I’m going to be dropping in some college basketball conference previews over the next few weeks, as the start of the season is remarkably just around the corner. I ran through my MWC picks a few days back, today it’s a rundown on the PAC-12.
1. Arizona… Losing players like Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson might normally be considered a huge blow, but not here. Arizona is loaded, and if they don’t win this league, it’s a monster upset. There are four potential first-round NBA draft picks on this team. I see Arizona playing on the final weekend of March Madness, so this is a pretty easy choice.
2. Colorado… Tad Boyle has done a really nice job with this program. Everyone is back except for Spencer Dinwiddie, and the Buffs learned to live without him when he got hurt last season. Asia Booker is a star, even if he shoots a little too much and Josh Scott can dominate in the paint.
3. Utah…Welcome to the Delon Wright Show. It’s amazing how quickly Larry Krystkowiak has rebuilt the Utes, and I think they’re going to make the Big Dance this season.
4. Washington… My guess is I’ve got the Huskies higher than almost anyone. Lorenzo Romar’s teams are always a little erratic, but I really like this team’s backcourt. The situation with the bigs is far more uncertain, but if massive Robert Upshaw taps his potential, the Huskies could be a major surprise team.
5. Stanford… Three starters are back from a team that got it together at tournament time and rolled to the Sweet 16. But Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis will be missed. Chosen Randle and Anthony Brown are outstanding, Stefan Nastic has a chance to improve and they have some interesting newcomers. I’m still not a big Dawkins guy, though, and my sense is that late last season was a fluke.
6. UCLA… The freshman class is loaded and the Bruins could be live late in the season. But they’re going to be vulnerable early with Jonah Bolden ineligible and Jon Octeus not getting admitted. Steve Alford has to replace three NBA first round picks as well. Lots of talent still on hand, but I don’t see this as a banner season in Westwood.
7. California… Adios, Mike Montgomery and welcome aboard, Cuonzo Martin. I thought the Bears underachieved last season and should improve somewhat this year. The energy level sure figures to be higher, but they lost two key guys and the roster is no better than mid-pack.
8. Arizona State… No more Jordan Bachynski, no more Jermaine Marshall, no more Jahii Carson. Veteran coach Herb Sendek says he likes his team’s versatility and perhaps minus the overly aggressive Carson they can create more balance. But I just don’t see the talent being that good.
9. Oregon… Joseph Young is a stud and Dana Altman can still coach. But off the court issues did a number on this team and they’re now unexpectedly stuck in rebuild mode.
10. USC… Andy Enfield has a very young team that’s sorely lacking in experience. It’s all about how quickly the freshmen adapt to big time college basketball. My bet is that this team is at least one year away from making a move.
11. Washington State… The Cougars should be more fun to watch with Ernie Kent back in the coaching box, and they’ve still got DaVonte Lacy. But they don’t have much else. A long season in Pullman seems certain.
12. Oregon State… Deadsville. Craig Robinson left new coach Wayne Tinkle with next to nothing. The Beavers could well be the underdog in every conference game they play, and with corresponding results.
No action for me on Monday, so I’ll look to pick up where I left off last week, which was one with exceptional results. I’m now on pace to exceed my annual goal of at least +52 net units. Get a subscription to everything I’m on myself by utilizing the “buy now” feature that’s on this page. Or for those interested in paying only on performance-based results, feel free to email me for details on my exclusive net winners program. That address is email@example.com.
Today’s free play is an early selection on a Saturday college game. My sense is that getting this game now might garner the best value, and I’ll explain why in the analysis.
10/25 12:30 PM CF (121) MISSISSIPPI STATE at (122) KENTUCKY
Take: (122) KENTUCKY +13.5
Let’s leave no doubt that I think Mississippi State is completely legit and the Bulldogs definitely have a realistic chance of making the inaugural four-team playoff this season. But even the best teams have bad scheduling spots and I consider this to be exactly that for Dan Mullen’s red hot entry.
This isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. About the worst thing that can happen for an unbeaten team once the midway point of the season has been reached is a bye week. That might not seem logical on the surface, but the numbers don’t lie, and unbeaten road teams with rest have a tendency to struggle.
I think there’s a rationale for this taking place. First, the bye week can be a momentum breaker for a red hot team. It’s also an opportunity for the players to enjoy a heavy dose of hero worship on campus, while also dreaming about that pot of gold that’s waiting at the end of the proverbial rainbow. Don’t discount pressclippingitis as a potential distraction as well.
The aforementioned potholes have gotten the best of teams far more used to the spotlight than Mississippi State. This is a great story unfolding in Starkville, but it’s also very unexpected and brand new. So my sense is that as dominant as the Bulldogs have been, they could be ultra-vulnerable to having their collective heads in the clouds.
Kentucky got absolutely crushed last Saturday. The Wildcats are now being looked upon as little more than a formality win for Mississippi State by virtually all of the TV talking heads. I see that making Kentucky more dangerous. The no respect angle will be in play in Lexington all week in practice and off the disaster at Baton Rouge, this is also a redemption game for the Wildcats.
I can’t see Kentucky being quite good enough to pull the upset here. But I do think they’re good enough to make this a very scary Saturday for the heavy favorite. The Wildcats are 5-0 at home, including a nice win against South Carolina, and I believe that should eliminate the intimidation factor. The home team needs to get last week’s misfire out of its heads in a hurry, so a good start here is important. If Kentucky falls down early they could get rolled by the Bulldogs.
But the bottom line for me is that there’s a clear and irrefutable track record of big favorites failing in this specific scenario, and I feel that could well take place here. Kentucky in the plus two-TD neighborhood is very playable.