College Basketball State of the Pac-12 Betting Analysis: 3 Storylines Around League, Including UCLA vs. Arizona
Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)
The Pac-12 has slowly beaten itself up, and just two teams stand atop the standings with a legit shot at taking home the regular season crown.
We saw UCLA take down Arizona at Pauley Pavilion, yet the Wildcats remained atop the conference in regards to futures as -110 favorites. The Bruins (+110) have closed the gap, but remain in second.
In the last State of the Pac-12 article, Oregon began to find its stride. The Ducks slowly rose the ranks, but suffered a setback in a home loss to Colorado. It was a huge loss for the Ducks, who started conference play with back-to-back losses.
Let’s take a look at three storylines around the Pac-12 as February gets underway, including a look at one player who’s quietly putting together an all-conference season.
UCLA vs. Arizona
Here we go: UCLA vs. Arizona II — “The Rematch.”
In the first battle between the Pac-12’s best, UCLA came out of the gates firing and took Arizona by storm. The Bruins supplanted themselves atop the conference standings with a 16-point win that showed the Wildcats were indeed mortal.
Arizona rebounded with a win against in-state rival Arizona State, but the Wildcats’ offensive woes continued. Tommy Lloyd’s squad struggled from 3 and scored under 70 points for the second time in a row. The Wildcats had not scored under that number once prior.
Can the Wildcats get revenge?
For starters, UCLA could be short-handed Thursday night. While Johnny Juzang is set to return after missing the previous two games due to the COVID protocols, Jaime Jaquez Jr. is a game-time decision.
Jaquez Jr. is nursing an ankle injury, which he re-aggravated against Stanford on Saturday.
That pairs well for a Wildcats team that should finally be at full strength. Azuolas Tubelis’ ankle sprain left him hobbled in the first game against UCLA, as he came off the bench and was not his same effective self.
Do not be alarmed by Arizona’s poor performance against the Bruins. The Wildcats still boast the Pac-12’s most efficient offense and the best 2-point defense.
Open looks came often, but the Wildcats just couldn’t convert. Now, they have a chance on their home floor to respond with a dominant performance.
I wrote a preview for this game, and would take Arizona 1H in this revenge spot. I think the Wildcats win this outright, but the spread of 6.5 gets a bit questionable.
I wrote about Washington State earlier this season and have long considered them a sleeper in the Pac-12.
While they didn’t live up to expectations early on — in fact, they trudged out to an 8-6 start — the Cougars have won three straight. They likely would’ve beaten Stanford in mid-January if it weren’t for COVID-related issues, but now, they enter February looking like a totally different squad.
Though the offense still needs some work, Kyle Smith’s squad owns one of the top defenses in the country. The Cougars rank No. 1 in the Pac-12 in terms of adjusted efficiency and boast the 14th-best 2-point defense in the NCAA.
Since Dec. 15, Washington State has given up just 65 points or more, once. Opponents attacking the paint are often deterred by the length of Efe Abogidi or Mouhamed Gueye. The two both rank inside the top five in block rate in conference play.
On the opposite end of the floor, Washington State’s offense should see positive regression in the coming weeks. This is a team that loves to shoot the 3 ball, and it crashes the offensive glass as well as any squad (14th in the country).
South Alabama’s Michael Flowers has been a revelation for the Cougars, as he leads the team in scoring and connects on 37% of 3s. Andrej Jakimovski has also taken a huge step up in the last couple of weeks, and shoots 45% from beyond the arc.
It’s also important to note that Noah Williams’ shooting woes have continued. His 3-point percentage has nearly halved from last year and his offensive production has steadily declined. If he’s able to replicate his sophomore year’s production to end the season, Wazzu is a legit threat.
But until then, the Cougars remain a question mark.
If there’s one player that has taken the Pac-12 by storm this season, it’s senior guard Terrell Brown Jr.
It seemed like the writing may have been on the wall for Mike Hopkins at Washington. The Huskies were 6-7 with losses to Northern Illinois, Winthrop and Utah Valley, among others.
They have lost just once since, and are 6-3 in the Pac-12, fifth in the conference. The reason for the success? Brown.
The 6-foot-3 senior has scored 20-plus points in all five wins since, including a 30-point outburst in a double-overtime win against Utah.
Brown does it all for the Huskies. He averages 21.7 points, four assists and nearly three steals per game. He’s the sixth-leading scorer in the country and he’s the best in the Pac-12 by over 3.5 points per game.
In a season filled with Pac-12 superstars like Juzang, Bennedict Mathurin and Will Richardson, Brown’s name has slipped under the radar.
Washington literally lives and dies with its star senior.