Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Hoops Previews for Feb. 24

With all 12 Conference teams in action, the potential for a few surprising results is real

Posted on February 24, 2024

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12Today’s games in the Pac-12 feature action from the morning through the end of the night.

With all 12 Conference teams in action, the potential for a few surprising results is real.

I preview all six contests here and my picks appear at the bottom.

Washington football pac-12Washington at No. 4 ArizonaArizona football Pac-12

Saturday, February 24
11:00 am PT, CBS

Tommy Lloyd does not lose back-to-back games.

The third-year coach was recently extended and is slated to make $5.25 million a year as Arizona transitions to the Big 12. But the calls are growing louder for Lloyd to make a change to his starting lineup.

Kylan Boswell disappears too often to justify keeping Jaden Bradley on the bench. The rest of the starters are locked in their roles.

And after losing for the second-straight time to Washington State, that noise is becoming a full-blown roar.

To beat Washington, UA has to contain Keion Brooks Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler. The duo are elite scorers.

Brooks can get buckets from anywhere on the floor but is less efficient from three. Wheeler is an elite driver and finisher around the rim.

Arizona’s Oumar Ballo had his 6th straight double-double vs WSU | Arizona Athletics

Either Keshad Johnson or Pelle Larsson are the players that figure to draw the assignment on Brooks. If he can score reasonably easily on either, Arizona could be in trouble.

On offense, someone other than Caleb Love must step up. The Huskies have nowhere near the caliber of defense that Wazzu has, which should produce a “normal” game for Lloyd’s offense.

In the end, Arizona probably wins by double digits.

Oregon State at Stanford

Saturday, February 24
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

All it takes is one game.

After struggling for seven straight contests, Jordan Pope got it back together. He went 8-for-16 from the field to lead Oregon State with 23 points against California.

And while it didn’t end in a victory, the swagger should be back.

That makes OSU’s game against Stanford more intriguing than it otherwise would have been. The Tree dropped the ball against Oregon on Thursday and are at serious risk of tumbling in seeding for the Pac-12 Tournament.

In many ways, the game plan to beat Stanford is simple: Defend the three. As the old saying goes, “Live by the three, die by the three.” And lately, Stanford has been dying.

The Cardinal have lost three straight and five of their last six.

OSU’s Jordan Pope scored 23 pts vs Cal | Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

But, on paper, Jerod Haase’s team is a much more talented group and should get the job done.

Haase has variable options to adequately match up with Tyler Bilodeau and a strong interior presence to take advantage of OSU’s weakness.

Rebounding and limiting turnovers will be key, but the personnel matchup favors Stanford.

As long as the Cardinal share the ball at the elite level they are capable of, enough open shots should be generated that lead to a bounce-back victory at home.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon at California

Saturday, February 24
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The fact that this game is on the Pac-12 Network is an atrocity.

For whatever reasons, California has historically played Oregon much tougher than one would think. The Bears jumped out to an early lead in the first matchup in Eugene and have the offensive firepower to beat the Ducks in Berkeley.

Fardaws Aimaq is an ideal matchup for N’Faly Dante, which makes the battle in the paint somewhat of a wash. The game, then, figures to be decided by the backcourts.

Jalen Cone remains Cal’s ultimate X-Factor that could be the difference maker this afternoon. He went 5-for-12 against Oregon State and is 10-for-23 over his past two games.

Cal’s Jalen Cone had five 3-pt baskets vs OSU | Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If Cone is knocking down his shots from three, Oregon is officially on Upset Alert.

Still, the Ducks are elite at taking care of the ball. They enter the game third in the Pac-12 in turnovers committed per night and limit the number of possessions opponents have to score.

Call it the “UCLA Method of Success” or however you want to phrase it. In modern college basketball, limiting the amount of offensive possessions your opponent gets is a surefire way to field a competitive team.

The question is: Can the Ducks do it against Cal?

No. 21 Washington State at Arizona State

Saturday, February 24
5:00 pm PT, ESPN2

If there’s ever been a matchup featuring a clash of momentum, this is it.

Washington State is feeling good after securing the season sweep against Arizona while the Sun Devils are reeling after losing two straight and seven of their last 10.

Sometimes that indicates a potential Trap Game. Look for ASU to come out playing loose, free, and with nothing to lose. If the game stays close late into the second half, the Sun Devils could find a way to post the shock upset.

But to do so, Bobby Hurley must find answers for Wazzu’s defense.

The Cougs are elite. Kyle Smith’s team has the length and fundamental soundness to frustrate opposing offenses. Easy buckets are never afforded and defensive breakdowns are almost nonexistent.

Jaylen Wells’ 4-pt play secured win vs UA | Zachary BonDurant/USA TODAY Sports

Shot selection, as a result, becomes key.

Adam Miller is the X-Factor that could produce a Sun Devil upset. The guard has been consistently scoring 14 to 16 points per game over the last five contests.

If he can have a 20-plus night on relatively efficient shooting, Hurley must feel better about his chances.

At the same time, Jamiya Neal can’t be the high-volume shooter. He’s 8-for-22 (36.3 percent) from the field over the last two games. Washington State’s defense will expose poor shooters with inadequate shot selection.

Even so, if the pace is low enough and the Sun Devil shooters are taking quality shots, an upset is not as out of the question as some may think.

Utah at Colorado

Saturday, February 24
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Don’t call it a rivalry.

The arranged marriage in the Pac-12 has never borne the fruit that the Conference’s executives were hoping for back in 2011.

Instead, each team has generated its own organic rivalries that will continue to hold sway even after this latest round of conference realignment.

But in what might be the final Pac-12 matchup between Utah and Colorado, turnovers, blocked shots, and free throws could loom large.

The Buffs and Utes are similar in several key analytics from points per game to field goal percentage and rebounds. But the stark differences are in blocked shots per game, turnovers per night, and free throw percentage.

Colorado’s KJ Simpson scored 30 vs USC | Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News

CU is the far stronger team at the line but commits more turnovers per game and blocks far fewer shots.

So, what does that mean?

First, Colorado is going to need to play physical defense around the rim. Taking fouls instead of giving up easy layups will force Utah to get the job done from the charity stripe.

That runs the risk of players like Eddie Lampkin Jr. getting into foul trouble.

But it’s a necessary risk considering how poorly the Utes shoot free throws.

And on the other end of the floor, playing through contact is a must. The Utes are one of the top shot-blocking teams in the nation. If CU withers away from physical play at the rim, Tad Boyle’s team won’t get the job done.

usc logoUSC at UCLA

Saturday, February 24
7:00 pm PT, ESPN

In what might be the Pac-12’s marquee matchup of the day, UCLA takes on USC at Pauley Pavilion.

Mick Cronin secured his first win at the Galen Center earlier this season and looks to complete the season sweep of the Trojans for the first time since taking over in Westwood.

The keys are to clog the USC passing lanes and force turnovers. The Trojans love to share the ball. Andy Enfield’s group is one of the elite units in the nation at assists per game.

But Cronin’s defense has historically frustrated offenses that rely on ball movement, tending to muck up the rhythm. Jumping passing lanes and getting deflections are key, but so is adequate help defense and effective switching.

USC’s Boogie Ellis had 30 in the loss to CU | Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News

USC’s guards are generally high-volume shooters and they don’t tend to emphasize their bigs down low. That should allow Cronin’s players to be aggressive along the perimeter and consistently contest outside shots.

The game figures to come down to how well UCLA can score. The offense has been better ever since losing by almost 50 to Utah in January.

Lazar Stefanovic has it going from the field while Dylan Andrews has emerged as a consistent threat. As long as the Bruin shooters aren’t having an off night from the field, UCLA should get the job done.

Dane Miller’s Game Picks

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