Posted on February 5, 2023
Conference play in Pac-12 men’s basketball continues with two more games today.
Utah hosts California, and Stanford visits Colorado, in overlapping afternoon matchups. The two games in the Mountain region feature four teams battling to salvage their seasons.
I preview both contests here and my picks, along with those of Stephen Vilardo, appear at the bottom.
California at Utah
Sunday, February 5
3:00 pm PT, ESPNU
The injury to second-leading scorer Gabe Madsen has changed the trajectory of the Utes’ season. Losing such a pivotal part of Craig Smith’s roster this late into the year was a substantial blow to the program.
The team must learn how to win without him and are 0-2 since he went down in the first half against Oregon.
Now, the offense runs primarily through Lazar Stefanovic. The sophomore has attempted a high-volume 35 shots over the last two games and the new style of play forces the rest of the Utah roster to compensate.
And after two contests, the adjustments are still being made.
But the ship figures to be temporarily righted against California.
The Bears will be without leading-scorer Devin Askew after his season-ending surgery while third-leading scorer DeJuan Clayton has missed two of the last three games.
Cal is rudderless without a leader and primary threat to score.
That’s a problem facing a Utah team with one of the elite defenses in College Basketball. The Utes enter the game 30th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric and are No. 6 in field goal percentage defense.
Matched up against such a stout group, one of the only ways to stay within striking distance is outside shooting. Mark Fox’s group did it once against Stanford earlier in the year, but could struggle to knock down treys in the altitude of Salt Lake City.
Unless the Bears are connecting on their shots from deep, Utah should win by double-digits.
Stanford at Colorado
Sunday, February 5
4:00 pm PT, FS1
The Tree are finally starting to play up to the expectations that many had of them during the preseason.
On a five-game winning streak with victories over perceived Bubble Teams Oregon and Utah, the Cardinal can arguably prove they deserve to be viewed as a potential at-large option.
Harrison Ingram had an off night in Salt Lake City, yet the sophomore has been pivotal during the winning streak. Combined with the consistency of Maxime Raynaud and Spencer Jones, Stanford is a dangerous team.
Juxtaposed are Tad Boyle and the Buffs. In the midst of a 2-5 stretch, Colorado is trending down.
Part of the struggles is due to Boyle’s over-reliance on KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva. The duo is the only pair on CU’s roster averaging in double-figures and opponents know it.
As long as either Simpson or da Silva is hampered, Colorado has a much lower chance of winning.
Making matters worse, Simpson is on a cold streak. The sophomore is 7-for-36 from the field over the last three games including 0-for-10 from deep.
If the Buffs’ leading scorer remains stuck in his funk, it’s unlikely that Colorado will beat Stanford.
With such an obvious defensive game plan to focus on, look for Jerod Haase to use his depth and multi-faceted lineups to keep a fresh player on the Colorado duo throughout the game.
And with a favorable matchup in the paint with Raynaud against Lawson Lovering, Stanford should find a way to win.
Our Senior Writers’ Game Picks
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