Pac-12 Tournament Betting Preview: Is There Value on Oregon, USC, or Colorado?
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Isaiah Mobley (left) and Evan Mobley (right).
This year’s Pac-12 Tournament has the potential to be pretty exciting, which means picking a winner to wager on could be stressful.
The top three seeds in the tournament consist of Oregon, USC and Colorado, which all receive first-round byes. What makes the conference unique this year is that we have an unranked Oregon squad coming in as the conference’s top seed while second-seeded USC comes in ranked No. 24 and Colorado at No. 23.
Will watching three teams at the top of the conference battle it out make for an entertaining tournament? Most likely.
But handicapping a tournament winner and finding the right risk/reward balance when wagering is going to be a challenge. I typically don’t go seeking out challenges when I gamble. I’d place a daily wager at -1,000,000 odds on the sun rising every morning if I could. (If you live in certain parts of Alaska that’s a bet you may want to stay away from.)
There’s not a lot of difference between the teams at the top as exemplified by games like Oregon’s 60-56 victory over the Buffaloes, where the Ducks came in as a three-point favorite and barely covered. The oddsmakers are also aware of how slim the talent gap is between the top three seeds with Oregon at +192, USC at +232 and Colorado at +273 as the consensus among the books.
The stratification of the odds isn’t really seen until you get to fourth-seeded UCLA +414. The contrast between the top and the bottom of the conference and the top becomes even starker after that with Stanford coming in at +1500 to take the conference crown.
If you want to be like me you can even bet on your hometown Cal Golden Bears +2000 because you have an unreasonable faith in a team that’s disappointed you your whole life and think it’ll get past its first-round matchup with Stanford for some reason. But don’t be like me — be better than me.
One team that is a sure bet to not win the Pac-12 is Arizona. Wildcats head coach Sean Miller and a few members of his coaching staff were caught engaging in academic misconduct last Friday.
The scale of the academic fraud seems pretty sophisticated based on the reports, but I still like to imagine it’s just an assistant coach taking a permanent marker to recruits report card and changing an F to a B+.
In any case, one of the more consistent teams in the Pac-12 year in and year out is out of the tournament in a year it would have been the fifth seed, one game behind UCLA.
If it weren’t for some academic fraud, bribery and a severe lack of oversight from Miller, there would have been a decent argument for taking a longshot bet for the Wildcats to win the Pac-12 Tournament. They showed they can hang with the top teams with an 81-72 win over USC on Feb. 20 and had close losses to Colorado and Oregon earlier in the year.
With Wildcats not a threat to play spoiler, one of the better longshot betting options has been eliminated from making a run at the conference championship this year as they would have been around +1000 to win.
That mean’s if you’re looking for some value, the Bruins may be one of the better bets. UCLA is considered a bubble team that will be looking to solidify its spot in the Big Dance and is powered by six players averaging double figures, including leading scorer Johnny Juzang.
The sophomore guard will have plenty of scoring help and will likely need it as UCLA enters its first-round match-up against Oregon State on March 11.
The Bruins are more of a moderate longshot, but if you’re looking for something that vaguely resembles a “sure thing” I’d be more partial to USC.
This conference didn’t produce a clear favorite, but USC still boasts one of the best big men in the Pac-12 in Evan Mobley and has gotten some high-level guard play from Tahj Eaddy. Eaddy even showed off some clutch shooting ability with his last-second 3-pointer to help the Trojans sneak past UCLA, 64-63 on March 6.
There’s a decent argument to be made for all of the top four teams in this one, whether you’re looking for the highest win probability or looking to take a slight underdog in order to maximize value, bettors will have a few good options.
Just don’t put any money on Cal unless you’re an unreasonable fan like me or you live in northern Alaska and you’re trying to break even after going heavy on the aforementioned sunrise bet.