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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Feb 1

As few as 3 Conference teams could end up dancing, but there's still time to bolster resumes

Posted on January 31, 2024


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

With March Madness right around the corner, the at-large picture is coming into sharper focus.

As few as three teams from the Pac-12 could wind up dancing, but there is still time to bolster the resumes.

The Oregon Ducks, in particular, face a must-win game on the road against USC.

I preview that matchup here along with the three other games in the Conference on Thursday. My picks appear at the bottom along with my overall record this season.

California at No. 11 ArizonaArizona football Pac-12

Thursday, February 1
5:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Bears haven’t won at McKale Center since 2013 and are 4-33 in the building dating all the way back to the 1983-84 season.

The status of star guard Jaylon Tyson is listed as probable after he had to leave the contest against Stanford with a lower leg issue.

Mark Madsen will need him in front of what is sure to be a packed house.

The Wildcats are fresh off their first win in Eugene since 2015 and enter the game with a blowout on their minds. California is a respectable rebounding team and tends to limit its turnovers.

Arizona’s Caleb Love | Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard/USA TODAY NETWORK

But Arizona is the No. 4 team in the nation at rebounds per game and No. 47 nationally in turnovers forced per night.

That means the Cats limit the number of possessions that their opponents get while maximizing their own on the offensive glass.

To pull off the upset, Cal must crash the boards on both sides of the court, limit their turnovers, and get hot from three. One of the primary flaws in Tommy Lloyd’s team is its three-point defense.

But at home in front of a hostile crowd, look for Arizona to deliver a decisive run that puts the game out of reach.

Stanford at Arizona State

Thursday, February 1
6:00 pm PT, ESPN2

Needing to bounce back after getting swept by the Oregon schools, Arizona State hosts a capable Stanford team.

The Cardinal may have just lost to rival California, but Jerod Haase’s group has victories over Arizona, Utah, and UCLA.

The Tree are an elite passing and three-point shooting team. Coming into the game second in the Pac-12 in assists per game and second in three-point percentage, the Sun Devil defense will be tested.

Bobby Hurley’s group has struggled to defend as of late. Losing four of their last five games, the defense is allowing opponents to shoot 50.3 percent (133-of-264) from the field over the stretch.

Combined with a woefully ineffective offense, ASU has regressed.

That’s a problem facing one of the top shooting teams in the entire country.

Stanford’s Spencer Jones | Jed Jacobsohn/AP

Even putting aside the prolific three-point shooting numbers, Stanford is efficient from all over the floor. Coming into the game No. 41 in the country in field goal percentage, the Tree can straight-up score.

And they have variable depth to do it in a multitude of ways.

Center Maxime Raynaud is a problem. The 7-foot-1 Frenchman can score from anywhere on the court and dramatically opens up the floor by initiating offense from the perimeter.

Add in freshman guard Kanaan Carlyle and the ultra-efficient forward Brandon Angel, and it’s fair to wonder why Stanford doesn’t win more games.

That’s without even mentioning senior wing Spencer Jones who puts up 12.1 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting from deep.

Look for the Tree to come out with something to prove after letting one slip against the Sun Devils earlier this season.

Oregon State at UCLA

Thursday, February 1
7:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

It’s fair to say that the matchup with UCLA at Pauley Pavilion is Oregon State’s biggest game in years.

Since reaching the Elite 8 in the 2021 Tournament, the Beavers have fallen into irrelevancy. But Wayne Tinkle hit a few home runs on the recruiting trail and has developed the players on his roster.

With victories over Arizona, USC, and Arizona State, there is new life within the program.

But success is all about timing and Oregon State faces the Bruins after they have turned the corner.

This is nowhere near the same UCLA team as earlier this season. Mick Cronin’s players have finally begun to figure it out on offense while maintaining their elite defense.

Winners of three of their last four games, the Bruins are getting offensive production from a variety of players.

Oregon State’s Tyler Bilodeau | osubeavers.com

Adem Bona scored 22 in the victory against Washington, Lazar Stefanovic scored 18 in the win over Arizona State, and Dylan Andrews dropped 20 to beat USC.

The question becomes: Who is going to step up against the Beavers?

Bona should have a matchup advantage against the OSU frontcourt and appears to be the most obvious answer.

Look for UCLA to run its offense through Bona and for the Bruin guards to get open looks from deep when the Beaver players collapse to defend him.

As long as the UCLA shooters aren’t cold from three, Cronin’s team should get the job done.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon at USCusc logo

Thursday, February 1
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

In the Pac-12’s marquee matchup of the day, Oregon travels to the Galen Center for a pivotal game on their at-large resume.

The Ducks are in a precarious situation just one month away from the start of March.

Dana Altman’s team is 55th in the NET with just two Quad 1 wins and is 3-5 in the pivotal Quad 1 and Quad 2 contests. The Ducks also have a damaging Quad 3 defeat.

That’s not going to cut it in a league that’s perceived to be weak this season.

Colorado, Utah, and Washington State are all above UO in the at-large pecking order. A loss to the sub-.500 Trojans would only cement that perception.

But the matchup with USC presents a key Quad 2 opportunity in which Oregon must take full advantage.

Oregon’s Jermaine Couisnard | Sean Meagher/The Oregonian/OregonLive

The Trojans have a guard-heavy rotation that’s not particularly efficient at shooting the ball. Yet, the Ducks have struggled on defense and might allow the SC guards to get going.

Oregon is dead-last in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage defense and doesn’t have a true lockdown guard. Jermaine Couisnard leads the team in steals, yet he is more of a shooter and the backbone of the offense.

Jadrian Tracey is the only other guard that averages at least one steal per game, indicating the lack of defensive firepower Oregon has in its backcourt.

And UO is not a strong rebounding team, either.

Those aren’t favorable analytics and make the Ducks vulnerable against quality opponents.

To beat USC, Oregon must win the rebounding margin, limit turnovers, and knock down their shots from the perimeter.


Dane Miller’s Game Picks

2023-24 Week 5 Pac-12 Games


Pick

Cal at No. 11 Arizona
Feb 1, 5:30 PM PT
Arizona football Pac-12Arizona
Stanford at Arizona State
Feb 1, 6:00 PM PT
Stanford
Oregon State at UCLA
Feb 1, 7:30 PM PT
UCLA
Oregon at USC
Feb 1, 7:30 PM PT
Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon
 Overall Record 126-52-0 (71%)



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