Update 3/13: All of the college basketball postseason’s remaining conference tournaments and the 2020 NCAA Tournament have been cancelled due to the spreading coronavirus. Please accept the content below as a “fantasy sports” preview of a while new sort. Hearts have broken across the nation, but there will be plenty of healing in 2021.
It would be unwise for March Madness gamblers to discount Pac-12 basketball in any way. Historically, the league is a hardwood powerhouse.
The Pac-12 won most of the NCAA Men’s basketball titles over a dozen-year stretch through the Vietnam War years, and returned to great prominence in the late 1990s only to see Final Four bids begin to dry up.
UCLA played for an NCAA championship in 2006, but as of 2020, Gonzaga and a burgeoning West Coast Conference – and to a lesser extent San Diego State and the MWC – are threatening to take over the national conversation on a once-heralded hoops time-zone.
Does that tell us anything about the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament set to tip-off on Wednesday, March 11th? Well, paradoxically yes – it tells us that the tourney has a good chance to rock and roll with plenty of fun and emotion. It’s hard to predict (or sometimes even enjoy) postseason tournaments like the Big-12 or the SEC, in which the very best teams often have every reason to pull-off the gas pedal in a championship setting. Not that a Top 25 contender doesn’t want to win a “triple” title in the regular season, conference postseason, and March Madness. But if a senior team captain or a 1-and-done NBA Draft blue-chipper suffers fractured toe-nail paint while defending the paint, he’s likely to be held-out of the remainder of the tournament. The ultimate reason for winning a conference-tourney title is to reach the NCAA Tournament and ace the draw on Selection Sunday. The less likely it is that a tight loss in a league-bracket final would adversely affect a national championship contender going forward, the more-likely it is that the best programs won’t quite offer supporters or gamblers 100% in the short term. Meanwhile, that leaves other NCAAB tournaments to captivate American TV with drama. Lots of underdog conferences are already on that in 2020 – but the teams of the Pac-12 will want to shed their stereotype and make a statement with a winning streak.
There’s theoretically more momentum involved in winning a conference trophy on 3/14 than on 3/8. If a Pac-12 hot streak can stay hot for just a week or 2 as the team embarks nationally, the element of positive buzz could make up for the added stress of dealing with mid-March injuries. Who in the coastal collection of colleges (with a few cactus-lands strewn in) is trending up at the right time?
Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament Dates, Seeds, and Bracket
The Pac-12 runs a well-designed bracket in which #5 through #12 seeds play-into the quarterfinals vs waiting #1 through #4s. But as painless as the bracket is to explain, it’s as fast to play and prepare and play and potentially play again in, tipping-off every applicable seed in 4 daily rounds from qualification games on 3/11 to the final on 3/14.
Fans get a treat from the looks of it. At the same time, if squads and their coaches do not guard against fatigue and injury along the way, the every-day format can grind a pair of potential champions down to sloppy units by the weekend.
Oregon is the #1 seed, fresh off an impressive 24-7 regular season record and a conference W/L crown. We’ll talk often this spring about how #1 through #4 seeds almost always win the NCAA Tournament. But lots and lots of 7-loss teams have romped through the big dance, there’s no question about that.
With a dose of irony, #2 seed UCLA is largely a 2nd-seed thanks to how the Bruins responded to losing at Oregon in January. The Ducks asserted dominance in the 1st half of a 96-75 victory as only a couple of players from the UCLA starting-5 were effective. Since then, however, Mick Cronin’s squad has caught fire, winning 9 out of 11 games and sweeping the Arizona schools in late February. Versatile freshman guard Jake Kyman provided a marvelous boost off the bench against a series of Pac-12 opponents.
ASU is the 3rd seed following a 20-win regular season. Check out the entire Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket at Pac-12.com.
Pac-12 Tournament: Championship Futures Betting Odds
The Oregon Ducks are a (+175) wager to win the Pac-12 postseason crown, and it’s interesting to see that gamblers are absolutely not sold on the 2nd-seeded UCLA Bruins (+750).
Arizona (+300) and Colorado (+400) have much-shorter lines to win the Pac-12 event despite California-Los Angeles holding a more-advantageous seed.
Could bettors be over-reacting to recent results? UCLA’s offense was lifeless in a 54-52 loss to USC to cap-off the regular season on Saturday. Nor could UCLA curtail slender guard Alonzo Verge Jr. of Arizona State (+1200) who darted-open and sank shots throughout an 84-66 Sun Devil whipping of the Bruins. Yet the greater betting public has been forgiving of quality teams who have lost games in late winter. You’d think that a 9-2 record following the Oregon loss would be an angle handicappers would flock to.
#12 seed Washington (+2000) is a phenomenally-popular Pac-12 championship futures pick for being the weakest seed in the event! It’s true that the Huskies played 4 or 5 excellent games in a row at the regular-season finish line. Long sophomore Nahziah Carter scored 23 points as Washington upset ASU 90-83 last Thursday. But could the late-season outcomes be a mirage? Even if not, is 2o-to-1 worth it when Cinderella has a longer hill to climb than fat #1 and #2 seeds?
This isn’t the Big-12 or the ACC Tournament. Sorry, Pac-12 supporters, but right now the ceiling isn’t high enough to worry about top seeds kicking-back to enjoy the view.
Updates on the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament
Watch this space for daily updates as the Pac-12 tourney tips-off on 3/11. Also, click to WagerBop’s March Madness and Conference Tournament Odds Tracker.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.