Arizona just won another Pac-12 regular-season title, and is a heavy favorite to complete the season. Can anyone pull an upset here? And where might we find some Pac-12 tournament championship value?
The top four teams in the conference standings earned first-round byes for this tournament. Top-seeded Arizona went 16-2 through Pac-12 play this season, the two losses coming by a combined five points. Oregon sneaked into the two spot by winning its last five games, with help from Utah, which lost three of its last five. Those two tied for second at 13-5 in conference play, but the Ducks earned the two spot by beating the Utes in the only meeting between the teams this season. And UCLA went a mediocre 11-7 to claim the four spot.
Arizona State and Stanford tied for fifth place at 9-9, but the Sun Devils won five of their last seven, while the Cardinal lost their last three. ASU claimed the five seed, while Stanford goes in as the six.
Oregon State went 8-10 to take the seven spot.
Cal, a disappointing Colorado and Washington State all went 7-11 in Pac-12 play; the Bears and Cougars open this tournament by playing the eight-nine game Wednesday afternoon, while the Buffaloes own the 10 spot.
Washington went 5-13 to take the 11 spot, and USC finished last and enters the tournament as the 12 seed.
The most pleasant surprise of this season in the Pac-12, based on our preseason expectations, might have been Arizona State. We expected the Sun Devils to finish somewhere near the bottom of the conference standings. But after an 0-4 start ASU rallied to finish .500 in conference play, and upset rival Arizona.
The biggest disappointment had to be Colorado, which we had pegged for a top-three finish, but instead sputtered to 7-11 and a tie for eighth place.
Arizona is the clear favorite on every Pac-12 tournament board we could find. BetOnline lists the Wildcats at -200 to win this tournament.
Third-seeded Utah could be found getting 5/2 at Bovada; fourth-seeded UCLA was the third choice on most boards, getting +1000 at BetOnline; and second-seeded Oregon was getting +1400 at BetOnline. Going strictly by the seeds the Ducks look like a great value.
Sixth-seeded Stanford comes next, getting 16/1 at Bovada; Arizona State was getting 33/1 at Bovada; Colorado 40/1 at Bovada; Cal 100/1 at Bovada; and USC and Washington State were both getting 500/1 on Bovada's Pac-12 tournament board.
Cal and Wazzu meet for Game 1 Wednesday afternoon, followed by Arizona State and USC in the five-12 game; Oregon State and Colorado in the seven-ten game; and Stanford and Washington in the six-11 game.
Thursday Arizona takes on the winner between the Bears and Cougars; UCLA meets either the Sun Devils or Trojans; Oregon plays either the Beavers or Buffaloes; and Utah takes on either the Cardinal or Huskies.
Thursday's winners then meet in the semifinals Friday, and the championship game will be played Saturday.
Of the eight teams that play Wednesday the outfit with the best chance of reaching the semifinals is probably Arizona State, which with an initial win would then play fifth-seeded UCLA. And a victory over the Bruins would likely mean a date with Arizona, whom the Sun Devils have already beaten once this season. However, what are the odds the Wildcats would allow themselves to fall to ASU again? Mighty slim.
Arizona is very likely to win this tournament; we just don't see any value betting the Wildcats at those NCAA Basketball odds.
In our search for college basketball picks we find Oregon. The Ducks seem likely to meet Oregon State on Thursday, and they've already beaten the Beavers twice this season. Oregon then would probably run into Utah Friday, and they've already beaten the Utes, too. So the Ducks could go into a championship game match against Arizona Saturday with a payout of 14/1 on the line.