Dane Miller’s Jan 6 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews

Posted on January 5, 2022

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12The Thursday slate of Pac-12 men’s basketball games features three matchups across three networks.

Colorado hosts Washington State on ESPNU, Washington travels to Salt Lake City to battle Utah on the Pac-12 Network, and No. 7 USC returns to face California on FS1.

The exposure could help the perception of the league.

I preview all three games here, and my picks appear at the bottom.

Washington State at Colorado

CU Events Center, Boulder, CO
Thursday, January 6
6:00 pm PT, ESPNU

The Cougars travel to Boulder, where they are 0-9 during the Pac-12 Era, losing by an average of 18 points.

But Washington State has its most complete team since the Conference expanded in 2011.

Michael Flowers and Noah Williams lead the way for Kyle Smith’s team that puts up 75.7 points per game. The offensive firepower will be needed in the elevation of Boulder, where CU consistently plays at another level.

Colorado’s Jabari Walker | Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jabari Walker and Evan Battey are the heart and soul of the Colorado offense, combining for 26.0 points per night and 12.8 rebounds.

But Keeshawn Barthelemey is arguably the key to the Buffs’ game plan, night-in and night-out.

The sophomore point guard is third on the team in points and tops the roster in assists per game with 2.7.

Bathelemey’s turnover limitation might be the deciding factor on Thursday, along with fellow point guard K.J. Simpson’s decision-making.

If the duo take care of the ball, CU’s shots should fall enough to hold WSU at bay and overcome any Cougar runs.

Washington football pac-12Washington at Utah

Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
Thursday, January 6
6:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Dawgs are fresh off a respectable game against Arizona, where Washington’s zone defense frustrated Tommy Lloyd’s game plan.

Whether or not the defensive performance continues in Salt Lake City is an open question, but the Utes will face a challenge if Mike Hopkins’ team plays like they did in Tucson.

Look for the Huskies to extend their zone to near mid-court, daring Utah to take mid-range shots or corner threes. The result could be a field day for David Jenkins Jr.

Utah’s David Jenkins Jr. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The Ute guard is connecting on 43 percent of his shots from deep this year, and figures to come out hungry after getting shut out by the Oregon defense on January 1st.

Even if the Utes are hitting their outside shots, Craig Smith’s team must shoot the ball efficiently in the paint.

The Husky zone is vulnerable to quick passes and ball movement around the perimeter, creating soft spots around the rim.

Washington defenders are quick to contest shots down low, but there should be plenty of opportunities for Utah’s bigs around the basket.

As long as the Utes don’t miss many bunnies and have a strong night from the free throw line, UU should send Washington away with a loss.

usc logoNo. 7 USC at California

Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
Thursday, January 7
8:00 pm PT, FS1

Facing a team playing in their first game in nearly a month, the alarm bells are ringing for an upset at Haas Pavilion.

California has exceeded expectations up to this point in the season, jumping out to a 9-5 start with a 2-1 conference mark.

The Bears’ momentum turned around in the second game of the Fort Myers Tip-Off, where Mark Fox’s team took then-No. 21 Seton Hall down to the wire.

The confidence instilled from that game has carried forward, leading to victories over Fresno State, Oregon State, Santa Clara, and Arizona State.

USC’s Isaiah Mobley | Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

But that momentum will be put to the test against No. 7 USC. The Trojans bring their height and athleticism to Berkeley, where they have won three-straight dating back to 2018.

Led by Isaiah Mobley, SC scores 75.9 points per game while holding opponents to 35.2 percent from the field.

The field goal percentage defense is second in the nation and has become the hallmark of Andy Enfield’s program in L.A.

To pull off the upset, Cal will need to knock down its outside shots and play aggressive defense in the paint. No easy buckets can be allowed to USC’s bigs.

But if the Bears force the Trojans to beat them at the free throw line and generate turnovers in the process, California could secure its biggest win of the Mark Fox Era.

Dane’s January 6 Game Picks

—More from Dane Miller—