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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Feb. 28

With three games today, including a critical Cal-Colorado tilt, it’s time to play like it’s March

Posted on February 28, 2024


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12The Pac-12 Tournament is right around the corner and with it comes a focus on seeding.

Most teams in the Conference have lost their shot at an at-large bid, which means the only path to the NCAA Tournament is by winning it all in Las Vegas.

And to do that, seeding is pivotal.

With three games on tap today, including a critical matchup between California and Colorado, it’s time to play like it’s March.

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

California at Colorado

Wednesday, February 28
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Bears stunned Colorado in Berkeley earlier this season. Down by 19 points at one point in the second half, Mark Madsen’s team got hot from three and pulled out the win.

But this isn’t Berkeley.

The CU Events Center is one of the toughest arenas to play at in the Pac-12. California is 2-14 all-time in Boulder and 1-8 since Colorado joined the Conference in 2011.

To secure their first win in the building since 2015, the Bears must defend the three and force turnovers. CU is No. 7 nationally in three-point percentage but is dead-last in the Pac-12 in turnovers per game.

Madsen has the offensive firepower to take advantage of the extra possessions produced off the TOs, but that might not matter if the Buffs are connecting on their perimeter shots.

Lampkin Jr. had a double-double vs Cal | Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports

A key battle to watch is the matchup between Eddie Lampkin Jr. and Fardaws Aimaq. Lampkin dominated the first round, scoring 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting with 11 rebounds. Aimaq, on the other hand, scored just six points and fouled out.

That can’t happen again on the road.

The Bears also have a matchup problem with either Cody Williams or Tristan da Silva.

Grant Newell is the obvious solution for one of them, but there isn’t another lanky forward to effectively guard the leftover threat.

If either Williams or da Silva go off, Colorado will be hard to beat.

Arizona football Pac-12No. 6 Arizona at Arizona State

Wednesday, February 28
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Throw the first game in Tucson completely out the window.

The 105-60 blowout from less than two weeks ago means nothing. Arizona State will be ready for a battle and should play much stronger on their home floor.

Mix in the animosity towards Caleb Love after the blatant disrespect he showed on national television and you have the makings for what could be an Instant Classic.

But Bobby Hurley has an Oumar Ballo problem.

The Sun Devils just don’t have the personnel to adequately match up with the Arizona big. Ballo is playing the best basketball of his career and has transformed into a double-double machine.

Jamiya Neal had 12 pts and 6 reb vs UA | Zachary BonDurant/USA TODAY Sports

Ballo is quietly the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer and fully understands the importance of the rivalry. He has spoken publicly about what the game means to the community in Tucson and talks about it like he is a native.

Translation: Ballo is about to show out.

Keshad Johnson and Pelle Larsson also have a keen understanding of the importance of this game, too.

Larsson has been in Tucson for so many years that he has first-hand knowledge of the gravity while Johnson is an emotionally mature senior who fully gets it.

Combined with Love’s brash confidence and clutch mentality, Arizona will be locked in.

Unless Arizona State forces turnovers, hits its threes, and causes Love to be inefficient, the Cats probably get the job done down the stretch.

Oregon State at OregonOregon Ducks Logo Pac-12

Wednesday, February 28
8:00 pm PT, FS1

The awakening of Oregon State’s Michael Rataj is a game-changer for Wayne Tinkle’s team.

The sophomore was in a slump for most of the season but is averaging 15.6 points per game over the last three contests. In fact, Rataj has scored in double-figures in nine of the last 11 games.

The German native was expected to be a key part of Tinkle’s talented sophomore trio and his early-season struggles put a damper on this season’s ceiling.

But Rataj has found it again.

Combined with Tyler Bilodeau’s consistency and Jordan Pope getting his swagger back, the chance of an upset is very real.

Michael Rataj scored 17 pts vs Oregon | Amanda Loman/AP

And that’s not just because it’s a rivalry game where you can throw out the normal analysis. No. Oregon State has the talent to beat the Ducks.

The Beavers do have a substantial weakness in their frontcourt that will surely be taken advantage of by N’Faly Dante and the UO coaching staff.

Yet, the rest of the personnel matchups are equal at worst and favorable to a certain extent.

Pope will be the best player on the floor and Bilodeau might be the most talented wing in the game.

The Ducks will need a strong shooting night from Jermaine Couisnard and a relatively efficient night from Jackson Shelstad to defend Matthew Knight Arena.


Dane Miller’s Game Picks

2023-24 Week 9 Pac-12 Games


Pick

Cal at Colorado
Feb 28, 65:00 PM PT
Colorado
Arizona at Arizona State
Feb 28, 7:00 PM PT
Arizona football Pac-12Arizona
Oregon State at Oregon
Feb 28, 8:00 PM PT
Oregon State
 Overall Record 157-71-0 (69%)



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