beating good teams and that back-to-the-wall mentality can give them an advantage.
Oregon won at both USC and UCLA and even swept the season series with the Bruins. He only lost by one point to USC in the rematch. The Ducks also faced potential No. 1 seeds Baylor and Arizona this year, losing by a combined 11 points.
The metrics don’t like this Oregon team, which ranks 60th in adjusted offense and 113th in adjusted defense at KenPom. They’re not particularly good at either end of the pitch and they lack a superstar. No Duck is averaging over 14.1 points per game.
But when looking for value, betting on a team that has the potential to beat good teams always offers a potential advantage.
And if the Ducks were to somehow go through Arizona — okay, they have to win two games first — they went 3-1 against potential final opponents at USC and the UCLA.
THE LONG SHOT: No. 7 Washington State (18-13; +3000)
You can do a lot worse than 30 to 1 odds on a 55th ranked team by KenPom.
Let’s start with the Debbie Downer side of things for the Cougars: Washington State is an inconsistent team, must win the tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and a quarterfinal game with UCLA isn’t so appealing.
Now, place in the sun.
The Cougars are worth considering at 30-1 for two main reasons: First, they rank well at KenPom at No. 55 overall. That’s only 15 spots below No. 3 USC. Their adjusted offense is 81st but their 41st-ranked defense is the anchor, ranking 60th in points allowed per game. Teams that can get stoppages in tournament play can cause upsets.
Second, Washington State is playing teams. Eleven of his 13 losses have not exceeded eight points – nine of them by six points or less – and he has only lost by more than 12 points once. It’s a team that drags and drags, even losing effort.
It’s possible that a team playing close games could get a few in a row to go their way. Washington State has won four of its last five games, including a 20-point win over Oregon.
Washington State resembles Oregon’s scoring profile in that no player averages more than 15 points per game, but the Cougars average three double-digit scores.
If you like long shots, Washington State might be for you.
THE BET: UCLA +160
We go with experience here.
UCLA is a strong, tournament-proven team that has already beaten Arizona this year. The battle with USC in the semifinals will be tough, but UCLA should have enough to beat their downtown rival and then defeat the favorite Wildcats in the title game.
An added bonus: we’ll happily take positive odds over Arizona’s -120 odds.
Pac-12 Tournament Schedule
First Round—Wednesday, March 9
Game 1: No. 8 Arizona State vs. No. 9 Stanford | 3 p.m. ET | Pac-12 network
Game 2: No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 12 Oregon State | 5:30 p.m. ET | Pac-12 network
Game 3: #7 Washington State vs. #9 California | 9 p.m. ET | Pac-12 network
Game 4: No. 6 Washington vs. No. 11 Utah | 11:30 p.m. ET | Pac-12 network
Quarterfinals—Thursday, March 10
Game 5: No. 1 UCLA vs Game 1 winner | 3 p.m. ET | Pac-12 network
Game 6: No. 4 Colorado vs Game 2 Winner | 5:30 p.m. ET | Pac-12 network
Game 7: No. 2 UCLA vs Game 3 winner | 9 p.m. ET | Pac-12 network
Game 8: USC No. 3 vs. Game 4 winner | 11:30 p.m. ET | FS1
Semi-finals—Friday, March 10
Game 9: Winner of Game 5 vs. Game 6 winner | 9 p.m. ET | Pac-12 network
Game 10; Winner of Match 7 vs Winner of Match 8 | 11:30 p.m. ET | FS1
Final—Saturday, March 11
Winner of Match 9 vs Winner of Match 10 | 9 p.m. ET | Fox
Check the latest odds on SI Sportsbook
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