The Pac-12 calls itself the Conference of Champions, but it hasn’t had a national champion in college basketball since way back in 1997. Might that change this season? Doubtful, but here are the only schools with a shot at it along with College Basketball odds.
NCAAB: Which Pac-12 Teams Can Win National Title?
The first NCAA Tournament was organized by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. That was in 1939 and Oregon won the inaugural tournament, defeating Ohio State 46–33 in the championship game. The Ducks haven’t won a title since. They did reach the Final Four in 2017 – the last Pac-12 team to do so – but lost to North Carolina 77-76.
The Ducks were Pac-12 regular-season champions this season. Oregon will have one of the most dangerous offenses in the NCAA tournament field, led by senior guard and Pac-12 Player of the Year Payton Pritchard. Pritchard became the fourth player in Pac-12 history to lead the conference in scoring and assists. He averaged 20.5 points and 5.5 assists while leading the Ducks to their third regular-season Pac-12 title in five years.
Pritchard joined Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire (1994-95) and Jason Terry (1998-99) and Oregon State’s Gary Payton (1989-90) as the only players to lead the Pac-12 in scoring and assists. Pritchard has been part of four NCAA Tournament teams with Oregon, including a trip to the Final Four in 2017, and is one of three Ducks players to have 1,000 points, 400 rebounds and 400 assists during his career.
Pritchard is one of three players in the nation averaging at least 20 points, four rebounds and five assists per game. He is one of just four players nationally – and the only one from a Power Six league – who is leading his conference in both scoring and assists.
The uncertain status of Chris Duarte (out after undergoing surgery on a broken finger) is a concern for Oregon. The junior guard will miss the Pac-12 Tournament but there’s a chance he can return for the NCAA Tournament. Duarte is averaging 12.9 points per game, only behind Pritchard on the team. He is averaging 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists with a team-high 1.7 steals.
Oregon has three of the top four three-point shooters in the Pac-12 in Will Richardson (.469/1st), Anthony Mathis (.454/2nd) and Pritchard (.415/4th). The Ducks rank fourth nationally in three-point field goal percentage (.396).
As noted above, Arizona is the last team from the Pac-12 to win a national title. This year’s team is very young and led by three freshmen. Talented enough to win it all, for sure, but maybe not experienced enough.
Zeke Nnaji was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, All-Pac-12 First Team and part of the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. Nnaji is the fifth Wildcat to be named the top freshman in head coach Sean Miller’s 11 years in Tucson, the most in the Pac-12 in that span. In Pac-12 play, Nnaji was the conference leader in rebounds (9.2) and finished seventh in scoring (16.1). He shot 50.3 percent from the floor.
Another freshman, Nico Mannion, was named Second Team All-Pac-12 and was also on the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. He finished second in the conference in assists (5.4) and 16th in scoring at 14.0 points per game. He also ranked second in the conference in assist/turnover ratio (2.06). Josh Green is the other talented freshman but has battled some injuries. Green returned to the starting lineup against Washington State on March 5 after missing two games and has played very well since his return.
The Wildcats played three of their last five regular-season games at home, yet went just 1-4 over that stretch due in part to the frequency with which Miller’s guys gave the ball away and missed shots. On the other hand, the UA defense did stay strong during that closing stretch.
Arizona has registered 10+ offensive rebounds in 17 of 19 games against Pac-12 teams this season. Arizona led the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding in conference play (11.67/gm) and is third in defensive rebounding (26.17).
In conference play, Arizona ranked third in scoring (71.1) and second in fewest points allowed per game (65.1). For the season, Arizona is the only Pac-12 team that ranks in the top three in scoring offense and defense. UA leads the Pac-12 in fewest turnovers/game (11.9), and it’s the first time in 11 seasons under Miller that the Wildcats led the conference in that category. Arizona is forcing opponents into 14.6 turnovers per game, the highest average for any Miller coached team.