College Hoops: Best Pac 12 Teams

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Jim Feist - 2/23/2015 10:35 AM
by Jim Feist

There's the Big 5 in Pac 12 in basketball with a string of teams battling for the top spot. Here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of some of college basketball's best teams in the Pacific 12.

Arizona: The Wildcats are a Pac 12 and national powerhouse, leading the conference with a +7 rebound margin and one of the top teams in the nation in free throw attempts. They can play aggressive man-to-man defense and the offense is versatile behind 6-7 freshman Stanley Johnson (14.5 ppg, 7 rpg), 6-9 junior Brandon Ashley (11 ppg, 5 rpg), 6-7 soph Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (11 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and senior G T.J. McConnell (9 ppg, 4 rpg, 5.8 apg).
They have been winning and covering, on a recent 10-3 spread run before rival Arizona State stormed the court in an 81-78 upset. The Cats took down a pair of Top 20 teams in non-conference competition, but they were close games in wins over SDSU (61-59) and Gonzaga (66-63), the latter in overtime. Arizona is 21-9-2 against the spread after 20+ win point.

Utah: The Utes have been winning with great defense for a while under Coach Larry Krystkowiak. Utah is on a sizzling 37-14-2 ATS spread run behind 6-5 senior Delon Wright (14.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.9 apg), 5-10 junior Brandon Taylor (11 ppg, 3.4 apg) and 6-6 junior Jordan Loveridge (10.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg).
Krystkowiak demands defense and they have a strong low post presence in 7-foot Jakob Poeltl (9 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Utah is 40-17-1 ATS against the Pac-12. They came up short in a loss to No. 10 Kansas (63-60) as +4 home dog and lost at No. 16 SDSU (53-49). They are looking forward to a rematch with rival Arizona this week, after losing 69-51 in the first meeting last month. The under is 17-5 in the Utes last 22 road games.

Oregon: The Ducks are not shy about running, top 20 in the nation in scoring behind senior guard Joseph Young (19.7 ppg) and 6-6 junior Elgin Cook (12.5 ppg). This is not a big team with 6-7 junior Dwayne Benjamin their leading rebounder. And when defense is required against top opponents the Ducks have wilted, losing to Arizona (90-56 + 80-62), a loss to VCU (77-63) and giving up 85 and 108 in Pac 12 losses to Washington and WSU. OK, so the loss to the Cougars was in overtime, but they allowed 94 in regulation and Washington State shot 59% from the field and nailed 14-of-24 threes.

Stanford: The Cardinal is led by a trio of impressive seniors in guard Chase Randle (20 ppg), 6-6 senior Anthony Brown (15.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and 6-11 Stefan Nastic (13.8 ppg, 7 rpg), one of the top offensive teams in the nation. That experience has helped in close games, beating Texas (74-71) and Washington (68-60) in overtime, plus they gave Arizona a run before losing 89-82. They could tighten up the defense, as that latter game was part of a stretch going 7-1 over the total. Offense is important, but you need to lean on defense come tourney play. Stanford wraps up a three-game homestand this week before concluding the regular season with a road trip to play both Arizona schools.

Oregon State: The Beavers don't care for the running game, preferring a slow pace and a choking defense. Just ask Arizona, who Oregon State upset (58-56) allowing 38% shooting and just 4-of-17 from long range. That was the first meeting. The second meeting Arizona scored just 57 points and shot 41%, but won easily, 57-34, as Oregon State shot 28%!
Junior guard Gary Payton II (12.7 ppg, 8 rpg) is a dynamite rebounder for a guard, while sophomore Malcolm Duvivier (10 ppg) is a fine playmaker, giving the Beavers a great and versatile backcourt. They do have some trouble on the road, both straight up and against the spread. Totals players take note: Oregon State went on a recent 9-1 run under the total. Wait until tournament play starts when defense becomes even more pronounced.

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