To the surprise of nobody, the Arizona Wildcats will enter the season as the favorite to win the Pac-12 Conference regular season basketball title. Not because the rest of the conference is so bad. But because the Wildcats are that good. The conference isn’t as strong as a few of the others, so a team like Arizona will stand out a little bit more than if there were more top teams. Arizona has the pieces to make a serious run for the regular season title and the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament championship.
The Wildcats will turn to Oumar Ballo as the ‘go-to’ guy this year after he averaged 14.2 points and 8.6 rebounds a year ago. He played 27.6 minutes a game last year and should see a bit more time this season if he’s up for it. He’ll have some talented players to play alongside, including Caleb Love, who arrives from North Carolina. Love averaged 16.7 points for the Tar Heels last season.
And the scary thing is, he still hasn’t put everything together. If he buys into the Arizona system, the Wildcats will be much better. There’s no question the Wildcats are going to be the best offensive team in the conference and one of the best in the nation. But Arizona’s defense needs to pick up its game a bit if the Wildcats are going to make a serious run at the national title.
Southern California is the second choice in the Pac-12 Conference, and it’s hard to say it’s not deserved. The Trojans will have the best guard tandem in the conference, if not the entire country. Boogie Ellis returns after scoring 17.7 points last season, and he’ll be joined by prized freshman Isaiah Collier. Don’t expect Collier to be at USC long. He’ll be a top-five pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. He was ranked as the No. 2 college recruit in the country.
USC added DJ Rodman through the transfer portal, and the son of Dennis Rodman averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Cougars a year ago. Bronny James, son of LeBron, hopes to play this season after a cardiac arrest during the summer. He isn’t LeBron, but he’s a solid NCAAB player, who was ranked No. 28 overall coming out of high school.
These aren’t the UCLA Bruins of old. The Bruins lost quite a bit from last year’s team, but do return Adem Bona, who withdrew his name from the NBA Draft. As a freshman, he averaged 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds, but needs another year or two in the college game before moving on to the pros.
The Bruins have seven freshmen joining the program, including 7-foot-3 Aday Mara and several other foreign players. UCLA might not score a lot, but it doesn’t need to with its defense, which will again be the best in the conference and one of the best in the country.
Colorado Buffaloes (+650)
The Colorado Buffaloes could be a bit of a dark horse in the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. They have lots of talent who can get hot at any time and go on a run. The NCAA basketball predictions have the Buffaloes fourth in the Pac-12, and that could be a little low if Cody Williams lives up to expectations. The No. 4-ranked incoming freshman will help give the Buffaloes a strong backcourt next to KJ Simpson.
Colorado also has returning standout Tristan da Silva returning and added Eddie Lampkin Jr. from TCU. If the defense can come together, it will be an exciting season in Boulder, Colorado. The Buffaloes could be a decent team against the college basketball lines in the early part of the NCAA basketball season. They’re a team to look at for your picks and parlays NCAAB if the betting public underrates the team.
The Oregon Ducks return a couple of big men in N’Faly Dante and Nate Bittle and not a whole lot else. But Oregon has three promising incoming freshmen in Kwame Evans Jr., Jackson Shelstad and Mookie Cook, who should all make solid contributions in their first season.
But along with that comes a little bit of a drop-off in defense. It’s unlikely the Oregon offense will be able to overcome the defensive shortcomings. But the Ducks will be a decent scoring team this year.
The Cardinal are another program expected to finish in the middle of the Pac-12 Conference standings, primarily due to its defense. Stanford will be a decent offensive team with 3-point specialist Michael Jones returning, along with Brandon Angel.
A pair of freshmen, including Andrej Stojakovic, son of Peja Stojakovic, should help immediately. Stanford will be pretty good on the offensive side. But its defense will prevent the Cardinal from competing with the top teams in the Pac-12 Conference.
Who to Bet On?
If the wager was to win the Pac 12 Basketball Tournament, Colorado +650 would probably be the play. The Buffaloes would be offering up some decent value. But since the wager is on the regular season champion, it’s awfully tough to go against the favorite, Arizona.
The Wildcats have the type of team who can win consistently on a nightly basis. The Buffaloes could be better than the Wildcats some nights, but over an extended period of time, Arizona is going to be consistently good. Take Arizona +200 to win the Pac-12 regular season title.
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