Pac-12 fans have to be disappointed. The revenue-generating sports of football and basketball have not gone particularly well in recent years. The conference just hasn’t been consistent in either sport. Last season, the Oregon Ducks won the Pac-12 Tournament as the #6 seed, beating #1 Washington by 20 points.
At least Oregon made it to the Sweet 16. Washington beat Utah State in the first round, but then got rocked by North Carolina in the second round. Something has to change. Somebody has to be more consistent. Somebody has to take the torch for the conference and make some national noise.
Ultimately, it doesn’t seem like that will happen in 2020 either. Oregon is the +200 favorite to win the conference at DraftKings Sportsbook before the start of the season. Arizona follows at +250. Washington is +375, but it is only a matter of time before the teams in the conference decipher the zone defense of former Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins.
Other conferences boast a Big Three like Duke, North Carolina and Louisville, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Xavier, Kentucky, Florida, and Auburn, and even Kansas, Baylor, and Texas Tech. The Pac-12 just lacks firepower. It lacks coaching. It lacks just about everything. Except drama. There will be that, as no team stands out again this year in the conference.
Oregon has the best head coach in the conference in Dana Altman and freshmen CJ Walker and N’Faly Dante are the most interesting newcomers to the Pac-12. The Ducks, like so many other teams, have production to replace, but they seem best equipped to do so. Don’t forget about Payton Pritchard, who wound up taking a backseat to scorers like Kenny Wooten and Louis King. At +200, Oregon seems like the team with the fewest questions, thus the most deserving of being the favorite.
The tumultuous tenure of Sean Miller continued in Tucson. Arizona may be the most talented team in the conference, but you just never know how everything will play out. Also, it sure seems like Miller has a hard time getting all that skill to mesh. Brandon Williams is a huge loss, but Duke transfer Chase Jeter and four returning rotation players could lessen the blow. On the other hand, the Wildcats will be asking a lot from Nico Mannion and Josh Green. The +250 price tag comes with a lot of risk, but the talent is there for Arizona to return to prominence.
Washington’s defense took a big step forward with Hopkins in his second season, but Year 3 is where the rubber meets the road. The Huskies don’t have much to leave to the imagination on defense anymore and they were not a very good offensive team. Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels could improve the team’s defense, but will they buy into the defensive responsibility it takes to play the zone? The losses of Jaylen Nowell and Matisse Thybulle may just be too much to overcome.
Inconsistent talent is the storyline for the rest of the conference. Arizona State has boatloads of ballers, but Bobby Hurley can’t get the team to look the same for two games in a row. USC is another one. To a lesser extent, so is UCLA. Few conferences allow you to bet talent and potential at prices like these, as USC is +1050, ASU is +900, and UCLA is +1400, but you can also see from the five teams lined from +900 to +1400 that everybody is fighting the same battle.
The light has to come on for one of those teams to play with enough consistency to win this conference. On the other hand, playing well for a week was good enough for Oregon, though the Ducks were just a glaring underachiever during the regular season.
Something else that matters in this conference is beating the doormats. Games against Cal, Stanford, Washington State, and to a lesser extent, Oregon State have to go in the win column. That is what makes some of these 10/1 or so shots so dangerous. They can beat Oregon. They can beat Arizona. They can beat Stanford. They can also lose those games.
The most interesting team in the Pac-12 is Colorado. A tremendous home court advantage in Boulder is just the start. Tad Boyle can coach a little and a healthy Buffaloes team can match up well with anybody in the conference. Colorado’s underwhelming 10-8 conference record obscures how this team won eight of its last 10, including sweeps of USC and UCLA. The Buffaloes also made a decent NIT run and hung right with Washington after two wins in the Pac-12 Tournament. If you want a sleeper, perhaps this is your team.
The talent at Arizona State is too much to overlook at the +900 price, but Colorado is lined right there. Either team is a good option.
Best Bet: Arizona State
2019-2020 Pac 12 Basketball Conference Winner Odds: