Submitted by Wayne Root on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 3:00 PM
The national media was buzzing the other day about how the Pac 12 currently has EIGHT teams going to the Big Dance according to Joe Lunardi of ESPN. Out here in Nevada, we know that it’s much dicier for the league overall. We see the games on TV, and it ain’t pretty!
Of course, we also bet on the games after the market puts numbers on the board. What’s pretty clear so far is that the Pac 12 isn’t as good overall as Lunardi is thinking. It’s going to be an extremely competitive league because there’s no obvious superpower yet. But, it might be a league that’s full of borderline Dance teams rather than serious Sweet 16 threats.
You see…while Lunardi has EIGHT teams currently in his brackets, more respected betting Power Ratings only have four “very likely” teams.
*Arizona is a virtual shoe-win, even in a down year because they play so well at home
*USC is playing very well, and looks like a lock right now
*Oregon has a resume that should have them safely in
*California is off to a 12-6 start, but needs to play better on the road
Right now, those four aren’t near the bubble according to computer and oddsmaker ratings. But, these others are…
*Colorado is smack dab on the bubble even though Lunardi has them as a #10 seed
*UCLA isn’t even in the top 60 of Ken Pomeroy’s numbers after a sluggish P12 start
*Utah is right there with UCLA in the computers, well off the bracket pace
*Arizona State and Oregon State are as well (Lunardi surprisingly has OSU in)
*Stanford has some work to do to get on the radar
That’s 10 of the 12 teams right there. The two Washington schools aren’t likely to do anything more than play spoiler. Both are competitive enough that they can score some home underdog upsets at the very least. And, fitting for this confusing league…Washington is off to a 4-1 start in Pac 12 play even though they’re barely in the top 100 in the computers!
This is a great week to pay attention to the Pac 12 because some the most interesting teams will have road testers…
*Arizona has to visit Stanford (Thursday) and California (Saturday)
*USC has to visit Oregon (Thursday) and Oregon State (Saturday)
Arizona has already lost to both UCLA and USC on the road, and doesn’t want to get the reputation of only playing well on their home floor. USC lost at Washington, which means they’re no sure thing to survive this return visit to the Pacific Northwest unscathed. In fact, USC/Oregon is shaping up as one of the best conference matchups of the season.
(Note that UCLA will visit the Oregon schools in reverse order of USC…and Saturday’s UCLA/Oregon game will be nationally televised on CBS…and that the Mountain teams of Utah and Colorado are visiting the Washington schools this weekend).
I will likely have at least one big play in the Pac 12 between now and Sunday. I can’t get more specific than that because I have to project that information for my clients. I will casually mention the following…
*I’m very interested to see how Arizona plays at Stanford and Cal this weekend. They will have almost no chance to matter in the Big Dance if all they can do is win HOME games. You don’t get to play home games in the Dance! We’re legitimately looking at a possibility of several teams earning invitations, but none surviving to the second weekend.
*USC was very impressive in dominating UCLA in what should have been a letdown spot after they beat Arizona. Frankly, the “eye test” right now might have USC as the best team in the conference…ahead of Arizona. Can they consistently play at that level? Will they fall apart on the road when challenged? Their trip to Oregon will tell us a lot about that. Real teams play consistently well, they don’t just get fired up for the most famous opponents. By the way, USC is 7-2 ATS their last nine games…meaning the market has been trailing their recent form.
*UCLA is a disappointing 2-3 in Pac 12 play despite beating Arizona. They’re 2-6 ATS over their last eight games…as media hype led to them getting way too much respect in the markets. There are stretches where this team plays very ugly basketball. If they get swept in Oregon this weekend, they’ll have to dig out of a 2-5 hole with tough road games still ahead all over the league. Remember that the Washington schools are the two worst Pac 12 teams in the computers…and UCLA lost road games to both.
*California is coming off consecutive 77-71 losses as favorites to Oregon State and Stanford. That may be a sign that another Pac 12 school has been overrated by the computers in their lead-up to the biggest games. That Arizona/California game Saturday (on ESPN by the way) is definitely must-see TV.
As I said at the top…the Pac 12 is still a puzzle! We should all have a much better sense of how the pieces fit together a week from now.
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