Killer Week for Arizona, at Colorado and at Utah
Wayne Root: Killer Week for Arizona, at Colorado and at Utah
Time to check in again on the Pac 12. With just two weeks left in the regular season, things have settled into a fairly clear picture. Arizona has overcome a slow start to move back into first place. The media and computers have now reached more of a consensus about how many teams should go Dancing. The days of "eight tournament caliber teams" are over. Anybody who thinks that is CRAZY!
Here are the current standings...along with this week's Bracketology from ESPN...
PAC 12 STANDINGS
Arizona 10-4 (projected to be a #4 seed)
Oregon 10-4 (projected to be a #3 seed)
Utah 10-5 (projected to be a #6 seed)
California 9-5 (projected to be a #7 seed)
USC 8-6 (projected to be a #8 seed)
Colorado 8-7 (projected to be a #10 seed)
Washington 8-7 (on the bubble)
Oregon State 6-8 (on the bubble)
Arizona State 4-10
Washington State 1-14
The main differences from a few weeks ago are that California has risen up to be fairly legitimate, while UCLA has fallen off the map. Bill Walton made a joke about them "holding onto ninth place" after their loss at Arizona. There's a chance that Washington and Oregon State can get hot in the Pac 12 tournament. But, my Power Ratings and computer ratings suggest those teams will struggle in the NIT, let alone the Dance.
Frankly, Colorado "away from home" isn't Dance caliber either. I personally would have only five Pac 12 teams making the Dance if I was THE KING OF THE BRACKETS instead of THE KING OF LAS VEGAS!
Colorado is about to play a very big home game Wednesday night when Arizona comes to visit. This is such a huge week for the Wildcats. They can either cement their perceived status as best in the league with wins at Colorado and Utah...or remind everyone why shaky road play has been such a strike against them.
Can Colorado beat Arizona in Boulder?
COLORADO'S PAC 12 HOME GAMES
Colorado (pick-em) lost to Utah 56-54 (non-cover)
Colorado (-5) beat Oregon State 71-54
Colorado (-1) beat Oregon 91-87
Colorado (-7.5) beat Stanford 91-75
Colorado (-4.5) beat California 70-62
Colorado (-11) beat Washington State 88-81 in overtime (non-cover)
Colorado (-3) beat Washington 81-80 (non-cover)
That's 6-1 straight up, 4-3 against the spread for the Buffs. There's no doubt that Arizona has better raw talent. But, at altitude, with a team that couldn't even win at UCLA...you can't just assume a win for the visitors. Note that Colorado's only straight up loss came to the other league team used to dealing with altitude issues.
UTAH'S PAC 12 HOME GAMES
Utah (-6) lost to Oregon 77-59 (non-cover)
Utah (-9) beat Oregon State 59-53 (non-cover)
Utah (-7) beat California 73-64
Utah (-11.5) beat Stanford 96-74
Utah (-11) beat Washington 90-82 (non-cover)
Utah (-16.5) beat Washington State 88-47
For the Utes, that's 5-1 straight up, but only 3-3 ATS because the spreads are so high! The market has been giving Utah a lot of respect at home...which is a clue why THIS game is so dangerous four Arizona this coming weekend. With sincere due respect to Oregon, "Arizona" and "Utah at home" are probably the two best "teams" in Pac 12 Power Ratings right now. That makes Saturday's meeting perhaps the highlight of the whole campaign. (Oregon's inconsistency is highlighted by the Ducks big wins at Oregon and Arizona, but four losses elsewhere. Maybe it's best to think of "Oregon when they're hot" as the best team in the Pac 12, but you can't count on them to be hot on command.)
I'll be watching both of these big Arizona games very closely to scout out tournament possibilities. On my mind right now...
*If Colorado struggles in their biggest home test, I'll definitely be fading the Buffaloes in the Pac 12 tournament and the Big Dance (if they make it). If Colorado falls to the NIT, I'll probably take them at home vs. a visitor unfamiliar with altitude, but fade them on the road.
*If Utah continues their recent hot run (so impressive last week in Los Angeles), they'll definitely go even more emphatically on my list of spoilers for the Dance. They will get PINNACLE consideration in the Pac 12 tournament and against any overrated Dance opponents. Heck, they're getting early PINNACLE consideration right now for that Arizona game! We'll have to see where the line comes on game day. Bettors usually don't get any bargains on Utah at home. Maybe that will change with Arizona visiting.
*If Arizona sweeps the weekend straight up and ATS, then I'll have to look at them as favorites to win the Pac 12 tourney and to at least reach the second week of the Dance. I wouldn't have been saying that a few weeks into league play. But the Cats have started to click in a way that could foreshadow a strong finish. A lot of big name programs are in that boat right now.
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