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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Feb. 25

The league gets some needed exposure when No. 7 Arizona faces off against ASU on CBS

Posted on February 25, 2023


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12The action today in the Pac-12 features four games across three different networks.

The league gets some needed exposure when No. 7 Arizona faces off against Arizona State on CBS this morning. Later in the day, USC battles Utah on ESPNU.

I preview all four games here and my picks, along with those of Stephen Vilardo, appear at the bottom.

Arizona State at No. 7 ArizonaArizona football Pac-12

Saturday, February 25
11:00 am PT, CBS

In what is likely Azuolas Tubelis’s final game at McKale Center, the Wildcats and Sun Devils face off on CBS.

Arizona has won five straight in the series and Arizona State has just a single victory in Tucson during the Pac-12 era.

Bobby Hurley’s defense is No. 3 in the Conference, according to KenPom, but faces a substantial challenge on UA’s home floor.

The Cats figure to go on a handful of runs that could put the game out of reach if ASU is missing its threes.

In that sense, Desmond Cambridge Jr. and DJ Horne are the keys for Bobby Hurley. They’re the primary three-point shooters on his roster and an inefficient day from either could be devastating.

Sun Devils guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. vs Utah | Joe Rondone/The Republic

On defense, Arizona State has a Tubelis problem. The Sun Devils are undersized at the power forward position and don’t have a clear player to defend the Pac-12’s leading scorer.

Hurley might play Warren Washington and Duke Brennan at the same time. But that’s a gamble and Brennan isn’t skilled enough on defense to stop the Lithuanian’s finesse game.

Still, if the Sun Devils force turnovers and turn those extra possessions into points, the game could stay close into the second half.

Even if they manage to do that, Arizona’s guards shoot the ball better at home and figure to knock down too many shots from deep.

Unless UA’s guards have an off night, the Cats should win by double-digits.

Washington State at California

Saturday, February 25
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Coming off a respectable win at Stanford, the Cougars look to sweep the Bay Area schools on the road for just the second time in the last 29 years.

Matched up with California’s inefficient offense, Kyle Smith’s team must adequately defend the perimeter. One of the only ways the Bears have been able to win games this season has been through hot shooting from deep.

Mark Fox has several forwards that can step out beyond the arc and knock down those opportunities. Keeping a hand in the face of Kuany Kuany, Grant Newell, and Sam Alajiki will be key.

On the other end of the court, Cal doesn’t have the roster composition to slow down Mouhamed Gueye.

With just two bigs able to physically match up with him, Lars Thiemann and ND Okafor don’t have the quickness to defend Gueye’s finesse style.

Cougar guard TJ Bamba vs Oregon | Hailee Speir/Daily Evergreen

The personnel mismatch should result in a productive and efficient night from Wazzu’s second-leading scorer.

Combined with the talent advantage WSU has at every other position, Smith’s offense should hum in Berkeley.

It’s never easy to win on the road, though. The Cougars must focus on rebounding and limiting turnovers to get the job done.

California doesn’t do much well, yet the Bears take care of the ball somewhat decently and are an average shot-blocking group. If Washington State takes them lightly, the game could be closer than some expect.

usc logoUSC at Utah

Saturday, February 25
5:00 pm PT, ESPNU

Looking to sweep the Mountain schools on the road for the second-straight season, USC enters the Huntsman Center with high stakes.

The Trojans remain on the Bubble and the matchup with Utah is a Quad 1 opportunity. A victory would help the metrics calculation for Andy Enfield’s team on Selection Sunday.

The Utes are down two starters in the backcourt and have yet to adjust to their absences. Mike Saunders Jr. went off against UCLA, though, dropping 25 points after riding the bench for most of the year.

Saunders’ production is an X-Factor against the Trojans, potentially changing the dynamic of Utah’s offense.

Utah guard Mike Saunders Jr. vs UCLA | Utah Athletics

But, similar to Colorado, the Utes’ strength is their defense. KenPom ranks Craig Smith’s group as the No. 4 defense in the Pac-12 and they are No. 13 in the country in field goal percentage defense.

Built through disciplined execution and skilled coaching, Utah rarely gives up easy looks and effectively rebounds the ball. With the height to match up with USC’s guard-heavy rotation, the Utes present a substantial challenge.

On top of that, Branden Carlson is a nightmare for Enfield’s frontcourt. Joshua Morgan could struggle to contain the Utah big outside of the paint and Carlson can consistently hit shots from the midrange or perimeter.

To pull off the road win, the Trojans must knock down their outside shots and limit the offensive rebounds they allow. If USC gives the Utes open looks from three, Smith’s team could capitalize and defend home court.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon at Oregon State

Saturday, February 25
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Ducks enter Gill Coliseum with Will Richardson’s status in question. If the senior is unable to go, Keeshawn Barthelemy must step up.

The Beavers don’t have the pieces to stop N’Faly Dante, but Wayne Tinkle has a handful of forwards that can do damage against UO’s guard-like wings.

Tyler Bilodeau, Michael Rataj, and Dzmitry Ryuny all have a height advantage over Oregon’s guard-forward hybrids.

And while they aren’t as skilled as Quincy Guerrier, Rivaldo Soares, and Jermaine Couisnard, the trio is capable of scoring from the midrange and perimeter.

A somewhat stabilizing force, though, is Nate Bittle.

Oregon center Nate Bittle vs WSU | Young Kwak/AP

The second Oregon big typically starts at the Power Forward position and presents a conundrum for Wayne Tinkle.

The Beaver’s 6-foot-9 trio of forwards play with the tendencies of small forwards and the matchup with the 7-footer is a problem.

But the Bittle issue is small fish compared to Tinkle’s worries about Dante.

KC Ibekwe and Rodrigue Andela don’t have the skill to keep Oregon’s primary big contained. That should spur Dana Altman to run his offense through Dante and result in a points-in-the-paint advantage.

Combined with the one-two punch of Bittle, the Ducks have a frontcourt advantage that should be on full display.

That arguably leaves a relatively straightforward game plan: Slow down Jordan Pope and Glenn Taylor Jr.

As long as the Oregon defenders are able to keep the two scorers relatively inefficient front the field, the Ducks should walk away with the win.


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