Dane Miller’s December 17th Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews

No. 16 UCLA faces No. 13 Kentucky and No. 9 Arizona hosts No. 6 Tennessee

Posted on December 17, 2022

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

The Pac-12 features two Top 25 showdowns on Saturday.

No. 16 UCLA faces No. 13 Kentucky in New York City and No. 9 Arizona hosts No. 6 Tennessee at McKale Center.

A 2-0 mark in the games would solidify the reputation of the Bruins and Wildcats while giving each program a resume win come Selection Sunday.

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

No. 16 UCLA v. No. 13 Kentucky

Saturday, December 17
2:15 pm PT, CBS

Tipping off at Madison Square Garden, UCLA takes on a Kentucky squad that has played a relatively soft schedule.

The matchup with the Bruins is only the second ranked opponent UK has played after getting blown out by Gonzaga earlier in the season. Kentucky’s best win is against a poor Michigan team and John Calipari’s squad only beat Yale by 10 last weekend.

UCLA, on the other hand, is hitting on all cylinders.

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark scored 19 pts vs Maryland | Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin

Jaylen Clark is one of the top defensive players in the nation and Amari Bailey has grown by leaps and bounds. Bailey has struggled over the last two games, but the experience in the Roman Main Event has spurred the growth that UCLA needs to be elite.

Still, the matchup with the Wildcats on a neutral court will be a challenge.

Kentucky is a strong three-point shooting, rebounding, and shot-blocking team. Mick Cronin’s emphasis figures to once again be on the defensive end while limiting turnovers on offense. Defensive rebounding is likely high on Cronin’s game plan, too.

As long as the Bruins limit second-chance opportunities and defend the perimeter, they should come away with the win.

No. 6 Tennessee at No. 9 ArizonaArizona football Pac-12

Saturday, December 17
7:30 pm PT, ESPN2

Welcome to the Azuolas Tubelis Revenge Game.

Last season when Arizona face the Vols on the road, the referees called two quick fouls on Tubelis and he only played 13 minutes in the four-point loss. Christian Koloko, Benn Mathurin, and Kerr Kriisa all fouled out in a game that saw UA record 28 fouls to just 16 from Tennessee.

After being artificially limited in the first leg of the home-and-home series, Tubelis should come out with something to prove.

Arizona C Oumar Ballo is shooting 75% from the floor | The Seattle Times

The Lithuanian has improved his game from last year and the Vols will be forced to go to their bench to find an appropriate player to defend him. Uros Plavsic, Jonas Aidoo, or Tobe Awaka have the height and strength to match up, but none start, and only Aidoo averages more than 15 minutes per game.

That puts the burden on starter Olivier Nkamhoua to potentially defend Tubelis, which could then give Oumar Ballo free range to eat.

Either way, Tennessee has a defensive problem in the paint and will likely need to go to its bench to effectively defend Arizona’s personnel. That will likely further hamper the Vols’ offense and double the challenge of beating the Wildcats at home.

As long as Lloyd’s offense keeps the pace of the game high, Arizona should secure the victory.

Our Senior Writers’ Game Picks

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