Posted on January 7, 2023
But with only one game broadcast outside of the Pac-12 Network, the exposure for the league leaves much to be desired.
The game between Washington State and No. 5 Arizona along with Oregon at Utah deserve a national audience. Both figure to be hard-fought battles that could impact the race for the Regular Season Championship.
I preview all four games here and my picks appear at the bottom.
Washington State at No. 5 Arizona
Saturday, January 7
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
Tipping off at a more reasonable time against Washington State, the Wildcats probably won’t struggle the way they did against the Huskies.
Kyle Smith’s team doesn’t run the unique zone UW employs and doesn’t have a strong center to hamper Oumar Ballo.
Mouhamed Gueye and Adrame Diongue are more like power forwards than true centers, and Jack Wilson isn’t skilled enough to play many minutes.
That leaves a gaping hole in the paint that Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis figure to take full advantage of.
Not many teams have the frontcourt personnel to match up with Arizona, but Washington State is particularly vulnerable.
The points in the paint discrepancy should be substantial and Lloyd’s game plan figures to begin and end with getting the ball inside.
Yet, WSU has a better offense than the Huskies and could keep the game within reach.
If the Cougars are hitting their threes and limiting turnovers, Smith’s team could be in a position to pull off the upset.
But if Arizona plays with the defensive intensity it displayed on Thursday, the Cats figure to go on a run or two that makes the difference in the outcome.
Oregon at Utah
Saturday, January 7
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
Analytically outmatched by Utah nearly across the board, Altman’s team can even the scales through effort.
Spurred by their future Hall of Fame coach, look for Oregon to come out with high intensity on both sides of the court and potentially jump out to an early lead.
Maintaining the effort throughout the game, though, figures to be a challenge.
The combination of a short bench and altitude promises to create issues that Utah will take advantage of. With a strong defense powered by skilled coaching, the Utes rebound the ball and block shots among the nation’s elite.
N’Faly Dante does match up with Branden Carlson reasonably well, however, arguably shifting the storyline to the backcourts.
Gabe Madsen and Marco Anthony will be tasked with slowing down Will Richardson and Quincy Guerrier.
If the Oregon guards are allowed to get easy looks, particularly in the first half, the Ducks could gain confidence and momentum to secure the upset.
But if the two lead UO guards are constantly dealing with ball pressure, effective switching, and aggressive shot contests, the Ducks could struggle to get into an offensive rhythm.
And with Carlson arguably holding the upper hand on Dante and Craig Smith’s defensive coaching prowess, Utah should pull away with efficient shooting from the perimeter.
Oregon State at Colorado
Saturday, January 7
6:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
The Buffs dominated Oregon on Thursday. But based on the up-and-down nature of their season, Tad Boyle’s team might come out flat against Oregon State.
The Beavers didn’t play well in Salt Lake City yet have enough firepower to compete with Colorado. There’s no obvious mismatch of size that concerns Wayne Tinkle and he’s probably telling the same story to his players.
Slowing down Tristan da Silva and KJ Simpson will be key, though.
The duo are highly skilled and have the green light to do anything they want in Boyle’s offense. Turning the game into a low-scoring physical affair might be what OSU needs.
Colorado is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the nation and could be hindered by a choppy game. A slower pace would help to prevent CU from going on a game-changing run, too, and keep the game within reach.
Shot selection, offensive rebounding, and limiting turnovers figure to be deciding factors for the Beavers.
If Tinkle’s team can get second-chance buckets and knock down shots from the perimeter, Oregon State could pull off the win.
Washington at Arizona State
Sunday, January 8
2:00 pm PT, ESPN2
The Huskies played one of the best games of their season against Arizona earlier in the week and come to Tempe with confidence.
Noah Williams is returning to the form he is capable of while Braxton Meah and Keion Brooks Jr. continue to lead the way.
But the Dawgs face a much better defense than they battled in Tucson.
Running a standard man-to-man system, the Sun Devils utilize team defense principles to frustrate opponents in the paint.
Multiple ASU defenders will converge on the ball when it’s moved inside and the perimeter defenders will actively jump the passing lanes that become available.
The result is a cohesive unit that moves as one and rarely gives up easy looks.
Warren Washington matches up well with Braxton Meah and Hurley has a deeper bench to stay fresh.
The lone flaw in Hurley’s defense, though, is its ability to defend the three. Arizona State is 4th in two-point percentage defense but 78th in three-point percentage defense.
The emphasis on collapsing within the perimeter and jumping passing lanes leaves the Sun Devils vulnerable to an extra pass beyond the arc.
The system gives up relatively too many open looks from three, allowing a player like Cole Bajema to take advantage.
In what figures to be a defensive struggle, Washington’s efficiency from three will probably decide the game.
Our Senior Writers’ Game Picks
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