With five teams in the Pac-12 currently projected by ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi in the NCAA tournament, it's clear that Pac-12 basketball is back.
However, which team currently in the tournament will lose its bid by the end of the season? And which team is much better than its overall record would indicate? Let's look at the most overrated team and underrated team in the Pac-12.
Most Overrated Pac-12 Team: Arizona State
Arizona State is currently 18-6 and fourth in the Pac-12 standings. However, even though the Sun Devils are currently projected to be in an 11th-seed play-in game in Joe Lunardi's bracket, this team is too inconsistent to make the tournament.
In Pac-12 play, the Sun Devils have one very good win, beating UCLA by 18 at Pauley Pavilion. Yet they lost to Stanford at home in their last game. USC and Utah took the Sun Devils into overtime in their own building, where Arizona State escaped with close victories. They've also gotten blown out at home by Arizona and have lost on the road to Oregon and Washington.
The remainder of their schedule isn't easy, either. In fact, their last four games are home against Washington, and then a road trip to face off against UCLA, USC and rival Arizona. It wouldn't be a surprise if Arizona State lost three of those games.
They've also only played five road games this season, which is a big reason why their record looks so good on paper. In their last seven games, they play away from home in five of them, including those daunting final three contests.
Looking at the Sun Devils, there are other factors that show they're weaker than they appear.
On offense, the Sun Devils are ranked 62nd in the nation in points per game, 66th in rebounds per game, 77th in assists per game and 53rd in overall field-goal percentage. They even shoot 62 percent from the free-throw line as a team.
Arizona State doesn't have a lot of depth, either. Only six guys average double-digit minutes per game. Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix, its top two players, each have had at least two fouls apiece in seven of Arizona State's last eight games. Considering each of them plays over 34 minutes a game, if either of them gets into serious foul trouble, the Sun Devils are toast.
Most Underrated Pac-12 Team: USC
Ever since Kevin O'Neill was fired as USC's head coach on January 14, the Trojans have been playing much better basketball. USC's offensive firepower under interim head coach Bob Cantu is at a level that hasn't been seen at the Galen Center in years.
In USC's first game with Cantu on the bench, it took Oregon down to the wire and only lost by two points. Besides a blowout loss to Arizona, its only other loss with Cantu as its coach was on the road against Arizona State in overtime.
The Trojans' most impressive victory within the Pac-12 has to be against UCLA. They beat their bitter rivals on the road on the same night that UCLA was retiring Reggie Miller's jersey. They've also beaten Washington, Washington State and Oregon State with their new coach.
Overall, USC is much better than its 11-13 record would indicate, especially with its 6-5 overall record in Pac-12 play. Additionally, it doesn't help the Trojans that they have had the toughest strength of schedule in the nation.
The key though has been the offense.
Under Cantu, USC has scored at least 69 points in six of its seven games. In the 17 games that O'Neill coached, USC hit that mark only four times. They have three guys who are averaging double-digit points per game in Eric Wise, Byron Wesley and J.T. Terrell.
The Trojans will most likely have to win the Pac-12 tournament to make it into March Madness, but they can finish in the top five in the conference. In their final seven games, they only play three games against opponents projected to make the NCAA tournament. All three of those games will be played at home.
USC's weaknesses have been inconsistent play from its big men and its starting point guard, Jio Fontan. However, USC has shown with its depth that it can still win games despite key players going through rough patches. Expect USC to finish with a similar conference record as Arizona State.
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