Oregon Ducks vs. No. 13 USC Trojans Betting Preview

Friday, December 18, 2020, United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Clemson, South Carolina, 8 p.m. ET

Ducks at Trojans Betting Preview: Ducks  (+3.5), Trojans (-3.5)

Ducks

Oregon and Southern California were the favorites to reach the title game when the Pac-12 got off to its delayed start, but the Ducks went through some twists and one final unexpected turn to get there.

The Ducks (3-2, 3-2 Pac-12) finished second in the Pac-12’s North Division behind Washington, but a COVID-19 spike in the Huskies’ program knocked them out of the title game early this week after Oregon’s game with Washington last weekend was canceled.

The Ducks were on pace to win the division title until dropping their last two games on the road, 41-38 to Oregon State and 21-17 to previously winless California.

“A lot of excitement about the opportunity, at the same time thoughts and prayers to everyone in Seattle,” said Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said, referring to the Huskies’ coronavirus outbreak. 

“You want to settle everything on the field … (this is) the solution (the Pac-12) could come up with.”

Oregon’s Tyler Shough is the conference’s top-rated passer, having completed 91 of 143 attempts (63.6 percent) for 1,389 yards and 11 touchdowns against four interceptions.

His favorite target is Jaylon Redd with 20 catches for 235 yards, but Johnny Johnson III is not far behind with 203 yards on 14 receptions.

The leading rusher is Travis Dye with 336 yards in the five games. 

Trojans

The Trojans (5-0, 5-0 Pac-12) assured themselves of the South Division title with their comeback win over UCLA last week, but it wasn’t until two days later they were able to start tweaking their game plan for Oregon.

“We control what we control, and that’s us,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “We’re just happy to be in this opportunity, and we’re going to make the most of it. We’re going to have a great plan, and we’re going to execute that plan because we’re going to do the things that we do well.”

The Trojans, who rallied from an 18-point deficit to defeat rival UCLA 43-38 last week, knew there was a possibility that Washington, which had the best record in the North, might not be able to play. Helton had his coaching staff prepare for the Huskies during the day and the Ducks at night.

USC’s first three opponents of the season — Arizona State, Arizona and Utah — were playing their 2020 openers when the Trojans lined up against them, so the staff is used to having limited game film to study.

“Not knowing who we’re going to play, I think our coaches make it easy on us,” said USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has a conference-leading 36 receptions. “I think it’s harder on them than it is on us. They’re making the game plan, doing all the hard work. If we listen to our coaches and go out there and do what they say, I think we’ll be fine.”

St. Brown’s 8-yard touchdown reception with 16 seconds remaining capped the comeback against UCLA, the third time this season the Trojans have rallied to win in the final seconds.

The Trojans might be without their leading rusher, Vavae Malepeai, who sprained his knee late against UCLA. Malepeai rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown in the rivalry game.

USC’s Kedon Slovis has thrown for a league-best 1,601 yards and 15 touchdowns, including five against the Bruins. He is 149-of-212 passing (70.3 percent) on the season.

Ducks at Trojans  Betting Pick for December 18, 2020

Despite the abbreviated Pac-12 schedule, the Ducks and Trojans have had two common opponents this season, The Ducks beat Washington State 43-29 and UCLA 38-35 and the Trojans beat the Cougars 38-13 and Bruins 43-38 their last two outings.

Ducks at Trojans Betting Pick:

 Trojans 35, Ducks 31

Ducks at Trojans Best Bet for December 18, 2020

The Ducks won the most recent meeting 66-24 but Justin Herbert, who threw three touchdown passes in that game, won’t be around for the Ducks for this one. The Ducks are coming off a season scoring low in a 21-17 loss to California their last game while the Trojans notched a season high in a 43-38 comeback win over UCLA their last outing.

Ducks at Trojans Best Bet: OVER 62

OddsUSA Top Five Prop Bets For The Pac-12 Championship Game

When the Pac-12 season finally got underway, the championship game was expected to be between the USC Trojans and Oregon Ducks. Why? Well —because the Ducks won it last year, and the Trojans had a great offense coming back. That, and the competition was not expected to be too challenging.

It was not, but it was challenging enough to knock the Ducks out of the title game. But with COVID-19 issues hitting the Washington program hard, Oregon made the big game anyway. They didn’t earn it, but someone has to play since Washington is unable to.

But can they win?

That is a tough question to answer. Early on, the Ducks looked like a good team. But then they flopped against Oregon State and then lost to Cal. While USC is undefeated, the Trojans have needed dramatic fourth-quarter comebacks in three games.

It is hard to tell which team is legit (if either) which means it may be smarter to consider betting on some of the game’s prop bets than just bet on the winner. Bovada has a few good ones:

USC-Oregon Alternate Lines

USC -3.5 (EVEN)
USC -4.0 (+105)
USC -4.5 (+110)
USC -5.0 (+115)
USC -5.5 (+120)
USC -6.0 (+125)
USC -6.5 (+140)
USC -7.0 (+165)
USC -7.5 (+170)
USC -8.0 (+175)
USC -8.5 (+175)
USC -9.0 (+180)
USC -9.5 (+185)
USC -10.0 (+210)
USC -10.5 (+220)
USC -11.0 (+225)
USC -11.5 (+230)
USC -12.0 (+235)
USC -12.5 (+240)
USC -13.0 (+250)
USC -13.5 (+250)

The official Bovada betting line says the Trojans are favored to win the game by 3 points (-110). While the Trojans have needed to make comebacks in most of their games this season, that should not be the case in this one.

Oregon’s pass defense has been struggling, and it is quite likely that USC will look to take advantage of it early and often. Most of the time, they will probably prevail and score. But while the Ducks offense is good enough to keep up for a while, they will not do it for the whole game.

So, why take the official spread and a low payout if you do not have to? Why not give the Ducks a touchdown (+165)? For those who are really confident in the Trojans, why not give the Ducks 13.5 points so you can get an even bigger payout?

The smart play here is to go with USC by seven. USC is going to put up some points on the Ducks. But if the Oregon offense can get on track early, the Ducks may be able to keep this one within a touchdown….but they might not.  

Best USC-Oregon Alt Spread: USC -7 (+165)

USC-Oregon Margin of Victory Prop

Oregon By 1-6 Points (+450)
USC By 1-6 Points (+375)

Oregon By 7-12 Points (+650)
USC By 7-12 Points (+600)

Oregon By 13-18 Points (+1000)
USC By 13-18 Points (+750)

Oregon By 19-24 Points (+1600)
USC By 19-24 Points (+1000)

Oregon By 25-30 Points (+2200)
USC By 25-30 Points (+1800)

Oregon By 31-36 Points (+3300)
USC By 31-36 Points (+2000)

Oregon By 37-42 Points (+5000)
USC By 37-42 Points (+3300)

Oregon By 43 Or More Points (+5000)
USC By 43 Or More Points (+3500)

Both teams have good offenses, but USC’s is better. Neither team has a strong defense, but the Trojans do have a better one. So, this game will likely be a modest win for the Trojans. USC will probably win by at least a touchdown, but they could win by more.

The safe bet would be to go with USC by 1-6 points, but the better bet is USC by 7-12. If you are up for taking on some risk for more of a reward, consider taking USC by 13-18. But only bet money on that one that you are okay with never seeing again.

Best Margin of Victory Bet: USC by 7-12 points (+600)

USC-Oregon Total Points Scored

Between 0 And 20 (+8000)
Between 21 And 30 (+3500)
Between 31 And 40 (+1100)
Between 41 And 50 (+550)
Between 51 And 60 (+340)
Between 61 And 70 (+340)
71 And Over (+195)

There is potential for a lot of points to be scored in this game. Both teams have scored right around 35 points a game this season while holding opponents to 28 (Oregon) and 25 (USC). It will all depend on whether both teams can get their offenses on track early in the day.

Kedon Slovis has thrown five touchdowns in each of his last two games. If Tyler Shough can break out of his current funk, he may be able to do the same. Since he will probably be playing catch-up most of the game, he will be throwing a lot against a lackluster secondary.

The Pac-12 Championship game will either be a high scoring contest with both teams putting up 35+ (so, take 71 and over), or it will be something like 35-26, USC. So, take 71 and over to be safe, but consider putting a little on between 51 and 60 and between 61 and 70.

Best Totals Prop Bet: 71 and over (+195)
Also Consider: Between 51 and 60 (+340), Between 61 and 70 (+340)

USC-Oregon Race to 35 Points

USC (+175)
Oregon (+245)
Neither (+140)

If the Trojans offense disappears for part of the game, like it has a few times this year, then the right answer might be neither. But if one of the two were to reach 35, the Trojans will do it first. Slovis is a better quarterback than Shough, though, so take USC to reach 35 points first.

Best Bet: USC (+175)

No. 15 USC Trojans at UCLA Bruins Betting Preview

Saturday, December 12, 2020, Spieker Field at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California, 7:30 p.m. ET

Trojans at Bruins Betting Preview: Trojans  (-3.5), Bruins (+3.5)

Trojans

USC will try to secure a spot in the Pac-12 Conference championship game when the No. 15 Trojans (4-0, 4-0 Pac-12) take on UCLA.

A win will give the Trojans a 5-0 record for the first time since 2006, when they started 6-0.

USC put itself in position to play for the conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., by beating visiting Washington State 38-13 last Sunday night.

The game was pushed back two days following a small COVID-19 outbreak on the USC team, a situation that initially forced the Trojans to cancel their game against No. 21 Colorado on Nov. 28.

The schedule adjustment shrank USC’s window to prepare for UCLA, and it hasn’t dimmed the excitement surrounding the crosstown rivalry.

“We’ve got a short week coming up against a really good team that’s hot right now,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “We’ve got a lot to play for, and that’s what you want in December.”

Kedon Slovis was sharp against Washington State, completing 25 of 32 passes for 287 yards and five touchdowns.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, held out of the end zone over the first three games, caught seven passes for 65 yards and four touchdowns against the Cougars, which tied a school and Pac-12 single-game record.

Bruins

The Bruins (3-2, 3-2 Pac-12) are coming off a 25-18 win at Arizona State last week, their first win in the month of December since the 2013 Sun Bowl. The victory lifted UCLA’s record above .500 for the first time since a win on Oct. 21, 2017, had them at 4-3.

UCLA has been particularly strong on defense, holding three of its past four opponents to two touchdowns or fewer.

“I’ve been really proud of how our defense has played all season long,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “We have a bunch of kids over there that play football extremely hard.

“They do a really good job of rallying to the ball and gang tackling, and we talked about playing hard and playing hard for 60 minutes. You can’t play hard for 58. You have to play hard for 60.”

UCLA benefited last weekend with the return of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was among nine Bruins to miss two games because of COVID-19 concerns.

Thompson-Robinson completed 18 of 24 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown against Arizona State. He also rushed for 49 yards and a score.

“We’re taking it day by day and working very hard,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I’m very proud of this team and where we’re headed.”

Trojans at Bruins Betting Pick for December 12, 2020

The Trojans are 16-5 over the last 21 meetings with the Bruins and lead the series 48-32-7, though they are only 7-11 in games played at the Rose Bowl. Last year Slovis passed for a school single-game record 515 yards and four Trojans had 100-yard receiving games as the Trojans dominated in a 52-35 win. Thompson-Robinson passed for 367 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown for the Bruins.

Trojans at Bruins Betting Pick:

Trojans 28, Bruins 24

Trojans at Bruins Best Bet for December 12, 2020

The Trojans have scored at least 33 points in each of their last four games and just missed the 30-point mark with a 28-27 win over Arizona State to open the season. The Bruins are coming off a season low with their 25-18 win over Arizona State last week and have scored only 52 points their last two outings.

Trojans at Bruins Best Bet: UNDER 62

Thursday NCAAB Best Bets: Back the Huskies to get past Trojans

After a Wednesday evening college basketball slate that brought us Gonzaga-West Virginia and Illinois-Baylor amongst a whole host of matchups, the Thursday college hoops slate has its fair share of goodies as well.

Let’s jump right into the games I have circled for tonight’s action.

UConn vs. USC

Game to be played at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT)

Spread: UConn -1.5
Total:
O/U 136.5
Time/TV:
7:00 PM ET, ESPN

The Mohegan Sun Arena is only about 30 miles away from the UConn campus, leaving Dan Hurley’s UConn Huskies with the short trip into ‘Bubbleville’ as UConn (2-0) prepares to face USC (3-0) in the semifinals of the Roman Legends Classic.

These two teams were set to square off yesterday from inside the Mohegan Sun bubble, but Vanderbilt had to withdraw from the preseason tournament due to, you guessed it, COVID-19 cases within their team, leaving UConn to get the winner of yesterday’s BYU/USC game instead.

USC would prevail in that contest by the score of 79-53, and the Trojans dominated the Cougars in the paint as brothers Evan and Isaiah Mobley each chipped in a double-double in yesterday’s blowout victory.

Meanwhile, UConn hasn’t been in action since a 69-57 victory over Hartford on Black Friday, leaving open the possibility that they may enter tonight’s contest with a bit of rust.  Additionally, USC is already familiar with the layout of the Mohegan Sun Arena during the bubble setup, while UConn is not, again potentially giving USC a slight edge in an otherwise neutral setting.

That’s not to say the Huskies won’t come ready to play, however.  Despite struggling to manufacture points in last Friday’s victory, UConn could still pose a lot of problems to USC’s backcourt with the scoring tandem of sophomore James Bouknight (19.0 ppg) and former Howard star RJ Cole (13.5 ppg), and forward Isaiah Whaley (8.5 rpg) will be tasked with the difficult assignment of controlling one of the Mobley brothers on the glass.

USC has shot the lights out to start the season, shooting a scorching-hot 53.5% from the floor in their first three games.  Can they continue that hot shooting in a tough back-to-back situation against the best team they’ve seen all season?  I’m not so sure.

Look for the Trojans to start out of the gates quickly considering they’re more accustomed to the neutral court than their opponents, but also look for UConn to close the gap quickly once they get their bearings straight.

I am going to lean on the team that should be a little more rested for this matchup and take Dan Hurley’s Huskies to escape with a narrow victory.  However, I will take them on the moneyline to avoid a possible 1-point margin of victory for UConn.

Prediction: UConn 73, USC 70
Best Bet: UConn ML (-115)

Marshall at Wright State

Spread: Marshall -1
Total: O/U 153
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN+

This second matchup on the card could be a lot of fun.

Free-scoring Marshall hits the road to meet two-time defending Horizon League champion Wright State in a non-conference battle.

Honestly, I don’t care about who comes out on top in this one.  I don’t even have a side I’ll be rooting for. 

So why on Earth is this on my card for the night?

One word: Scoring.

Marshall enters tonight’s game riding a 70-56 victory over Arkansas State in their season opener, while this is the season opener for Scott Nagy’s Wright State Raiders.

While Marshall’s first game isn’t exactly the best evidence to take the over with a total in the 150’s, when you dissect the style of tempo Arkansas State plays at, you see how their slow and methodical approach when paired with a roster of players that can’t shoot the ball would drive a game total to be in the 120’s.

Wright State does not like to play at a slow pace as evidenced by their 31st overall KenPom adjusted tempo ranking.  They love to run up and down the floor and defense is sometimes optional.

Funny enough, that’s exactly how you can describe the Thundering Herd as well.  Marshall played all of last season as the team with the 3rd quickest tempo in the country.  They’re projected to be in the Top 5 for playing tempo again this season, and when you pair that against another team that likes to boogie up and down the floor, you tend to get higher scoring affairs.

If there’s any pause on this bet, it’s the fact this is Wright State’s first game of the season, but I’m going to roll the dice all the same and take the over in this one.  Don’t let me down Raiders.

Prediction: Wright State 80, Marshall 77
Best Bet: OVER 153

Florida vs. Boston College

Game to be played at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT)

Spread: Florida -6
Total: O/U 141.5
Time/TV: 9:30 PM ET, ESPN

The second matchup from ‘Bubbleville’ at the Mohegan Sun Arena will see Florida (1-0) taking on Boston College (1-2).

Florida officially began their 2020-21 season from the bubble on Wednesday with a 76-69 win over Army that had the Gators looking like a team that had yet to play a game this year, as they trailed by 8 at the half before waking up in the second half to eventually take control of the game.

Boston College, meanwhile, is set to play their fourth game of the season, all of which have been played at Mohegan Sun Arena, so if there is a team that has familiarity with the temporary digs, it’s the Eagles.

The Gators should at least come into today’s game with a lot less rust to deal with than they experienced during their win over Army yesterday.  While Boston College’s tandem of Wynston Tabbs and Jay Heath are averaging over 30 points per game combined to open up the season, Mike White’s Florida Gators are routinely one of the best defensive teams in the country.

The Gators’ defense will be put to the test tonight, however, as Florida has had multiple disruptions to the start of their season, as they had to back out of initially being in the Mohegan Sun Arena bubble due to COVID-19 cases within their roster and did not know they were even participating in this tournament until Sunday.

That could leave Florida’s perimeter defense more vulnerable than usual, and when paired with the fact that Boston College is already quite familiar playing in this setting, that could have this matchup be closer than it would be otherwise.

The Gators will return to their old ways soon enough, but tonight I see Boston College giving them a tough game and maybe even winning outright.  I’ll take a swing at Boston College and the points.

Prediction: Florida 74, Boston College 70
Best Bet: Boston College +6

Pac-12 College Basketball 2020/21 Preview

After a disastrous 2018/19 season that saw the conference land just three teams in the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-12 rebounded in a big way for the 2019/20 season and were on the verge of sending six teams to the dance with the outside opportunity for a seventh team had someone gone on a run in the conference tournament.

Instead, COVID-19 happened, and the Pac-12 redemption tour was put on ice for another year.

The 2020/21 season figures to be the wonkiest college basketball season to date, but the Pac-12 find themselves once again in the position of being one of the deeper conferences in the country.  The conference hasn’t fielded a National Champion since 1997, the longest drought of any of the power conferences.  Will that change this season?  Let’s dive into the Pac-12.

The Contenders

#18 Arizona State (+230 to Win Pac-12)

“Hurley ball” enters season number six in Tempe, and this could be the most exciting team yet.

Paced by the senior guard tandem of Remy Martin (19.1 ppg) and Alonzo Verge Jr. (14.6), Arizona State finds itself ranked in the Preseason Top 20, marking the first time since the 2008/09 season that the Sun Devils started the new season as a ranked team.

While each season in Tempe has seen gradual improvement from Hurley’s crew, this season could be the year it all finally comes together for the former Duke star.  In addition to his explosive senior-laden backcourt, Hurley was able to recruit two of the best players to ever commit to Arizona State with the addition of five-star dynamo Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley (the younger brother of former Duke one-and-done star Marvin Bagley III).

Mix in 6-1 Portland State transfer Holland Woods (17.7 ppg, 5.2 apg), and the Sun Devils could have one of the best stables of guards in the entire country.

If there’s anything that would concern Hurley this season, it would be the depth in the Sun Devils frontcourt and the lack of a dangerous three-point shooting assassin on the roster.  Arizona State watched as former Top 100 recruit Romello White (10.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg last season) elected to transfer to Ole Miss in the offseason, leaving the Sun Devils dangerously thin down low.

Sophomore Jalen Graham figures to now be the best forward on the team and will be tasked to try to fill the big void left by White’s departure.

If Arizona State can find a capable rim protector and can improve on their three-point shooting, this is your likely favorite to win the conference.  However, if the Sun Devils still are inconsistent from deep and are unable to find a reliable big man, it may be another trademark rollercoaster season in the desert.

#22 UCLA (+300 to Win Pac-12)

We’ve talked about the various teams that were impacted by the cancellation of the 2020 season the most at length already, but UCLA is another school you can throw into the “screwed by the ‘Rona” pile.

After starting the season with a dismal 8-9 record, Mick Cronin’s Bruins ended the season on a torrid 11-3 finish to finish the season at 19-12 overall and 12-6 in the conference.  That would have had UCLA set up as the 2-seed in the conference tournament, instead, we just got to rewatch old NCAA Tourney games on YouTube for a March fix.

Well, UCLA is back again and this time they’re hoping to start the season a little stronger to ensure they don’t need a frantic hot streak in February to get back into the NCAA Tournament.

Cronin returns the top five UCLA scorers from a season ago and adds Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang, along with four-star recruit Jaylen Clark to round out the Bruins’ roster.

The most important player returning to Westwood may be that of guard Chris Smith (13.1 ppg).  Smith flirted with the idea of going pro but ultimately decided to come back to school for one more season.

It took the first few months of the season to wash away the Steve Alford stink, but UCLA appears to have done just that.  Mick Cronin will get this team to defend and be relentless on the glass.  If the offense can provide just enough, UCLA should be in the mix for yet another conference title.

#20 Oregon (+450 to Win Pac-12)

The Oregon Ducks face the challenge of replacing four-year starter, and the general lifeblood of the team, Payton Pritchard after the decorated point guard graduated from the school and found himself drafted by the Boston Celtics.

However, if there’s anything Dana Altman has shown during his tenure in Eugene, it’s that he knows how to work the transfer portal to quickly reload his roster.

That’s exactly what the Ducks intend to do entering this season, as Altman welcomes in five new transfers, three of which will be eligible on day one. 

Headlining the class of transfers is that of former UNLV guard Amauri Hardy (14.5 ppg).  The senior guard comes to Eugene with fellow transfers Eric Williams Jr. (Duquesne), Eugene Omoruyi (Rutgers), LJ Figueroa (St. John’s), and Aaron Estrada (St. Peter’s).

Figueroa and Estrada are still awaiting word from the NCAA regarding their transfer waivers and whether or not they will be eligible to play this season.  If Figueroa (14.5 ppg) is indeed cleared to play the Ducks would be adding St. John’s leading scorer from a season ago, giving them even more depth than they already had.

As Oregon’s new transfers get more acclimated to their new surroundings, Altman likely will rely on his returning guard tandem of Will Richardson (11.0 ppg) and senior Chris Duarte (12.9 ppg) for added production and leadership. 

The Ducks are a very dangerous team going forward this season, even with the loss of Payton Pritchard.  They should be considered one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 and given their history in March, don’t discount this team from a possible run in the NCAA Tournament.   

The Dangerous Dark Horses

Stanford (+550 to Win Pac-12)

It’s a likely make or break season for Stanford head coach Jerod Haase as he enters his fifth season in Palo Alto.  Of all the coaches in the conference that have been with their programs longer than a year, it’s only Haase that has yet to take his team to the NCAA Tournament.

That means if the giant trees aren’t able to dance this March, Haase is likely going to be departing the ‘Conference of Champions’ for other job opportunities.

Fortunately for a coach on the proverbial ‘hot seat’, Stanford happened to land one of the best recruits in the land with five-star recruit Ziaire Williams.  Williams was the 7th overall ranked recruit in the 2020 class per ESPN, making him the highest-ranked Stanford signee since 2007.

The 6-9 wing (and former HS teammate of Bronny James) is already a projected lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, but Haase hopes his budding superstar can carry Stanford to the state of Indiana come March.

Outside of Williams, there’s not a great deal to write home about in regards to the Cardinal, however. Seniors Daejon Davis (8.8 ppg) and Oscar Da Silva (15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) return to the team this season, but Da Silva is the only returning player that averaged double-digits in scoring a season ago.

Defensively the Cardinal are sound, as they ranked as the 7th best defensive team by KenPom a season ago.  If they’re able to get any other steady offensive production from someone other than Williams or Da Silva, Jerod Haase should be able to rest a little easier.  However, it’s NCAA Tournament or bust at this point for the Cardinal.

Colorado (+1100 to Win Pac-12)

After starting the 2019/20 season with a 10-4 record in conference play, it looked as though Tad Boyle’s Colorado Buffaloes might capture their first-ever Pac-12 regular-season championship.

Instead, the bottom completely fell out, and the Buffs would end the season with a five-game losing streak including terrible losses to Cal, Utah, and a first-round exit in the Pac-12 tournament at the hands of Washington State.

Colorado now enters the new season going through a mini-rebuild of sorts, as defensive demon Tyler Bey is now in the NBA and the team returns only one double-digit scorer in senior McKinley Wright IV (14.4 ppg).

While the Buffs starting five is a very experienced group with three seniors and two juniors, the Colorado bench is very green.  Five freshmen in all round out the Buffaloes bench, with senior Maddox Daniels being the “best” bench option averaging 3.2 ppg. 

In other words, outside of the starting five, the Buffs could be in some trouble.

Colorado’s odds to win the Pac-12 simply don’t reflect the current make-up of this roster, as they’re more likely to finish outside of the Top Six in the conference than they are at winning the thing, but if McKinley Wright IV can ascend into an elite college basketball player, the Buffs may be able to bully their way into an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Washington (+3500 to Win Pac-12)

If anyone wasn’t saddened to see the college basketball season suddenly go away, it might have been the Washington Huskies. 

The Huskies entered the 2019/20 season as one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 and for good reason.  They were coming off a fantastic 13-5 season in Mike Hopkins’ first year and had just signed two future one-and-done players in Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart.

Instead, the bottom dropped out.  The stingy 2-3 zone defense just didn’t work last season with the new cast of Huskies.  The offense was woeful.  Washington would reverse their 2018/19 record with a 5-13 showing last year. 

The cause of Washington’s angst could probably be traced back to the NCAA ruling Kentucky transfer Quade Green academically ineligible just two games into the Pac-12 season, but really the team was a shattered mess from the get-go.

This season could return the Dawgs back to their previous form, however. 

Green is now eligible to play and will take over at the point guard position, a huge upgrade over Jaden McDaniels who never seemed like the right fit on Hopkins’ roster. 

The one-and-done experiment also drew to a close, as Washington is one of the few teams in the country that doesn’t have a single freshman on the roster.  That should also go a long way towards restoring the Huskies to not be in the cellar of the conference.

If there’s an under-the-radar sleeper to be found in this conference, it could very well be Mike Hopkins’ Huskies.  Removing the two one-and-done kids from the team will dramatically improve Washington’s defense and getting Quade Green back is an enormous addition.  Considering the season figures to be utter chaos, Washington could very well slide back to the top of the conference standings.  

The Middle of the Pack

USC (+1100 to Win Pac-12)

For the fourth time in the last five seasons, USC ended the year with more than 20 wins and was on track to earn an at-large berth in the 2020 NCAA Tournament.

In large part, however, the Andy Enfield era (now in its eighth season) has been nothing more than mediocre.

The Trojans hope to change that this season and they’ll depend on a pair of brothers to get USC over the hump.  Five-star sensation Evan Mobley (#3 overall recruit) comes to Los Angeles to team up with his brother Isaiah to form the best frontcourt in the conference. 

While the Mobley brothers will certainly grab most of the attention in LA, the fate of the Trojans’ season likely comes down to whether or not sophomore Ethan Anderson can emerge as a capable starting point guard, and if transfers Noah Baumann (San Jose State) and Isaiah White (Utah Valley) can hit consistent outside shots to allow for their two big men to freely roam the floor.

I’m skeptical such a thing can happen, and while Evan Mobley will be must-see TV, this iteration of USC basketball looks very similar to Trojan teams of years past.  Enfield will get USC back near the 20-win mark, but the Trojans will live on the bubble most of the way.

Arizona (+1400 to Win Pac-12)

You have to wonder how long Sean Miller’s rope in Tucson is starting to become.

After getting into boiling hot water with a scandal that required an FBI investigation, Miller has somehow managed to stay alive, but the Arizona Wildcats have not been the imposing college basketball program they once were, and they haven’t been for quite some time.

If there’s a season where Arizona can finally play to their expectations, however, it could be this one.  Once again, Miller was able to ink a talented recruiting class and brought in several transfers that should make an immediate impact, namely Seattle grad-transfer Terrell Brown (20.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Georgetown transfer James Akinjo (13.4 ppg), and former four-star Nevada recruit Jordan Brown.

The three transfers will be heavily depended on, as Miller’s bench has seven freshmen and a single sophomore.  The freshmen are of course talented, particularly that of top-50 recruit Dalen Terry, but they’re still freshmen and will need time to grow during a very unorthodox college basketball season. 

The growing pains for Arizona will be real, it’s just a manner of seeing how long those growing pains last.  There’s certainly a lot of talent in Tucson, it just remains to be seen if Sean Miller can do anything with it.

If he cannot, there may be a new job opening in the desert come Spring 2021.

Utah (+2000 to Win Pac-12)

The 2019/20 college basketball season was expected to be a transitional season for Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah Utes, and it proved to be precisely that as Utah would have the usual ups and downs of a young team on their way to a 16-15 season that ended with a two-point loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament before ‘Rona eliminated every team from March Madness just a day later.

However, the Utes could be in line for somewhat of a bounce-back season in 2020/21.

Utah returns five of their six leading scorers from a season ago, the lone exception being that of Both Gach who transferred to Minnesota.   That usually bodes well for a roster that has just one senior on it coming into the new year.

The catalyst for the Utes attack will be that of junior combo guard Timmy Allen (17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg).  Allen was Utah’s Mr. Everything a season ago, but he could never find the help needed to get Utah back on track.

Utah hopes that changes this season with sophomore Rylan Jones having one-year of playing experience under his belt.  Jones epitomizes everything we love about college basketball as the kid is not a future NBA lottery pick in the making, but he plays with a helluva lot of heart, grit, hustle, and any other superlative you want to use.

The Utes being listed at 20/1 to win the conference strikes me as a little too bullish, though they will be a very tough opponent to face in Salt Lake.  Look out for this team next season and beyond however when the freshmen and sophomores continue to gel.  

The Long Shots

Cal (+10000 to Win Pac-12)
Oregon State (+10000 to Win Pac-12)
Washington State (+10000 to Win Pac-12)

Needless to say, these are the “have nots” of the conference.

Cal was a pleasant surprise under new head coach Mark Fox in his first year with the team, going 7-11 in conference play.  The Golden Bears’ leading scorer Matt Bradley (17.4 ppg) returns this season, but there’s not much else here to write home about.  Fox’s rebuilding process will continue this season as Cal hopes to play the role of spoiler in conference play.

Oregon State finally saw Tres Tinkle graduate from the program after 25-years with the team (kidding, sort of), but now the Beavs have some big shoes to fill.  Guard Ethan Thompson returns for his senior season and will be the focal point of an Oregon State team that would consider a .500 record to be a major win this season.

Washington State lost all Pac-12 forward CJ Elleby to the NBA Draft and will lose a lot of games during the 2020/21 season.  Their biggest goal for the new year is finishing above the Pac-12 basement.  That will be a chore in itself.

Pac-12 Projected Order of Finish

  1. Oregon
  2. Arizona State
  3. UCLA
  4. Arizona
  5. Washington
  6. Stanford
  7. USC
  8. Utah
  9. Colorado
  10. Cal
  11. Oregon State
  12. Washington State