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Pac-12 Basketball Tournament Odds, Bracket, Betting Preview: Is It Arizona’s Title to Lose?

Pac-12 Basketball Tournament Odds, Bracket, Betting Preview: Is It Arizona’s Title to Lose? article feature image
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Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bennedict Mathurin (0) and Christian Koloko (35).

Last year’s Pac-12 Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament shocked the world with Oregon State stealing a bid from a bubble team and taking down UCLA, Oregon and Colorado in three straight days en route to its first-ever conference tournament championship.

The Beavers would need a miracle to repeat their success this season as they sit at 3-27 with just one Pac-12 win.

The 2022 Pac-12 Tournament is all set for March 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with Stanford and Arizona State opening up the week.

Can any team dethrone Arizona, which enters as the favorite and has been one of the best teams in the entire NCAA? Are there any potential bid-stealing teams that hold value?

Let’s take a deeper look at this year’s Pac-12 Conference Tournament.


Pac-12 Tournament Bracket & Schedule

Photo via @Pac12. View full-size image in new tab.

The Favorite: Arizona (-120)

One of the biggest surprises of the season has to be the dominance of Arizona in Year 1 of the Tommy Lloyd era. This is the best team in the Pac-12, and it’s priced as such. Outside of a dud against Colorado, there’s not much you can critique about the Wildcats.

This is a high-powered offense that ranks first in adjusted efficiency and first in assist rate and pushes tempo at all times. It creates a ton of second-chance opportunities, uses its second-ranked height to dominate inside the paint and can shoot the 3-ball well, too.

Most teams have to adjust to Arizona’s pace and win in a shootout — and there are very few teams that can match that physicality and speed. The Wildcats have been held to under 70 points just once since February.

Tack on the suffocating defense around the rim — they second in 2-point defense — headlined by 7-foot-1 Christian Koloko, and the Wildcats are clearly priced correctly.

Arizona is the class of the Pac-12. Bennedict Mathurin is the prototypical star player who will thrive in March, and the rest of the team is deep and extremely talented.

This isn’t a situation where the Wildcats should come out sloppy since they’re safely in the NCAA Tournament and in all likelihood a No. 1 seed.

This is Lloyd’s first year as head coach, and I’m sure there’s nothing he and this team want more than to sweep the Pac-12 regular season and conference tournament en route to a top seed in the Big Dance.

Verdict: Arizona -120 (1 Unit)


The Second Tier: UCLA (+160) and USC (+1000)

Another reason why I like Arizona to continue rolling in the conference tournament is that I can see UCLA taking its foot off the gas pedal and resting some of its players more with eyes on the NCAA Tournament.

Johnny Juzang has battled an ankle injury over the last couple of weeks, and while he did return against USC to close the season out, I could see Mick Cronin limiting his star — or sitting him altogether.

UCLA’s path is no cupcake walk either. it will probably face Washington State, a team many thought would be competing for an at-large bid in the preseason, in the second round of the tournament.

The Cougars have the potential to catch the Bruins sleeping, and if not, UCLA will in all likelihood draw USC in their third matchup of the season.

The Trojans have looked vulnerable plenty of times throughout Pac-12 play. Their free-throw shooting is a glaring issue — they shoot 66.8% as a team — and don’t force turnovers.

They have the height to battle the boards and defend the paint well but at times become a little too reliant on size.

While Isaiah Mobley has been fantastic and Drew Peterson has had his moments late in Pac-12 play, USC has “walking upset” written all over it.

Tack on the aforementioned fact the Trojans would likely play UCLA in the semifinals — if they get there — and there’s no value in backing either of the two second-tier squads in this conference tournament.

Verdict: Pass on UCLA & USC

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Is Oregon (+1500) Worth a Look?

The most inconsistent team in the Pac-12 is Oregon.

Dana Altman’s squad has all the potential in the world. It’s beaten UCLA twice and taken Arizona down to the wire. But this is also the same team that enters losing five of its last six, including losses to both Arizona State and Washington.

The biggest question is the status of star Will Richardson. He missed the regular-season finale and was said to not be “feeling well,” in Oregon’s eventual 20-point loss to Washington State.

The Ducks go as he goes. It’s a tall task to ask Oregon to win four games in four days, which is what it’ll have to do because of its slump to end the season, losing the bye.

We’ve seen this team at its peak. It has plenty of athletic threats that compliment Richardson well — like Jacob Young and De’Vion Harmon — and the defense to compete in slower-paced, grind-it-out games.

If Richardson’s health wasn’t a question, I would pull the trigger on Oregon without hesitation. This is a talented team with a coach in Altman who I trust in March.

But with uncertainty still in play, I would look to see how the Ducks fare in their first game against Oregon State and whether or not Richardson plays. If he does, I’ll look to get involved in them game-by-game rather than invest in a futures bet.

Verdict: Pass on future; look to bet game-by-game


Other Notes

  • Washington State is an intriguing option at +3000. This is a team that can click at any moment and has blowout wins over both Colorado and Oregon. If the Cougars upset UCLA, they have shown the ability to stick with USC for a full 40 minutes and offer great cash-out potential in the championship. And who knows, maybe Arizona goes down and they draw a lesser squad.
  • Colorado is +4000 despite having a first-round bye. The Buffaloes have a top-50 3-point offense and have closed the season on a hot streak, winning seven of their last eight, including a win over Arizona. The Buffaloes struggle with turnovers and finishing inside, but they’re clicking at the right time and likely draw a slumping Oregon team before a rematch with Arizona in the semifinals. They are playing for their postseason lives, and having to win just three games at +4000 is an interesting play.


Pac-12 Wrap-Up

To me, this conference tournament has Arizona winning with dominance written all over it. It’s been the best team all season, and I expect Lloyd to be fired up and have his team ready for each game, even with the NCAA Tournament right around the corner.

I would expect the Wildcats’ first real test to come in the finals — they likely come out angry after their wake-up call of a loss to Colorado and blow out the Buffaloes — before drawing one of the teams from the bottom half of the bracket.

They have such an easy route to the finals and should be able to rest their stars more often than not, while teams like UCLA and USC will have to play competitive minutes down the stretch each day.

The only way I see this going south for Arizona is if Richardson returns to full strength and Oregon makes a run by winning four games in four days.

Other than that, it’s all Wildcats from me.

Summary:

  • Bet Arizona to win (-120)
  • Look to get involved with Oregon game-by-game depending on Will Richardson’s status and how he looks (if he plays)
  • Consider a small play on Washington State or Colorado
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