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Will Pac-12 Be a One-Bid League in 2019 NCAA Tournament?

ASU Sun Devils mascot.
The Arizona State Sun Devils have the best national championship odds among Pac-12 teams at Bovada. But they're well down the list at +8500. Photo by Ssd88 (Wikipedia) [CC License].
  • No Pac-12 team is shorter than +8300 in the latest 2019 March Madness futures.
  • With non-conference play winding down, the opportunities for the Pac-12 to boost its conference resume are dwindling.
  • Could the “power conference” actually wind-up a one-bid league in the 2019 NCAA Tournament?

At the start of the season, the Pac-12’s national title hopes were slim. The best odds belonged to Oregon at around 30/1, by far the longest of any Power 6 favorite.

A little over a month into the year, the conference is at an all-time low. According to our 2019 NCAA tournament odds tracker, Oregon has fallen to +8300 on average at online sportsbooks. And that’s still the best average odds in the conference. For context, the lowest the Pac-12 favorite got last year was +1500.

Bovada’s sportsbook is even more pessimistic on the Pac-12 (and the Ducks, specifically) than most. It only lists five Pac-12 teams in its March Madness futures right now, starting with Arizona State at +8500.

Pac-12 National Championship Odds

Pac-12 Teams 2019 National Title Odds at Bovada
Arizona State +8500
Oregon +9500
Arizona +11000
UCLA +11000
Washington +20000
Cal OFF
Colorado OFF
Oregon State OFF
Stanford OFF
USC OFF
Utah OFF
Washington State OFF

For comparison, Bovada lists eight of ten teams from the Big 12. It even lists seven of ten teams from the unquestionably down Big East.

How Many Pac-12 Teams Will Make the 2019 NCAA Tournament?

The current state of affairs is a bad omen for the Pac-12, which put just three teams into the 2018 tournament.

The selection process will be a little different this year with the advent of the NET Rating. But it won’t be that disparate from the previous system, and that system did not look kindly upon the Pac-12.

Pac-12 Teams in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Team Conf. Champ/At-Large Seed KenPom Ranking
Arizona Conference Champion #4 28
Arizona State At-Large #11 49
UCLA At-Large #11 56

In 2018, four Pac-12 teams were ranked between 49 and 59 on KenPom. Two (Arizona State, UCLA) barely squeaked into the tournament as #11 seeds; they received the second-last and fourth-last at-large bids, respectively. Two (USC, Utah) wound up in the NIT.

That Arizona State team owned a road win over no. 2 Kansas and neutral-site wins over no. 15 Xavier and Kansas State.

Non-conference play is almost over for the year, and it’s plain to see that no team in the Pac-12 will have anything close to that calibre of win when Selection Sunday 2019 arrives.

The Pac-12 Was Bad in Non-Conference Play

Going by KenPom rankings, the best win a Pac-12 team has this year is Arizona overcoming a double-digit second-half deficit to knock off Iowa State (no. 16 at KenPom) in Maui.

After that, it’s Oregon beating Syracuse (no. 18) at MSG, a game in which the Orange didn’t have starting point guard Frank Howard. Then, it’s Arizona State downing Mississippi State (no. 22) in Las Vegas.

Those are the only top-50 KenPom wins the conference has this year.

The five Pac-12 teams Bovada has listed in its March Madness futures are a combined 2-7 against AP top-25 competition.

There are a few games left to improve upon that — Washington vs. no 13 Virginia Tech; ASU vs. no. 1 Kansas; and UCLA vs. no. 15 Ohio State — but the Pac-12 team is going to be a sizable underdog in each one, so that record may easily fall to 2-10 by the time conference play starts.

Pac-12 Teams Won’t Be Able to Boost Resumes in Conference Play

Currently, there is not a single Pac-12 team in the top 30 at KenPom (and only no. 20 ASU is ranked in the AP Poll).

That means, when conference play starts, there won’t be any more opportunities for top-25 KenPom wins, unless one of the teams rises considerably, and climbing the rankings is going to be difficult without opportunities to beat top teams.

It’s a vicious circle.

Currently, there is not a single Pac-12 team in the top 30 at KenPom.

Just like at the end of last year, there are five Pac-12 teams in the top 60 at KenPom:

  1. Oregon: no. 31
  2. Arizona State: no. 43
  3. UCLA: no. 46
  4. Arizona: no. 48
  5. Washington: no 52

Unless two or three teams absolutely crush it in Pac-12 play, the conference is going to wind-up with an auto-bid for the conference tournament champion and, likely, three or four bubble teams.

The Selection Committee is not going to eschew the Pac-12 entirely. The calls of “east-coast bias!” would deafen everyone west of the Rockies. But there is a very real chance that the Pac-12 is limited to one at-large bid this season. That hasn’t happened to a power conference since 2012 when, guess who, the Pac-12 got just one at-large bid.

It hasn’t happened to another power conference in at least the last 20 years, likely ever. (I’ll check back to 1985 when I have a little more time.)

If there’s something in the water out west, it’s not Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff.

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