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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Hoops Previews for Feb. 8

The Utes are undefeated at home where the Wildcats are 2-4 since start of the 2015-16 season

Posted on February 8, 2024


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12The Thursday slate in the Pac-12 features two games on FS1 and two on the Pac-12 Network.

Arizona State and Colorado get the action going on FS1 followed by Oregon and Washington. But Arizona’s matchup with Utah is the one to watch.

The Utes are undefeated at home and the Wildcats enter the game as a Top 10 opponent.

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

Arizona State at Colorado

Thursday, February 8
5:00 pm PT, FS1

The Sun Devils are on the brink of collapse.

The defeats to the Bay Area schools at home last week were damaging from an optics standpoint and potentially even worse inside the locker room.

Second-leading scorer Jose Perez was inexplicably benched against the Bears while the defense gave up more than 80 points for the third time in the last four games.

Bobby Hurley’s team doesn’t have the offensive firepower to overcome poor defensive efforts.

Arizona State has lost six of its last seven and enters the CU Events Center where Colorado has yet to lose a game. That’s a recipe for disaster.

The Buffs scored 90 points in their last home game and dropped 86 in the matchup before that.

This is the first contest that will be played in Boulder since January 20th and Tad Boyle’s team is looking to get back on track after dropping two straight.

ASU’s Jose Perez expected back vs Colorado | Ross D. Franklin/AP

In other words, the Sun Devils are in trouble.

To beat Colorado, ASU has to keep the pace of the game slow while limiting its turnovers. Shot selection will be pivotal.

Colorado is No. 39 nationally in fast break points and could bust the game open if the Sun Devils are coughing it up or giving up long rebounds due to poor shots.

At the same time, Hurley’s team must force turnovers.

CU is tied for 11th in the Pac-12 in turnovers per game while ASU is No. 53 nationally (second in the Conference) in turnovers forced per contest.

But even if they manage to do all of that, Arizona State still won’t win if Adam Miller stays stuck in his cold stretch (7-for-36 over the past five games).

It’s like threading a needle. But there is a small path to an upset.

Arizona football Pac-12No. 8 Arizona at Utah

Thursday, February 8
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Wildcats travel to Salt Lake City where they are 11-22 all-time and 2-4 since the start of the 2015-16 season.

The Utes didn’t have any injury issues when they played Arizona in Tucson but are expected to be without starting guard Rollie Worster this time around.

Worster averages 5.5 assists per game and is the spark that drives the Utah offense. Utah is 3-3 in his absence with all three victories coming at home.

Deivon Smith has stepped up as the replacement, taking over the starting role while playing at an All-Conference level.

In the six games that Worster has missed, Smith is averaging 7.1 assists per game. 6.3 rebounds per night, and 15.8 points per contest.

In other words, Smith can go off for a triple-double and presents a substantial challenge for Arizona’s backcourt. But Tommy Lloyd may have found something.

The combination of KJ Lewis and Jaden Bradley on the floor at the same time creates a defensive powerhouse.

And with variable additional defensive options in Caleb Love, Pelle Larsson, or Kylan Boswell, the Cats should find someone who can keep Smith relatively contained.

Utah Deivon Smith vs Colorado | Utah Athletics

It worked in the first matchup, where Smith went 3-for-10 with zero assists.

Branden Carlson and Gabe Madsen, however, are more problematic. Keshad Johnson could struggle to defend Carlson’s size in the midrange and paint, and Lloyd doesn’t have an adequate option on the bench to go to.

It’s games like this where Lloyd’s unwillingness to develop Paulius Murauskas could bite.

As for Madsen, the Arizona staff likely assigns Bradley to him during long stretches of the game. But Love is probably the initial matchup and his defensive effort along the perimeter is sometimes lacking.

If Madsen and Carlson are hitting their shots from three early, UA could be in trouble.

To overcome this, Arizona must win the rebounding and turnover margins. And from a personnel standpoint, Oumar Ballo should have a matchup advantage all game that Lloyd is sure to take advantage of.

Washington State at Oregon State

Thursday, February 8
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

This is a must-win game for Washington State.

The Pac-12 is taking body blows on the national stage and the Selection Committee is itching to load up the Tournament with SEC teams.

Facing an Oregon State program that’s 168th in the NET, the matchup in Corvallis is classified as a dangerous Quad 3 game.

The Cougs already have a Quad 3 loss on their resume. A second would put Kyle Smith’s roster uncomfortably close to the Play-In game and all but eliminate the margin for error to finish the year.

To get the job done, the defense must do what it’s done all season.

Wazzu is No. 44 nationally in field goal percentage defense and enters the game as the top defensive team in the Pac-12. Jordan Pope and Tyler Bilodeau are the main threats to contend with.

Pope is a highly efficient shooter averaging 17.5 points per game while connecting on 47.1 percent of his shots. He averages 13.3 attempts per game and is the only Beaver player to average more than 10 shots per contest.

Oregon State’s Jordan Pope vs UCLA | Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

Making him inefficient is the key to success.

And unlike many other teams in the country, WSU is not reliant on one single player to lockdown opposing scorers.

Similar to UCLA, the defense is fundamentally sound and is loaded with chemistry. The team’s identity is to prevent easy looks and contest every shot.

The effort levels are high, the switches are communicated effectively, and players swarm the defensive glass. The result is one of the top defenses, not only in the Pac-12 but also in the entire country.

As long as Pope is forced to put up contested looks while the role players are denied easy opportunities, the Wazzu defense should carry the day.

Washington football pac-12Washington at OregonOregon Ducks Logo Pac-12

Thursday, February 8
7:00 pm PT, FS1

Reality has begun to set in for the Ducks.

The early conference schedule benefitted Oregon with favorable opponents at the right time. But after going on the road to the Mountain, Desert, and LA schools, the flaws in the roster were exposed.

Still, after losing four of their last six, the matchup with Washington begins another stretch of more favorable games.

But the Dawgs can score.

Coming into the game second in the Pac-12 in points per game and No. 28 nationally, Mike Hopkins has weapons all over.

Dana Altman doesn’t have an obvious answer for Keion Brooks Jr. while Sahvir Wheeler is a much more experienced version of Jackson Shelstad. The duo combine to average 36.6 points per game.

Oregon’s N’Faly Dante vs UCLA | Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

N’Faly Dante, however, should have an advantage in the paint.

Braxton Meah tends to get in foul trouble and Washington does not have an alternative to stop the Oregon big. And even if Meah is in a one-on-one matchup with no foul issues, Dante is too skilled and crafty to be contained.

Advantage Ducks.

But the key to securing the victory is defending the three. Moses Wood can get doing from deep and might be the difference-maker if he’s hot.

At the same time, Altman must get strong shooting nights from Jermaine Couisnard and Shelstad. The Huskies are a below-average defensive team and will give up open looks.

Yet, if Oregon doesn’t take advantage and is unable to effectively crash the offensive glass, there’s a chance Washington could steal the win.


Dane Miller’s Game Picks

2023-24 Week 6 Pac-12 Games


Pick

Arizona State at Colorado
Feb 8, 5:00 PM PT
Colorado
Arizona at Utah
Feb 8, 5:00 PM PT
Arizona football Pac-12Arizona
Washington State at Oregon State
Feb 8, 7:00 PM PT
Washington State
Washington at Oregon
Feb 8, 7:00 PM PT
Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon
 Overall Record 138-59-0 (70%)



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