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Loaded UCLA Should Rule Pac-12

Bruins Trying to be First Conference Team to Win National Title Since 1997

UCLA was flying under the radar a year ago but that is certainly not the case these days. UCLA could be tested by Oregon but heading into the season, the Bruins have a chance to return to a time when you couldn’t speak about potential national championship contenders without mentioning the Bruins.

Arizona, with a first-year coach, and USC are among the teams that are hoping to make sure the Pac-12 is not a two-team race.

Conference 12 UCLA Bruins
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 03: Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins handles the ball against Jalen Suggs #1 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first half during the 2021 NCAA Final Four semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 03, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by JAMIE SQUIRE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Here are how the odds look heading into the 2021-22 season.

UCLA Bruins

  • Conference Odds: Even
  • National Title Odds: +1000

The UCLA Bruins are the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-12 title and there could be another championship in their future as well.

Gonzaga and Michigan are the only teams with better odds to win the national championship according to the odds to win March Madness. UCLA reached the Final Four before falling to Gonzaga last season.

UCLA returned 12 letterwinners from that roster, including all five starters. Johnny Juzang was named to the Associated Press All-American team after a season in which he averaged 16 points. He is joined by Jaime Jaquez (12.3 points per game) on the NABC National Player of Year watch list.

Tyger Campbell, Jules Bernard and Cody Riley were also double-digit scorers a season ago. Seven UCLA players, including graduate transfer Myles Johnson, have played in at least 60 collegiate games with three players having appeared in at least 90 career games.

Freshman Peyton Watson is expected to see plenty of action, even with so many returning players in the UCLA rotation.

Oregon Ducks

  • Conference Odds: +275
  • National Title Odds: +4000

If there is a team that can challenge a UCLA squad that the college basketball odds list as even money to win the Pac-12 title, it would be the Oregon Ducks.

Guard Will Richardson, who was named to the Pac-12 preseason all-conference first team for the second season in a row and has been on multiple national watch lists, will lead the Ducks. Richardson averaged 11.3 points in a season where he missed 12 games. Eric Williams is another returning player who averaged at least 10 points.

Junior N’Faly Dante, who was limited to six games during the 2020-21 season, and sophomore Franck Kepnang are other key returnees.

The Ducks added transfers Quincy Guerrier from Syracuse and De’Vion Harmon from Oklahoma. Guerrier is one of 20 players to be named to the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year watch list while Harmon is one of 20 players to be named to the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year watch list. Freshman Nathan Bittle was a top-10 national recruit.

There are some holes to fill as Oregon lost its top three scorers, including Chris Duarte, one of the highest-scoring rookies in the NBA this season.

Arizona Wildcats

  • Conference Odds: +550
  • National Title Odds: +6600

Arizona, in the first season with Tommy Lloyd at the helm, features preseason All-Pac-12 honorees in sophomores Bennedict Mathurin (10.8 points, 4.7 rebounds in Pac-12 play) and Azuolas Tubelis (13.7 points, 7.8 rebounds per game).

Christian Koloko and Dalen Terry are expected to have bigger roles after combining to start 33 games last season, while Eastern Washington transfer Kim Aiken and Justin Kier, a transfer who previously played at George Mason and Georgia, will play major minutes. They are among 10 newcomers for the Wildcats.

James Akinjo and Jemarl Baker, who were two of Arizona’s four double-digit scorers, have headed elsewhere to finish out their collegiate careers.

Southern California Trojans

  • Conference Odds: +750
  • National Title Odds: +5000

The Southern California Trojans need to replace top scorers Evan Mobley and Tahj Eaddy off a 25-win team that reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. There are plenty of returning players capable of making the Trojans a factor in the Pac-12 race. Forwards Isaiah Mobley, Chevez Goodwin and Max Agbonkpolo and guards Ethan Anderson, Drew Peterson and Isaiah White all averaged at least 15 minutes per game during the 2020-21 campaign.

Mobley is the top returning scorer but figures to make a significant jump after putting up 9.9 points and 7.3 rebounds. Peterson and White join Mobley as returning starters.

Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis, the American Athletic Conference Co-Sixth Man of the Year, and freshman guard Malik Thomas, the California Gatorade Player of the Year, are newcomers who figure prominently into USC’s plans. They could help the Trojans make some noise in the Pac-12 and improve the Las Vegas odds to compete in the top-heavy conference expected to be dominated by UCLA and Oregon.

Colorado Buffaloes

  • Conference Odds: +1600
  • National Title Odds: N/A

Colorado features eight freshmen and five sophomores on the roster. In an exhibition game win over Mines, freshmen K.J. Simpson and Lawson Lovering each scored in double figures. When Colorado wrapped up the preseason with a game against Nebraska, eight of the 10 players to see at least 10 minutes of action were underclassmen.

Seniors Evan Battey and Elijah Parquet will be joined by a host of talented but unproven players. Sophomores Keeshawn Barthelemy, Tristan Silva, Nique Clifford and Luke O’Brien each scored between 10-12 points against the Cornhuskers.

Washington State Cougars

  • Conference Odds: +3300
  • National Title Odds: N/A

Noah Williams and Efe Abogidi were selected as preseason All-Pac-12 honorees for the Washington State Cougars. Williams, who averaged 14 points a season ago, was a first-team pick while Abogidi (8.9 points, 7.2 rebounds) was named an honorable mention selection.

They will be joined by some talented newcomers with the additions of Division II All-American Tyrell Roberts, South Alabama transfer Michael Flowers and Brown transfer Matt DeWolf. Also, Mouhamed Gueye is the highest-rated freshman to join the Washington State program since Klay Thompson.

Oregon State Beavers

  • Conference Odds: +3300
  • National Title Odds: +8000

Oregon State was picked to finish in a tie for fourth place in the Pac-12, the highest the Beavers have been picked to finish since 1992-93.

Warith Alatishe, the 2021 Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, was selected to the preseason All-Pac-12 First Team and Jarod Lucas was named to the preseason All-Pac-12 Second Team.

Experience is the key for the Beavers as Oregon State, with seniors Maurice Calloo and Rodrigue Andela and juniors Gianni Hunt, Jarod Lucas — the top returning scorer with an average of 12.7 points per game — and Dashawn Davis providing offensive help for Alatishe.

Those who bet online would be interested to know that Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle is 7-0 in season openers.

Utah Utes

  • Conference Odds: +4000
  • National Title Odds: N/A

First-year coach Craig Smith has a veteran nucleus to work with during his first season with Utah, even if the experience came with other programs.

Key returnee Branden Carlson (9.4 points) is joined by UNLV transfer David Jenkins, who averaged 14.8 points per game, senior Marco Anthony (10.0 points at Utah State), and sophomore Rollie Worster (9.1 points at Utah State). Smith came to Utah from Utah State so he is well versed in what Anthony and Worster are capable of producing.

Stanford Cardinal

  • Conference Odds: +6600
  • National Title Odds: +15000

The Stanford Cardinal lost Ziare Williams to the NBA and his departure could mean a larger offensive role for Jaiden Delaire, who averaged 12.5 points in 2020-21. Spencer Jones (8.2 points) and Michael O’Connell (6.7 points, 2.8 assists) should also have increased roles.

Harrison Ingram, one of four freshmen on the roster, is expected to start immediately.

Arizona State Sun Devils

  • Conference Odds: +6600
  • National Title Odds: N/A

The Arizona State Sun Devils have one of the top transfers in the Pac-12. Marreon Jackson comes in from Toledo as a graduate transfer. He had five 30-point games and enters the season with 1,817 points and 573 assists in his career. He is one of three Division I men’s players to average at least 18 points, six rebounds and 5.9 assists since the 2009-10 season.

Head coach Bobby Hurley has added eight freshmen this season, including Jamiya Neal, who had 11 points and six rebounds in an exhibition win over St. Katherine. Sophomores Jay Heath and DJ Horne led the Sun Devils with 18 and 15 points, respectively, in that game.

California Bears

  • Conference Odds: +25000
  • National Title Odds: N/A

Andre Kelly (10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) returns to lead the California Bears. He was second in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (58.7) a season ago.

Grant Anticevich, Makale Foreman, Kelly and Jordan Shepherd, a graduate transfer who played at Charlotte and Oklahoma, provide plenty of experience for Cal.

Washington Huskies

  • Conference Odds: +25000
  • National Title Odds: N/A

Jamal Bey and Nate Roberts are returning starters for the Washington Huskies. Bey is the Huskies leading returning scorer at 10.3 points per game and shot a Pac-12-leading 50.8 precent while Roberts was Washington’s top rebounder a season ago.

Cole Bajema looks to build on a strong finish to the 2020-21 season, when he averaged 5.9 points over the final seven games. Transfers Terrell Brown Jr. (Arizona), Daejon Davis (Stanford), PJ Fuller (TCU) and Emmitt Matthews Jr. (West Virginia) look to fill in for a young Washington squad.

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