How the West won: PAC-12 shows its strength heading into March Madness Sweet 16
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The East Coast bias was well and truly on the show this season for the NCAA Men’s Basketball, with the Big 10 lauded as the best conference ever, while every other league was down.
My, how the tables have turned; the turntables on the Big-10 dance party have been silenced, to the point where people are now saying this might be the most embarrassing performance ever for a conference in the Big Dance, and it is now the West Coast teams that are the pride of college basketball.
Gonzaga and four teams from the Pac-12 (Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, and USC) give the West five teams in the last 16. Only Colorado (sorry Colorado) has lost so far from the Pac-12, and the conference is guaranteed at least one Elite 8 team, as USC and Oregon play in the West Region Sweet 16.
For bettors across the country that stay up late during the week to watch and wager on the teams out West, this is no surprise. The All-America teams are littered with players from Gonzaga, USC, and Oregon, and individual brilliance can carry teams far in the bracket. Of course, the Zags have three players on either the first or second team, which means three of the top 10 players in the country this season are on one squad.
Is there any doubt why Gonzaga now has odds of +155 with the sportsbooks to win the national championship on April 5? The Zags have been the clear favorite all season, and along with Baylor (+300), are the only two teams on the board that have odds less than +650.
But the futures odds had a lot of teams that lost early: Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State (all Big-10 teams). Can one of the Pac-12 teams make a run at the Final Four and a championship?
Right now, sportsbooks in Colorado have USC with the best odds to make the Final Four (+350). UCLA is +500, Oregon +600, and Oregon State +700. Those tell me that books think USC should beat Oregon, and also has the talent (Mobley brothers) to best give Gonzaga a run in a potential Elite 8 contest.
Oregon State gets eighth seed Loyola-Chicago, which beat Illinois and is seeking its second Final Four appearance in three years. But the Beavers have a shot in that game, even if they are 6.5-point underdogs (+235 odds on the money line).
UCLA has second-seeded Alabama Sunday in the early game and is going to be a dangerous team to face. The Bruins are a six-point underdog (+210 on the money line) and have smothered two teams since beating Michigan State (another Big-10 bust) in the First Four game.
Obviously, Gonzaga is the best team in the country, and my pick to win the title. USC could give the Zags trouble if it can get past Oregon.
Could the Pac-12 teams get wiped out this weekend?
Yes, three could lose. But do not be surprised if more than one is left dancing next week.
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