PAC 12 Tourney Here in Vegas is WIDE OPEN
Wayne Root: PAC 12 Tourney Here in Vegas is WIDE OPEN!
The 2016 Pac 12 Tournament that begins Wednesday here in town is shaping up as a potential thriller. Nobody is head and shoulders above the field. The most hyped team, Arizona, is actually a #4 seed! All the contenders have exploitable weaknesses. Nobody is a sure thing "away from home" to play great for 2-3 games in a row. And, the site itself...distracting, exhilarating LAS VEGAS could become a character in the play as well.
I'm not going to post any Pac 12 picks here in a web article. That wouldn't be fair to my paying customers. But, I'm happy to outline some key handicapping factors for you do-it-yourselfers. I know you're going to watch at least a few of these barnburners. You might as well win some money too!
Let's start with the average scoring differentials in Pac 12 play. Since this is a confined group of the teams playing each other, you can use them as a type of Power Rating to differentiate amongst the 12 teams.
PAC 12 MARGIN AVERAGES (conference only)
Oregon State -1.6
Arizona State -6.1
Washington State -14.7
That's why Arizona is so highly regarded. They could only finish fourth in the standings...but they posted some very big victory margins when they won. Quants put a lot of weight on this, which is why many favor Arizona to cut down the nets on Sunday.
Note that only FOUR teams are better than break-even. That's a sign of parity in the middle...but also a sign that there aren't many really good teams this year. USC fizzled at the end. UCLA was a lingering disappointment. Colorado is only dangerous at home. It's very hard to visualize anyone but the top four on that list mattering later this month in the Big Dance.
And, even then, all four of those teams have clear weaknesses!
ARIZONA has a poor turnover differential, meaning the defense doesn't force enough and the offense commits too many. You longtime fans know how important execution is in playoff-style basketball. Arizona is just too sloppy to be fully trusted.
OREGON is very soft inside, allowing 49% on two-point baskets in league play. What's going to happen when they have to play top teams from better conferences? They're going to get killed inside!
UTAH is a bit too tentative when it comes to forcing turnovers, and is nothing special on the boards. They do have a slightly positive rebound differential in Pac 12 play. But, "slightly" positive here will likely become a negative against better teams in the Dance.
CALIFORNIA is a lot like Arizona in the turnover department, but WORSE! The Bears were second worst in the Pac 12 at forcing turnovers (9.5 per game), and fourth worst at making them (12.6 per game). Amazing that they looked so great down the stretch given this concern.
Don't get me wrong. There's a lot to like about these teams. But, weaknesses get exposed and exploited in March. Everyone here has something good teams can exploit. They really need to get the most out of their strengths to overcome that.
Arizona: Rebounding, Offense
Oregon: Turnover differential, Offense
Utah: inside defense (just 45% allowed inside the arc), poise
California: inside defense (just 43% allowed), rebounding, energy
If you believe that "defense and rebounding win championships," then California is a nice sleeper, and Arizona has a way to continue getting big victory margins.
What about the brackets?
Top Quarter: Oregon will play the winner of Washington/Stanford
Second Quarter: Arizona will play the winner of Colorado/Washington State
Third Quarter: Utah will play the winner of USC/UCLA
Bottom Quarter: California will play the winner of Oregon State/Arizona State
California is in the easiest quarter by a mile using those average conference margins as a guide. They would seem to have the "easiest" path to the title because both Oregon and Arizona are on the other side of the brackets. Utah has a tough draw. If the winners avoid upsets (which is FAR from a sure thing in this tournament), the Friday semifinals of Oregon/Stanford and Utah/Cal will be very pricey tickets here in town.
Once the pointspreads are up, THE KING OF LAS VEGAS will be firing away! You can purchase my top daily releases from all the conference tournament action right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about which of my services best suits your individual needs, please talk to one of my representatives in the office at 1-877-ROOT-WINS. Be sure to ask about the great rates for THE ROOT TRUST through the college tournaments or NBA Playoffs.
Back with you this weekend to talk more tournaments. As I discussed last time...bracket basketball is ripe for upsets. The studio pundits will be scratching their heads while I keep making headlines with upset winners! That means it's time for YOU to go to W.A.R. alongside WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!
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