Dane Miller’s January 12 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Preview

The five conference games today could each impact the race for the Regular Season title

Posted on January 12, 2023

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12There are five games in the Conference of Champions today and each can impact the race for the Regular Season championship.

The top two teams in the standings face off when No. 7 UCLA hosts Utah, while Arizona State takes on Oregon in Eugene, and USC hosts Colorado in L.A.

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

Arizona State at OregonOregon Ducks Logo Pac-12

Thursday, January 12
6:00 pm PT, FS1

Fully healthy for the first time all season, Oregon hosts Arizona State on FS1.

The Sun Devils’ strength is their defense and they enter the game 25th in KenPom’s defensive metric.

Elite in two-point field goal percentage defense, Bobby Hurley’s team collapses on the ball inside the perimeter and will often have multiple defenders converge to the rock.

The system could cause problems for N’Faly Dante and Kel’el Ware.

The two Oregon bigs figure to have their shots contested throughout the game and may cough up turnovers while struggling to get offensive rebounds.

Sun Devil G Devan Cambridge vs Washington | Rick Scuteri/AP

But Hurley’s Sun Devils are vulnerable to shots from the perimeter. With such an emphasis on clogging up the middle, the scheme gives up relatively too many open looks from three.

The Ducks, though, are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the nation.

Entering the matchup, Dana Altman’s squad is 333rd in three-point percentage shooting and may struggle to knock down the open looks they get.

The potential return of Keeshawn Barthelemy could be a game-changer in that respect, while Jermaine Couisnard is likely to continue improving from deep after returning from injury, too.

Combined with the strong zone-press defense that is the hallmark of Altman’s teams, the Ducks should defend home court and show their true potential.

Colorado at USC

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

There is something about the Galen Center that Tad Boyle and the Buffs love.

With three-straight wins in the building and a 6-2 overall record since joining the Pac-12, the confines in Los Angeles feel like a home away from home for Colorado.

But this year’s version of CU is wildly inconsistent from game to game and USC is buzzing with the potential debut of five star freshman Vince Iwuchukwu.

Even if the freshman center doesn’t play on Thursday, Andy Enfield’s team is rearing to get back on track.

The matchup with the Buffs is USC’s first home game since December 18th and the Trojan players should come out motivated.

USC guard Reese Dixon-Waters vs UCLA | John E. McGillen/USC Athletics

Somewhat similar in roster composition, the two teams’ offenses run primarily through their guards.

The toe-to-toe matchup between KJ Simpson and Boogie Ellis is the main storyline to watch, but the game could come down to SC’s defense against Tristan da Silva.

The Colorado forward is a mismatch, yet Enfield could assign Kobe Johnson the task of slowing him down. Johnson averages 2.2 steals per game and could play pivotal minutes against Colorado’s second-leading scorer.

With so much emphasis on the guards and wings, the battle in the paint between Lawson Lovering and Joshua Morgan might be what tips the scales just enough in either direction.

If Morgan gets the upper hand the way he should, the Trojans should get the victory.

Arizona football Pac-12No. 9 Arizona at Oregon State

Thursday, January 12
8:00 pm PT, ESPN2

Tommy Lloyd and the Wildcats hit the road after a disastrous loss to Washington State in Tucson.

The backcourt play of Arizona’s guards has been below par over the last few games and the efficiency of Kerr Kriisa, Courtney Ramey, and Pelle Larsson will be closely watched in Corvallis.

Opponents have figured out that if they reduce the efficiency of Arizona’s bigs, its guards are not able to make up for the decreased production.

Oregon State may not have comparable skilled forwards and centers to hamper Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, but Wayne Tinkle does have multiple options to throw at Arizona.

Beaver F Rodrigue Andela vs Utah | Jeff Roberson/AP

KC Ibekwe may play the highest amount of minutes so far this season while Rodrigue Andela will be relied on all game to defend Ballo.

Dzmitry Ryuny will be tasked with slowing down Tubelis along with plug-and-play alternatives in Tyler Bilodeau and Michael Rataj.

While the individual OSU players don’t have the skill to go toe-to-toe with Tubelis and Ballo, as a collective group they have multiple options and variations to use against the UA bigs.

It’s a somewhat unique frontcourt corps that Arizona does not see every week, albeit comparatively undersized at the Power Forward position.

But with plenty of criticism heaped on the Wildcat guards over the last three games, Kriisa and Ramey should hit their outside shots and effectively feed their interior players all game.

Utah at No. 7 UCLA

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

Heading to Pauley Pavilion where they are 2-6 since joining the Pac-12, the Utes face their most daunting task of the season.

The Bruins struggled in the second half against USC and will probably come out with high intensity spurred by Mick Cronin.

Adem Bona is a respectable matchup for Branden Carlson and should keep Utah’s leading scorer at or near his average.

The battle to watch, then, is UCLA’s defense against Rollie Worster. The Utah guard is averaging 5.1 assists per game and its offense won’t work effectively if he is struggling to distribute the ball.

Enter Jaylen Clark.

Utah G Rollie Worster vs Oregon State | Jack Gambassi/The Daily Utah Chronicle

The junior guard is averaging 2.6 steals per game and figures to be assigned the task of slowing down Worster.

On the other end of the floor, Cronin’s offense faces one of the toughest defenses in the nation.

Ranked 19th in KenPom’s ratings, Utah has a well-coached group that executes switches as good as any other team in College Basketball.

The practical result is that opponents don’t get many open looks from the field and defensive breakdowns rarely occur. Still, UCLA’s offense is multi-faceted and gets production from multiple positions.

David Singleton’s outside shooting figures to be key and could be one of the deciding factors in the matchup.

With an offense that takes care of the ball better than almost every other team in the country, UCLA should adequately handle Utah’s defense with strong ball movement and unselfish extra passes to find the best look.

Stanford at WashingtonWashington football pac-12

Thursday, January 12
8:00 pm PT, FS1

Jerod Haase and the Cardinal face Washington’s unique zone in Seattle.

The efficiency of Mike Hopkins’ scheme has varied from game to game, arguably indicating a lack of intensity from his players on occasion. The system is reliant on active hands and consistent player movement when the ball shifts around the perimeter.

But when UW is struggling to score on offense, its players’ hands aren’t as active on the defensive end, and their willingness to consistently move into the correct position wanes.

The result is that the game snowballs into a loss with defensive breakdowns left and right.

Stanford F Spencer Jones vs Cal | Jed Jacobsohn/AP

In that sense, a strong start from the Huskies is pivotal to beating Stanford.

The Tree have a deep bench and are able to throw multiple looks at opponents at any given time. The interchangeable and variable lineups are both a blessing and a curse.

Haase legitimately plays 10 players, which is difficult to game plan for but arguably prevents the team from developing a rhythm and consistent identity.

The soft spots in the zone, though, could be exploited by Spencer Jones, Brandon Angel, and Maxime Raynaud. The trio of forwards figure to consistently get mid-range looks and their efficiency from the field will arguably determine the game.

If Stanford can limit its turnovers and knock down those mid-range opportunities, it has the defensive strength to get the win.

Our Senior Writers’ Game Picks

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