For Pac-12 Conference basketball in 2020-21, perhaps more than any previous season, chemistry and talent up and down the entire roster may prove more valuable than having the best one or two players.
For bettors, evaluating the benches of these men’s teams may create an edge.
As you would expect, not all of the conference’s teams are equal in this regard. Lines at sportsbooks reflect this priority on talented reserves. As California has yet to legalize sports betting, odds out of Nevada provide our gauge as we peer into the crystal ball for the coming Pac-12 season and that of California teams in the conference.
Why depth may be so crucial to Pac-12 Conference basketball this year
It all comes down to one term: COVID-19. It’s difficult to predict how the pandemic will affect the California members of the conference as the season goes on. It may do much more than just force the postponement of games.
It’s possible that Cal, Stanford, UCLA, and USC may have to play some games without some of their top players. That’s the reason why having others ready to step in with the least amount of drop-off could prove superbly valuable.
Along these lines, some programs in the Golden State look better setup than others as Pac-12 opens conference play on Dec. 2.
Cal Golden Bears
Entering his second year at the helm, head coach Mark Fox likely relies on his starters to stay healthy in order to build on the 7-11 conference record from his first season. The Golden Bears did add two graduate transfers in Ryan Betley and Makale Foreman, but they’re in the starting lineup.
Cal will play small this year, which means they’re deepest in the backcourt. However, there’s a sharp decline once you get past the top three in their rotation.
Things are looking up for Stanford this season. They not only return five of their top six scorers from a year ago, but the Cardinal also added freshman Ziaire Williams to augment the offense.
If it can build on the defensive efficiency that fueled a successful 2019-20 campaign, Stanford could become a contender in the Pac-12. The Cardinal’s depth looks solid on paper, but if senior Oscar da Silva goes down for a few games, Stanford would be hard-pressed to replace his effect on both ends of the court.
UCLA is one of the preseason favorites to win the conference. And it’s not hard to see why when you look at the talent on the roster.
The Bruins return their top five scorers, for one thing. Then, UCLA also boasts transfer Johnny Juzang and freshman Jaylen Clark to strengthen the rotation.
The Bruins seem well-suited for weathering a few empty seats on the bench should that become the case.
Flip the script from UCLA for the cross-town rivals, as USC lost all of its top five scorers from last season. The Mobley brothers (freshman Evan and sophomore Isaiah) will hold down the interior while the offense follows the pace set by sophomore point guard Ethan Anderson.
As much as there are question marks on offense in the starting five, there’s even more in a look down the Trojans’ bench. They seem to have the size to be a good defensive team, but that may not prove enough to contend for a Pac-12 title.
Sports betting futures for CA men’s basketball teams
It’s unclear whether any of these teams will enjoy their full rosters all season. Even if they can, sportsbooks aren’t confident California programs will cut down the nets when March Madness concludes in April.
At Nevada sportsbooks such as BetMGM and William Hill, the Pac-12 isn’t the conference of champions when it comes to men’s basketball. Odds become even longer with the conference’s California teams.
William Hill has the Bruins at +4000 to win the NCAA national title. A total of 23 other contenders in the market have shorter odds, only one of which is a Pac-12 member (Arizona State).
BetMGM pegs UCLA as the most likely of the California teams to reach the Final Four at +700. Baylor and Gonzaga are currently the two favorites in that market, each at +150.
As far as futures for the Pac-12 conference championship go, UCLA has the second-shortest odds at BetMGM with a line of +290. Stanford sits at +550, USC is +1000, and Cal holds the second-longest odds at +10000.
Pac-12 play set to open this week
Cal opens Pac-12 action on Dec. 3 against Arizona State, while UCLA hosts the Golden Bears on Dec. 6 to start its conference slate.
The Pac-12 has Stanford and USC set to face each other on Dec. 13, but the location and time are up in the air due to the Cardinal’s travel schedule and COVID-19 protocols.
That’s going to be something all these teams deal with to some extent all season. For that reason, bettors should look to which team best expects the unexpected.