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Dane Miller’s 2022 Week 5 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews

In tonight's lone Pac-12’s matchup, Washington travels to Spokane to take on No. 18 Gonzaga

Posted on December 9, 2022

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Basketball season is in full swing and two teams from the Pac-12 have emerged as relative surprises.

Nobody expected Utah, which routed Jacksonville State 99-58 on Thursday, to make the jump it has in the second year of Craig Smith. And Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils, which blew out SMU 75-57 on Wednesday, are also performing better than expected.

Both programs have games over the next few days that will continue to help build their reputations.

Washington is off to a strong start, with a 7-2 overall record, but will be tested tonight at No. 18 Gonzaga. I preview that game here.

The results of the Pac-12 matchups from Wednesday and Thursday appear below, along with my picks for each game, and those of Stephen Vilardo.

[You may also want to read Stephen Vilardo’s Week 5 SuperWest “Games to Watch”]

Washington football pac-12Washington at No. 18 Gonzaga

Friday, December 9
6:00 pm PT, Root

In tonight’s lone Pac-12 matchup, Washington travels to Spokane to take on Gonzaga.

Mike Hopkins burned Jackson Grant’s redshirt against Colorado after injuries to UW’s frontcourt forced his hand. With Franck Kepnang out for the year, Grant’s role has suddenly become pivotal.

Fortunately, though, Braxton Meah returned from his ankle injury and is thriving in Hopkins’ offense. As the primary big, Meah is set to carry the Huskies going forward.

But matched up against Drew Timme, Washington’s two centers could be in trouble. The Gonzaga forward is averaging 19.8 points per game while shooting 62.4 percent.

Husky C Braxton Meah had 16 pts vs Colorado | Jennifer Buchanan/The Seattle Times

At 6-foot-10, 235-pounds Timme is quicker and more skilled than any big UW can put on the floor.

To pull off the win, Keion Brooks will likely need to go toe-to-toe with Gonzaga’s primary threat. Effectively utilizing a mid-range game, Brooks is the engine of the Husky offense.

But the key to beating the Zags might be to limit the pace of the game. KenPom ranks Gonzaga No. 74 in adjusted tempo and getting Mark Few’s team out of their comfort zone might work.

The problem, though, is that Washington plays with a respectable pace, too, partially due to its zone defense creating turnovers that lead to fast breaks.

But if the Dawgs can still create those turnovers while extending its regular offensive possessions, they should have a better chance of pulling off the upset.

Wednesday and Thursday Previews and Results
Arizona State 75, SMU57

Wednesday, December 7
6:00 pm PT, ESPNU

Going back on the road in Texas, the Sun Devils look to extend their six-game winning streak.

With one of the nation’s top defenses, Bobby Hurley’s squad could have a field day against an SMU team that is near the bottom of the county in both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

The Mustangs have a short six-man rotation, too. Led by guard Zhuric Phelps, the American Athletic Conference team doesn’t have much girth among its primary contributors. Efe Odigie is a 6-foot-9, 240-pound bruiser, yet the other rotational forwards are lanky and could get pushed around in the paint.

ASU guard Desmond Cambridge had 19 pts vs Stanford | Ross D Franklin/AP

There are beefier options on the SMU bench, though. Mo Njie is a 6-foot-10, 245-pound sophomore that averages 6.6 minutes per game, and Franklin Agunanne is a 6-foot-9, 245-pound senior who plays 5.9 minutes per game.

The production of the Mustang’s bench is an X-Factor that could change the game.

But Arizona State should enjoy a rebounding advantage against the skinnier forwards and keep SMU to around 50 points. As long as the Sun Devil guards aren’t cold from the field, Hurley’s team should get the road win.

Washington State 68, Northern Kentucky47

Wednesday, December 7
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Washington State might be on Upset Alert. The Cougars aren’t the same team without Jabe Mullins and his status remains questionable for the matchup with Northern Kentucky.

The Horizon League program has made the NCAA Tournament twice since 2017 and already has a win over Cincinnati this season. Junior guard Marques Warrick scored 45 points three games ago and dropped 30 on December 2nd.

Kyle Smith must have a game plan to defend the high-volume shooter, otherwise he could single-handedly will the Norse to an upset.

Cougar F Mouhamed Gueye scored 20 pts vs Utah | AP Photo via Seattle Sports

But NKU is undersized in the paint and doesn’t have the personnel to adequately match up with Mouhamed Gueye. Shooting 16-for-26 from the field over the past two games, look for WSU to feed the big man from the opening tip.

The Cougs have been cold from three as of late, doubling the impetus of getting the ball down low.

The game figures to turn, then, on Wazzu’s ability to contain Warrick. If Smith’s defense forces the junior into an inefficient night from the field, the Cougs should avoid disaster.

Eastern Washington 50, California 48

Wednesday, December 7
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Remaining winless on the year, California might finally break its losing streak.

The Bears may have taken a step forward against Arizona after Devin Askew and Lars Thiemann had strong games. Limiting turnovers could be key, but the confidence gained in the desert might carry over into the matchup with Eastern Washington.

The Eagles have a somewhat deep rotation, getting contributions from up to 10 players. With respectable height, Eastern Washington won’t be exploited on the glass.

Cal guard Devin Askew scored 25 pts vs Arizona | CK Hicks/Cal Athletics

The Big Sky program holds a rebounding and scoring advantage over Cal, averaging higher numbers per game in both categories.

Yet, Askew is playing the best basketball of his career and might put up 30 on the EWU defense that ranks 259th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. Controlling the tempo figures to be pivotal, though, with a higher pace favoring the Eagles.

If the Bears stay out of foul trouble and keep the game low-scoring, Mark Fox’s defense should fluster EWU just enough to secure the win.

USC 64, Cal State Fullerton 50 

Wednesday, December 7
8:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Trojans have made a habit out of keeping games closer than they should be.

In another matchup that could be tighter than some expect, Andy Enfield’s team hosts a Cal State Fullerton group that is dangerous from three.

The Titans are one of the nation’s better three-point shooting teams and don’t commit many turnovers. That’s a dangerous combination with potential to explode at the Galen Center.

Apart from a few games in the Bahamas, USC hasn’t looked right all season. Boogie Ellis is in a shooting slump over the last two games and Josh Morgan is either dominating or a non-factor.

Trojan G Kobe Johnson had 17 pts vs Beavers |

But facing a CSU Fullerton squad on a three-game losing streak, the Trojans should get it together. Perimeter defense will remain an emphasis all game, along with winning the battle on the glass.

Second-chance points, particularly second-chance threes, could change the momentum, though, and put SC into a tough spot.

But Enfield’s team has a substantial talent advantage and is among the nation’s elite at blocking shots. Matched up against what is essentially a six-man rotation, the Trojans should pull away from the Titans in the second half.

Look for SC to convert defense to offense and dominate the paint on both sides of the court with a productive night from Morgan.

Colorado 93, Colorado 65

Thursday, December 8
6:00 pm PT, ESPN2

Putting the 0-2 start to Pac-12 play behind it, Colorado turns its attention to in-state rival Colorado State.

The Rams just lost to Northern Colorado and dropped a game earlier in the year to Charleston. As one of the country’s worst rebounding teams, CSU has a gaping flaw for the Buffs to exploit.

But the Rams share the ball at an elite level and keep their turnovers low. They also are a strong three-point shooting team and have one of the nation’s highest field goal percentages.

Legitimately going 10-deep, it won’t be easy for Colorado to pull out the win.

Colorado G J’Vonne Hadley scored 15 pts vs UW | Caean Couto/AP

Dealing with James Moors and Patrick Cartier in the paint figure to be high on Tad Boyle’s game plan. Moors is a 6-foot-10, 260-pound center that averages about 19 minutes a game, while Cartier is 6-foot-8, 220-pounds and playing his best basketball of the year.

Tristan da Silva and Lawson Lovering could have their hands full on the defensive end but should help give the Buffs a rebounding advantage.

The game then might come down to KJ Simpson’s efficiency. The guard is 20-for-49 from the field over the last four games and is 6-for-22 from deep over the stretch. Colorado won’t win many games with numbers like that.

If Simpson continues to struggle from the field, Colorado State has the firepower to walk away from Boulder with a win.

Utah 99, Jacksonville State 58

Thursday, December 8
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Generating buzz as a potential At-Large team, Utah hosts Jacksonville State in a proverbial “Can’t Lose” matchup.

National and regional respect can be lost in just a single game and a defeat to the Gamecocks would set the program back. JSU was crushed in the two games it played against Tournament-caliber opponents, doubling the importance of posting a respectable margin of victory.

The Selection Committee looks at a team’s entire body of work and any struggles against lower competition is noted when teams are on the bubble.

Utah G Rollie Worster scored 19 pts vs WSU | Young Kwak/AP

But putting the big picture aside, blocking shots and playing strong defense figures to be at the top of Craig Smith’s game plan. His Utes are No. 30 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric and No. 19 nationally in scoring defense.

Jacksonville State has three players averaging in double-digits but spreads playing time around to almost its entire bench. Stifling forward Amanze Ngumezi could prove pivotal, yet defending the perimeter is just as important.

The Gamecocks are ninth in the country in three-point percentage and No. 68 in three-point attempts per game. Containing their shooters will be key and Smith knows it.

At the end of the day, teams that live by the three and die by the three can be shut down with strong defense and Utah has what it takes.

Our Senior Writers’ Game Picks

—More from Dane Miller—