Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Hoops Previews for Thursday Jan. 19


Posted on January 19, 2023

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12The regular season race in the Conference of Champions enters a pivotal week as the L.A. schools hit the road to the desert.

No. 5 UCLA takes on Arizona State in Tempe while No. 11 Arizona hosts USC in Tucson. The matchups are key for all four team’s NCAA Tournament aspirations and seeding.

Similarly impactful, Utah hosts Washington State in Salt Lake City.

It’s still early, but the loser of the matchup might be eliminated from the Bubble depending on how the rest of the year goes.

I preview all five games here and my picks, and those of Stephen Vilardo, appear at the bottom.

usc logoUSC at No. 11 ArizonaArizona football Pac-12

Thursday, January 19
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Tommy Lloyd’s offense is broken.

After scoring 80 points or more in 10 out of Arizona’s 11 nonconference games, the Cats have only breached the mark twice in their seven Pac-12 matchups.

Oumar Ballo hasn’t returned to form after being hospitalized with an illness, Kerr Kriisa is 9-for-34 from the field over the last three games, and bench contributors Henri Veesaar and Adama Bal have seen their minutes drastically cut.

Making matters worse, Courtney Ramey is 12-for-43 from the field over his last five games and Pelle Larsson is 10-for-28 over the same stretch.

The once vaunted frontcourt may no longer have the same firepower it did earlier in the year, but it faces a favorable matchup against USC’s guard-heavy offense.

Trojan G Drew Peterson vs Utah | Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Joshua Morgan is the primary big Andy Enfield plays, but he has rotational options in Vince Iwuchukwu, Kijani Wright, Harrison Hornery, and occasionally Iaroslav Niagu.

Wright is arguably the most natural fit to defend Azuolas Tubelis, and Enfield could play him together with Morgan more than he normally would.

That could potentially detract from USC’s offensive firepower, though, requiring Enfield to play a cat-and-mouse game with Tommy Lloyd to get the right matchups on the floor.

In that sense, substitution patterns will be key for the Trojans.

On the other bench, Arizona’s defense on Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson figures to be a determining factor.

If the Trojan duo is knocking down shots from the field with efficiency, USC has a strong enough supporting cast to upset the Wildcats at McKale.

Washington football pac-12Washington at Colorado

Thursday, January 19
6:00 pm PT, ESPNU

Tad Boyle and the Buffs face Washington’s inconsistent zone in the friendly confines of the CU Event Center.

Colorado has struggled with taking care of the ball all season, entering the matchup 295th in turnovers committed per game. That’s a worrying factor against a Husky defense that is No. 182 in forcing TOs per contest.

Mike Hopkins’ zone is vulnerable to quick ball movement, though, which tends to get his players out of position.

Getting the ball around rapidly negates UW’s length, too, helping to weaken the shot-blocking ability that is the team’s strength.

Colorado F Tristan da Silva vs UCLA | Ashley Landis/AP

Maintaining a high assist-to-field-goal ratio will be pivotal for Colorado to secure the win. Any over-dribbling and reliance on one-on-one action plays right into the hands of the Huskies.

On the other end of the court, the matchup between Lawson Lovering and Braxton Meah is one to watch.

Meah has a substantial weight advantage and could eat all game. Keion Brooks Jr. has a favorable matchup with Tristan da Silva, as well, although the battle between the two upperclassmen figures to be much tighter.

The efficiency and production of KJ Simpson, then, could determine the outcome of the game. If the Colorado sophomore plays the way he has been all season, Boyle and the Buffs should like their chances.

Washington State at Utah

Thursday, January 19
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Cougars enter the rematch with Utah as a different team. Andrej Jakimovski and Jabe Mullins didn’t play in the first overtime battle earlier in the year when the Utes escaped with a two-point win.

The status of WSU’s leading-scorer TJ Bamba is in question, though, and the effects of altitude tend to be particularly troublesome for three-point shooting teams.

Branden Carlson is a tough matchup for Mouhamed Gueye, as well, and the Utah leading-scorer played just 19 minutes in the game in Pullman.

With a set of mixed circumstances between the two programs, the role players on each team could go far in making the difference.

Utah G Lazar Stefanovic goes for the ball vs USC | Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Marco Anthony and Lazar Stefanovic may hold the key for Utah while DJ Rodman and Justin Powell could hold the same power for Washington State.

Craig Smith’s team plays elite defense based on sound fundamentals and discipline. No. 7 in the nation in field goal percentage defense, his group rarely breaks down to give up easy buckets.

Doubling the concern for WSU, the Utes are No. 10 in three-point percentage defense and figure to be even stronger at home.

To pull off the upset, WSU will need to take care of the ball and rebound well. The Cougs are one of the better teams at taking care of the ball, but the Utes are among the nation’s best at securing rebounds.

Second-chance points and points off turnovers could be the determining factor. The team that wins both battles will probably have the upper hand at the final buzzer.

No. 5 UCLA at Arizona State

Thursday, January 19
7:30 pm PT, FS1

In the Game of the Day in the Pac-12, Arizona State hosts UCLA at The Bank.

In some ways, the two teams share similarities with their emphasis on defense. The separation, though, is in the quality of the offenses.

The Bruins enter the matchup 17th in KenPom’s metric while the Sun Devils are all the way down in 86th. That’s a worrying factor that isn’t fixable by a raucous home crowd.

Bobby Hurley’s defense gives up too many open looks from three, too, and enters the game 85th in three-point percentage defense.

UCLA is a respectable 77th in three-point percentage shooting, making the battle along the perimeter one of the determining factors.

Enter David Singleton.

ASU guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. shoots vs OSU | Amanda Loman/AP

The Bruin super-senior is hitting 44.0 percent of his shots from three but is 0-for-9 over the last two games. If Singleton continues to be cold from three, Arizona State’s chances of toppling UCLA will rise.

Still, the game figures to come down to ASU’s efficiency on offense.

With all the earned respect surrounding Hurley’s defense, the metrics actually indicate UCLA’s is stronger. Ranked 4th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, the Bruins should keep the Sun Devils under 60 points.

That’s noteworthy because under Mick Cronin UCLA is 56-2 when holding its opponent to 65 points or less.

Hampering Warren Washington in the paint will be key, but ASU’s system is guard-centric. The defense Cronin’s group plays on Desmond Cambridge Jr., DJ Horne, and Frankie Collins will likely determine the outcome.

As long as the Bruins consistently contest shots, tip passes, and have disciplined spacing to hamper ball movement, the strength of their offense should carry the day.

Oregon State at Stanford

Thursday, January 19
8:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The seat in Palo Alto is getting hotter as the losses continue to mount.

In no world should Stanford have a record of 5-12 with the talent on its roster.

On some levels, Jerod Haase’s willingness to have a deep rotation could make him well-liked by his players. But there comes a time when the hammer has to be dropped and the rotation must be shortened.

Spencer Jones, Harrison Ingram, Brandon Angel, and Maxime Raynaud should be playing 30 minutes or more per game.

The fifth option could reasonably come from a mix of Michael Jones and Michael O’Connell, or a heavy dose of James Keefe if a two-big lineup is advantageous.

But Haase gets paid to coach and the rotation and substitution pattern is up to him.

Facing an Oregon State team that is night and day from last year’s squad, the Tree must be prepared to defend a multi-faceted frontcourt.

Beaver G Glenn Taylor Jr. dribbles the ball vs ASU | Amanda Loman/AP

Michael Rataj is the epitome of modern basketball with a 6-foot-9 frame and the ability to consistently hit shots from three.

Combined with Tyler Bilodeau and Dzmitry Ryuny, Oregon State has carbon copies in the paint with true plug-and-play capability.

And with a serviceable center in Rodrigue Andela along with a somewhat workable backup in KC Ibekwe, the Beavers have one of the most underrated frontcourts in the nation.

Stanford’s ability to slow down the group will only be half the battle.

Oregon State is led by guards Jordan Pope, Glenn Taylor Jr., and Dexter Akanno. The trio forms an unheralded unit that is better than many give them credit for.

If they are allowed enough reasonably open looks, they can individually or collectively push the team to victory.

In the context of Stanford struggling and OSU emerging, a Beaver upset on the road is arguably expected.

Our Senior Writers’ Game Picks

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