UCLA or Arizona? College basketball insider predicts Pac-12 hoops champion
UCLA is 13-2 and sitting atop the Pac-12 at the start of the new year. The Bruins are unbeaten in conference play and have won 10 straight since dropping back-to-back games to ranked opponents away from Pauley.
Then you have Arizona, which is off to a 13-1 start. The Wildcats dropped a conference game to Utah just days after returning victorious from the Maui Invitational, but they’ve since won seven straight games. That stretch includes a takedown of Tennessee at home and a road win over the much-improved Arizona State Sun Devils.
Both are top-seven teams nationally, according to KenPom. Both are powered by some of the best offenses in basketball; Arizona ranks first in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency while UCLA ranks sixth.
It’s shaping up to be an incredible title race once again in the Pac-12.
And as conference play gets into the thick of it now that the holiday season has passed, 247Sports’ Isaac Trotter took a stab at predicting every Power conference champion.
Here’s what Trotter wrote about the Pac-12:
There are two answers to this question, and honestly, you could make a strong case for either Arizona or UCLA. I know both of these teams can win the National Championship, full stop. Arizona has arguably the best offense in the country, but the defense (especially in transition) has left a little to be desired. UCLA shook off a pair of tight losses to talented teams like Baylor and Illinois and was one of the best teams in the country in December. UCLA is elite on both ends right now, but it requires Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell to be excellent. Arizona is a little deeper than UCLA, and it’s a touch more potent offensively. The UCLA-Arizona wars are going to be INTENSE this season. I’m a little scared that UCLA is one Jaquez rolled ankle away from struggling offensively, but I’ll side with the Bruins by a whisker right now. But man, these two teams are awesome.
Arizona claimed both the Pac-12’s regular-season and conference tournament titles last season. The Wildcats beat the Bruins in the tournament’s championship game to seal the sweep.
The two teams face off in Tucson on Jan. 21 and then in the regular-season finale on March 4 in Westwood.