Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Feb. 26th

UCLA can secure the outright regular-season Pac-12 Championship today with a win at Colorado

Posted on February 26, 2023

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Entering the day with a chance to secure the outright Pac-12 Regular-Season Championship, all eyes are on No. 4 UCLA as they take on Colorado in Boulder.

The Bruins’ mid-afternoon game on CBS also provides a platform to show why they deserve to be the 2-seed in the West Bracket.

Later in the day, Washington and Stanford square off in a matchup between two embattled coaches.

I preview both games here and my picks, and those of Stephen Vilardo, appear at the bottom.

No. 4 UCLA at Colorado

Sunday, February 26
1:00 pm PT, CBS

With the outright Pac-12 Regular Season Championship up for grabs, No. 4 UCLA takes on Colorado in Boulder.

The Buffaloes’ strengths are their defense and rebounding. Tad Boyle’s group is No. 2 in the Conference in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and fourth in rebounds per game.

That should be a deadly combination, but CU has a turnover problem. The Buffs are 263rd in the nation in TO’s per game and average 13.4 per night.

That’s a major cause for concern matched up with the No. 2 defense in the nation, according to KenPom.

UCLA’s culture and identity are based on elite defense. Any mistakes Colorado makes will be capitalized on by the Bruin players and converted into points.

Unless the Buffs keep their turnovers in the single digits, it will be an uphill battle to topple Mick Cronin’s team.

Colorado forward Tristan da Silva vs USC | David Zalubowski/AP

And without any consistent threats outside of KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva, the game plan for beating Colorado is relatively simple.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. figures to draw the assignment of slowing down da Silva, but Cronin could rotate Jaylen Clark onto CU’s leading scorer as well.

Tyger Campbell and Amari Bailey can switch off on Simpson, creating a smooth personnel matchup that favors UCLA defensively.

Three-point shooting can always change the game, yet the Buffs are No. 315 in the country in three-point percentage.

Altogether, the matchup with the Bruins is an analytical nightmare for Colorado. Boyle’s team does run at a fast pace, a potential stabilizer if their shots are falling, but the path to victory is slim.

Still, if CU crashes the offensive glass, knocks down its threes, and limits its turnovers, the Buffs could pull off the surprising upset.

Washington at Stanford

Sunday, February 26
3:00 pm PT, FS1

In a battle between two coaches on the Hot Seat, Washington and Stanford face off at Maples Pavilion.

The Cardinal currently sit 10th in the Pac-12 standings after being picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll.

Dropping five of their last six games, the Tree have regressed since beating Oregon, Utah, and Arizona over the past month.

Staring down Mike Hopkins’ zone, Spencer Jones and the Stanford forwards must have efficient nights. The scheme gives up plenty of open looks from the midrange and perimeter.

Jones should have success from deep, but it’s the midrange shooting of Harrison Ingram and Brandon Angel that could determine the outcome.

Ball movement is a must, though, and Washington’s length causes problems along the perimeter. Its players collapse well, too, helping to produce one of the top shot-blocking teams in the nation.

Stanford forward Spencer Jones vs WSU | Jeff Chiu/AP

Quick passing tends to break the zone down and produce higher percentage opportunities. The Cardinal have the bigs to connect from the midrange and the length to counteract UW’s height.

Yet, favorable analytical and personnel matchups haven’t meant much for Stanford this year. The Tree have consistently dropped games they should have won on paper.

With talent across the board and legitimate depth, the shortcomings this year have been inexcusable.

Hopkins, on the other hand, has arguably done more with less. Keion Brooks Jr. and Braxton Meah lead the way, but the Husky head coach hit home runs with the recruitment of Keyon Menifield and Koren Johnson.

If the Dawgs can frustrate Stanford with their zone defense, the offense could do just enough to win the game.

Our Senior Writers’ Game Picks

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