Pac-12 Odds, Second State of Conference Betting Report: Arizona Improving Defense
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Oumar Ballo (Arizona)
For the Oregon Ducks, this season has not gotten off to a great start. They were coming off a 77-72 home loss to Utah Valley on December 20. However, a 77-68 home victory over Oregon State was a great way to close the year.
USC had gotten off to a 3-0 start in conference play, but suffered a 81-71 loss to Washington State on Sunday. On Thursday, bragging rights in Los Angeles will be on the line when the Trojans battle the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion.
Read on for more on that game and much more in the second edition of my State of the Pac-12 Report.
UCLA Bruins (+105)
Playing in Pullman was no easy task for the Los Angeles schools last week.
In addition to beating USC, Washington State nearly upset UCLA on Friday night. The Bruins shot just 36.2% and lost the rebounding battle by nine, but 50 combined points from Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell and David Singleton were enough to pull out the road victory.
The mark of a good team is being able to win even when it’s not having it’s best performance.
The Bruins were more dominant on Sunday, defeating Washington, 74-49, in Seattle. They held the Huskies to 34% from the field and 2-for-25 from 3-point range.
UCLA looked much more like the team that has ascended to No. 4 on KenPom — it ranks sixth in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and seventh in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
KenPom also expects UCLA to handle USC on Thursday, projecting a 14-point win. While I like the Bruins to win, that line may be a little too large.
Arizona Wildcats (+150)
As I mentioned in my first report, Arizona has the offense to beat anyone, but its defense will have to get better for it to contend for the conference title and beyond.
On a day when it shot just 37.7% from the field against Arizona State, Arizona turned in an encouraging performance defensively.
Arizona jumped out to 17-point halftime lead, holding ASU to 28 points in the first half and 29% shooting from the field. The Wildcats held the Sun Devils to 36.2% from the field for the game and 3-for-27 from 3.
Arizona defended without fouling, committing just 14 hacks and limiting ASU to 10 free throws. Arizona did have 18 more free-throw attempts, which did not go unnoticed by the Arizona State faithful.
The Wildcats are up to 59th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and still have a long way to go. They’re trending up, though.
Arizona’s offense still is first in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, 2-point field goal percentage and third in effective field goal percentage. Its offense is why it will be a double-digit favorite in its next three games (Washington, Washington State, and at Oregon State) before a trip to Oregon next Saturday.
As of now, I haven’t seen a reason to come off the Wildcats yet, but I would target them on DraftKings if you haven’t gotten in on them yet.
Tracking the Utes
Utah Utes (+2500)
In my last report, I mentioned Utah had a chance to pick up an important victory for its resume against TCU.
The Utes were unable to do so — falling 75-71 — but they did take care of business in conference. Utah defeated Cal 58-43 on Thursday — covering as a double-digit favorite — and picked up an outright victory at Stanford as a 2.5-point underdog.
Utah will be favored to beat Oregon State and Oregon at home this week before heading to UCLA next Thursday. Utah is 4-0 in conference and tied with UCLA atop the Pac-12 standings.
Like the Bruins, Utah is stingy on the defensive end, ranking 21st in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
If you didn’t buy the Utes yet, I have good news. At the time of my first report, Utah was +2400 to win the regular season title on FanDuel, and it’s +2500 now.
However, on DraftKings, they were +2000 and are +1000 now, which is more indicative of their place in the standings. They’re also +1400 on BetMGM.
You can still grab the Utes at an incredible value on FanDuel.
USC Trojans (+2000)
USC joined Arizona and UCLA in making the NCAA tournament last season.
All things considered, USC has gotten off to a solid start this season. It has top-100 wins over BYU and Auburn. It took Tennessee (the No. 3 team in the NET Rankings and on KenPom) to overtime before falling, and also lost to Wisconsin by five.
However, the Trojans also lost at home to Florida Gulf Coast, in addition to the loss to Washington State on Sunday.
The loss to Washington State dropped the Trojans eight spots to 85th in the NET Rankings.
Thursday’s game at UCLA will be a chance for USC to pick up an important victory for its resume and knock off its rival. When the lines are released, I would love to get USC at +15 for a little more cushion, but I would back it at +14, as well.
UCLA won two of the three meetings last season, but USC has won six of the last 10 meetings. Just one of those matchups was decided by 15 or more points — a USC victory.
I don’t anticipate USC being consistent enough to be a factor in the regular season conference title race. However, a win over UCLA would put both programs at 4-1 in conference at this stage of the season.
At +2000, DraftKings has the best price on the Trojans.
Arizona State Sun Devils (+2600)
Arizona State ended the 2022 year on a two-game losing streak to San Francisco and Arizona. However at 11-3 and 2-1 in conference thus far, it’s in decent shape to grab an NCAA tournament berth at this juncture.
The Sun Devils are 55th in the NET Rankings and the first 10-seed, according to the Bracket Matrix.
KenPom is not as high on Arizona State, ranking it 78th.
However, if Arizona State is dancing in March, it will likely be because of its defense. The Sun Devils are 25th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, third in 2-point percentage defense and sixth in effective field goal percentage defense.
They proved against Arizona that they can defend against the best teams in the country. The Sun Devils also have wins over Michigan and Creighton, allowing 66.5 points in those games.
Arizona State will be favored to win three of its next four games (Washington State, Washington, at Oregon, at Oregon State). If it wins three of those four games, it will be 5-2 in conference before heading to UCLA.
FanDuel has the best price on the Sun Devils at +2600, compared to +1500 on DraftKings.
Oregon Ducks (+2600)
The Ducks began the year 4-5, but it’s hard to blame them when they had Houston, Connecticut, Michigan State and UCLA on the schedule.
The Ducks have wins over Villanova and Washington State.
Oregon has won four of its last five games to improve to 8-6. It’s 71st in the NET Rankings, but to get on the right side of the bubble in March, it will need to win some of its marquee games.
Its first opportunity will come against Arizona next Saturday, the first of two meetings. It will also get another crack at UCLA, this time at home.
Winning on the road will help, as well, and the Ducks get two opportunities this week at Colorado and Utah.
The Ducks rely on their size, with five players 6-foot-8 or taller in their rotation. They’re 34th nationally in 2-point field goal percentage, 27th in offensive rebounding percentage and 20th in block percentage defensively.
Guard Will Richardson is big for his position, as well, at 6-foot-5. The senior is averaging 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.
At this point, he’s a strong contender to earn an All-Conference selection.
A Lot of Work To Do
Washington State Cougars (+14000)
Washington State has been a tough out for most of its opponents this season. It lost by six to Baylor, by two to Utah in overtime and by one to UCLA on Friday night.
The Cougars are 9-6 ATS, but if they’re going to play into the postseason, they’ll need to turn some of those covers into wins.
Getting the victory over USC was a good start, but Washington State improved to just 6-9 on the season and 1-3 in conference. The schedule will not get much easier, with trips to Arizona State and Arizona on deck.
Washington State is projected to win just three of its next 10 games, which would put it 9-16 and 4-10 in conference.
The Cougars will have to pull off a few upsets soon.