Posted on March 5, 2022
The final day of the Pac-12 Regular Season is here.
Oregon and Washington State tip-off on national television early in the afternoon, while No. 16 USC and No. 17 UCLA fight it out on ESPN as the nightcap.
Tournament seeding remains the primary storyline of the day, with Seeds 2 through 11 yet to be settled.
I preview all six games here, and my picks along with Stephen Vilardo’s appear at the bottom.
Stanford at Arizona State
Desert Financial Arena, Tempe, AZ
Saturday, March 5
Noon PT, Pac-12 Network
The Cardinal played well in Tucson two nights ago, shooting the lights out from deep in the first half.
But the Sun Devils are one of the hottest teams in the Pac-12 and are coming off their top defensive game of the season. Bobby Hurley’s squad held the Bears to just 44 points while generating nine steals and five blocks.
Yet, the Tree are a better matchup with Arizona State.
Stanford has advantages in points per game, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and rebounds.
Normally, that would signal trouble for the opposing team, yet Jerod Haase’s roster turns the ball over 15.0 times per game (325th in the country).
Comparatively, ASU is 129th at forcing mistakes with 13.3 generated per night, and the Sun Devils produce 4.2 blocks per contest (69th in the nation).
Still, if Stanford takes care of the ball and stays below its season average, it might be in position to secure the upset.
Oregon at Washington State
Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum, Pullman, WA
Saturday, March 5
1:00 pm PT, CBS
The string of defeats has all but eliminated Oregon from an At-Large bid and damaged their chances to secure a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The 4-seed remains on the table, but if UO loses to the Cougars then the Ducks will likely need to win four games in Las Vegas to make the NCAA Tournament.
Washington State matches up fairly evenly with Oregon on paper, presenting a tough challenge for Altman in the final game of the regular season.
Defending the perimeter is the primary key to beating Kyle Smith’s team, but rebounding and forcing turnovers are a close second and third.
Communicating switches, fighting through screens, and help defense via effective rotations are probably three priorities in UO’s defensive game plan.
The Cougars don’t share the ball very well, generating offense through one-on-one matchups.
If the Ducks are aggressive in late shot clock situations with heady double-teams and stay committed to contesting every shot, the hero ball tendencies of WSU can be exploited.
At the end of the day, the team with the rebounding margin probably ends up with the win.
California at No. 2 Arizona
McKale Center, Tucson, AZ
Saturday, March 5
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
During the Sean Miller era, underclassmen who were turning pro at the end of the year would get honored on Senior Day, but Tommy Lloyd has changed that tradition.
Instead, the first-year coach stated he won’t even allow his team to cut down the nets if they lose to the Bears.
Outclassed on paper, Cal commits less turnovers per game and shoots a slightly higher free throw percentage. Yet, that’s where the advantages stop.
The difference in pace between the two programs is stark, with Arizona scoring 84.5 points per night and California posting just 63.3.
The Cats are playing in their fifth game in nine days, potentially creating an X-Factor in the matchup. But Mark Fox’s team doesn’t create enough turnovers to take advantage.
California is 345th in the country at forcing TO’s, managing to produce just 9.6 per game.
Unless Arizona has its worst shooting day of the season, there’s little hope for a shocking upset.
Oregon State at Washington
Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle, WA
Saturday, March 5
4:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
The Beavers forced USC into double overtime and took WSU into the extra period, creating a renewed sense of belief within the roster. But down to just six scholarship players, OSU’s rotation is nearly non-existent.
That leaves it vulnerable to teams with a capable bench that can throw bodies at it.
Jackson Grant and Riley Sorn could see the floor a few times this afternoon, allowing the primary UW rotation players to stay fresh.
But Nate Roberts is coming off the most productive game of his career, and could come close to repeating it against Oregon State’s depleted front court.
Without a second big outside of Roman Silva, Roberts can afford to be aggressive on offense in the paint.
Silva can’t pick up fouls or OSU won’t be able to defend the paint whatsoever, opening the door for UW’s forwards and centers to take advantage.
Look for Washington’s offensive game plan to be focused on scoring in the paint, with Roberts, Grant, and Sorn being fed early and often.
Unless Oregon State can stop the action down low, the Dawgs should handle their business.
Colorado at Utah
Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
Saturday, March 5
6:30 pm PT, ESPNU
Everyone remembers what Oregon State did last year in March, and who is to say the Buffs can’t be this year’s Cinderella?
But the slipper gets much harder to fit if you have to start the journey on Wednesday in Las Vegas. A loss would put the 4-Seed in question, requiring Washington State to beat Oregon.
Complicating the chances, the Utes are a different team at home and are roughly equal to CU on paper.
Yet, the matchup could come down to two simple factors: Three-point shooting and turnovers. The Utes hold the advantage in TO’s committed per game, while the Buffs are the better outside shooting team.
Whichever roster holds the advantages in both categories probably does enough to secure the win.
No. 16 USC at No. 17 UCLA
Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, March 5
7:00 pm PT, ESPN
The head coach in his third year in Westwood is 0-5 against the Trojans, losing several in heartbreaking fashion.
The status of Johnny Juzang remains questionable, with Cronin pinning the chances that he plays at 50 percent. That may just be mind games directed at Andy Enfield, but the guard’s availability changes the game.
USC turns it up whenever it plays the Bruins, finding an extra gear that it sometimes lacks in other matchups.
There aren’t many flaws in UCLA’s offense, but minimizing its strengths could be Enfield’s game plan. The Bruins are elite at taking care of the ball, committing just 9.4 turnovers per game (4th in the country).
Yet, if SC can fluster UCLA with active defense and speed them up early in the possession, it might help produce turnovers or poor shots.
That figures to be a tougher challenge at Pauley Pavilion, where a packed house and hostile environment is anticipated.
Still, if the Trojans can create turnovers in the double-digits, it might secure its sixth-straight win over the Bruins.
March 5 Game Picks
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