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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Feb. 22

No. 21 WSU looks to sweep No. 4 Arizona in Tucson while Oregon gets tested at Stanford

Posted on February 22, 2024


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12Tonight’s action in the Pac-12 features four games and a battle for First Place.

No. 21 Washington State looks to complete the season sweep against No. 4 Arizona in Tucson while Oregon takes on Stanford in a pivotal matchup.

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

Washington football pac-12Washington at Arizona State

Thursday, February 22
6:00 pm PT, ESPN2

Currently slotted in as the 7-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, Arizona State can’t afford to lose to Washington.

The Huskies are reeling after a last-second defeat to California but have the talent to beat ASU on its home floor.

Keion Brooks Jr. leads the Pac-12 in points per game and Sahvir Wheeler is just outside the Top 10 in 12th. The Dawgs run a quick tempo and have variable pieces that can score in different ways.

Keeping Brooks contained is key. But making Wheeler inefficient is the proven defensive game plan. Laying off on the perimeter to bait him into threes has worked for other teams.

ASU’s Frankie Collins vs Arizona | Zachary BonDurant/USA TODAY Sports

Wheeler does lead the Conference in assists per game, but he averages 3.6 turnovers per contest. That’s a problem facing the Sun Devil defense which enters the matchup No. 2 in the league in turnovers forced per night.

In that sense, the battle between Wheeler and Frankie Collins might be the deciding factor. Collins leads the Pac-12 in steals per game, setting the table for him to thrive against UW’s sloppy offense.

As long as ASU keeps the tempo slow and isn’t ice cold from three, the Sun Devils should be in position to defend home court.

Oregon State at California

Thursday, February 22
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Mark Madsen has the Bears in the mix to make a run in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Seeding is pivotal in Las Vegas, although a Top 4 bye is probably out of the question. But California is just a single game out of fifth place.

That makes the matchup with Oregon State essentially a must-win. And the Beavers have been exposed.

Jordan Pope has been wildly inefficient over his last three games, shooting 14-of-47 (29.7 percent) from the field. OSU’s offense has struggled as a result.

The Beavers are on a six-game losing streak and haven’t scored more than 63 points since beating Arizona State on January 27th.

Cal’s Jaylon Tyson dunks vs Washington | Cal Athletics

But all it takes is one game to get it going.

California’s personnel matches up well with Wayne Tinkle’s squad. OSU doesn’t have a dominant big which should allow Fardaws Aimaq to have a strong night.

And with a handful of plug-and-play wings, Madsen should be able to find an adequate defensive matchup for Tyler Bilodeau.

Still, its Jaylon Tyson that must concern Tinkle the most and have Madsen excited to play the game.

Oregon State doesn’t have a lockdown defender that jumps out as the obvious defensive assignment. The result could be a 25-point game from Cal’s leading scorer along with a handful of assists that help open up the offense.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon at Stanford

Thursday, February 22
8:00 pm PT, ESPN2

Defend the three point line.

That must be Dana Altman’s primary point of emphasis in the practices leading up to this game. Stanford can beat anyone it faces on any given night due to its efficiency knocking down perimeter shots.

All five players on the floor at any given time can connect from deep and their offensive philosophy is to share the ball. That means players will give up somewhat open looks so that their teammate can have a clear shot at the rim.

Jerod Haase’s offense is No. 19 nationally in assists per game and they play substantially better on their home floor.

But the Tree are careless with the ball. Unlike Altman’s squad that is among the top teams in the country at limiting turnovers, Stanford is 11th in the Conference (No. 288 overall) in TO’s per night.

Stanford’s Brandon Angel vs WSU | Stanford Athletics

To win the game, the Ducks must win the turnover margin.

From a personnel standpoint, the matchup is concerning for Oregon. Haase legitimately goes ten-deep in his rotation and uses variable lineups to exploit weaknesses.

Any type of foul trouble to N’Faly Dante would be problematic and there’s no obvious answer for Brandon Angel.

At the end of the day, there’s just too many weapons on the Cardinal bench to expect the Ducks to walk in and leave with a win.

No. 21 Washington State at No. 4 ArizonaArizona football Pac-12

Thursday, February 22
8:00 pm PT, FS1

Nobody expected Arizona’s matchup with Washington State to be a battle for First Place. Yet here we are.

The Cougars took advantage of the Wildcats in Pullman with elite field goal defense. The Cats were limited to 34.7 percent from the field in one of the worst shooting performances of the Tommy Lloyd era.

But this isn’t the Beasley Coliseum.

And Arizona has revenge on its mind.

Forcing turnovers and winning the rebounding margin could be the key. Washington State’s defense leads the Pac-12 and could once again cause issues for Arizona’s shooters due to its height advantages.

Arizona’s Keshad Johnson dunks vs ASU | Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics

If that’s the case, extra possessions will loom large.

Whichever team commits fewer turnovers and secures more boards probably ends up on top.

The X-Factor is the hostile crowd. The UA fans know what’s at stake and will undoubtedly be riled up. All it takes is one early three and a steal that leads to a fast break score to pop the lid off.

From a player standpoint, Lloyd must find the right defender for Myles Rice. The freshman was the difference in the first game and is probably Concern No. 1.

If Rice gets it going and scores as efficiently as he did in Pullman, the Cougs could secure what would undoubtedly be one of the program’s top wins of the Pac-12 era.


Dane Miller’s Game Picks




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