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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Jan 27

The matchup between No. 9 Arizona and Oregon is the headliner of today's five games

Posted on January 27, 2024


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12All of this weekend’s action in the Pac-12 happens today.

With no Sunday games on the slate, the contests begin in the early afternoon and continue into the night.

The matchup between No. 9 Arizona and Oregon is the headliner, but there are several other key games across the league.

I preview the five contests below and my picks appear at the bottom.

Colorado at Washington State

Saturday, January 27
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Buffs are hot.

Coming into Pullman riding a four-game winning streak, an appearance in the NCAA Tournament feels achievable.

But the Cougars have aspirations of the Big Dance, too.

Kyle Smith’s team has won four of its last five with key victories over Arizona and Utah.

Something has to give.

Colorado has the advantage in several key metrics. CU scores more points per game, shoots a higher field goal percentage, and is the far superior three-point shooting team.

Colorado’s Cody Williams vs Washington | Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports

Tad Boyle’s group shares the ball at an elite level and has variable personnel to score in a multitude of ways.

Yet, Washington State is the better rebounding team, commits fewer turnovers, and is an elite shot-blocking unit.

And Wazzu has the strongest defense in the Pac-12. The Cougs top the league in field goal percentage defense and enter the game No. 37 nationally.

Advantage Washington State.

Finding a way to contain KJ Simpson is a must and there’s no obvious answer for Cody Williams. But WSU has the depth, culture, and schemes to handle the CU offense.

As long as Isaac Jones and Myles Rice aren’t cold from the field, Washington State should defend home court.

Arizona football Pac-12No. 9 Arizona at OregonOregon Ducks Logo Pac-12

Saturday, January 27
2:30 pm PT, Fox

Tommy Lloyd and the Wildcats have fallen off.

After starting the year strong, the offense is sputtering and the issues defending the perimeter continually get exploited.

What’s the common denominator in the defeats?

Point guard Kylan Boswell disappears.

In UA’s five losses, the sophomore has scored a combined total of 23 points while shooting 9-for-43 from the field. That averages out to 5.7 points per game. In two of the contests (Washington State and Oregon State), Boswell went scoreless.

That’s not acceptable for a team expecting to make a run in March, let alone navigating conference play on the road.

And the Cats take on an Oregon team that is rolling. Dana Altman’s roster is almost fully healthy and at the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Arizona’s Caleb Love vs Oregon State | arizonawildcats.com

Still, this is the strongest team the Ducks have faced to date.

Arizona has the No. 2 scoring offense in the country, is No. 4 nationally in rebounds per game, and No. 2 nationally in rebounding margin.

The Wildcats top the Conference in turnovers forced per game and are No. 6 in the country in fast break points.

In other words, Arizona dominates the glass and scores in transition. If the Ducks allow UA to go on a run or two, there’s a chance Lloyd’s team pulls out the victory.

Yet even if they do, Oregon could still get the job done if it is hot from three. The Cats are incompetent at defending the arc, consistently giving up uncontested looks off of screen actions.

In fact, Arizona is No. 261 in the country at three-point percentage defense. And the Ducks shoot well at home.

If Altman’s group gets going from the perimeter, it’s unlikely that UA finds a way to win.

Arizona State at Oregon State

Saturday, January 27
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Arizona State needs a win in Corvallis to keep within striking distance of the Regular Season Championship.

Splitting road trips has historically been part of the recipe to win the Pac-12 and the Sun Devils have a chance to get it done.

The Beavers were on fire from three against Arizona earlier in the week, presenting a How-To Manual for avoiding a defeat. Jordan Pope and Tyler Bilodeau can both hit their shots from deep.

To keep them contained, the ASU defenders can’t give the duo any open looks. Staying attached, clogging passing lanes, and getting a hand in the face of the shooters will be key.

The Sun Devils’ three-point percentage defense is strong. Coming into the game No. 3 in the Pac-12 at defending the three, Bobby Hurley’s group is in a favorable position.

Beavers’ Jordan Pope vs Arizona | Amanda Loman/AP

The deciding factor, then, could be Arizona State’s production on offense.

Adam Miller has been cold the last few games and is arguably the X-Factor in the matchup. The guard is 4-for-17 from the field over the last two games and is averaging just 6.5 points.

That’s well off his 12.0 ppg average and is not conducive to securing wins on the road. If he can get it going from the field, ASU will be on much stronger footing.

Look for the game to be played at Arizona State’s pace and devolve into a rock fight that favors Bobby Hurley’s team.

UCLA at USCusc logo

Saturday, January 27
5:00 pm PT, ESPN2

For the first time since 2004, USC and UCLA face off when both teams have losing records.

The struggles for the Bruins are not all that surprising considering the number of international freshmen on the roster. But the Trojans’ issues are an entirely different story.

Expected to compete for a Pac-12 Championship, the upperclassmen-laden team has never quite gelled.

Perhaps the team is overly dominated by guards who are considered high-volume shooters. Or maybe it’s the lack of emphasis on getting the bigs involved on offense.

Whatever the reasons are, there’s no denying that this year’s USC squad is the most underperforming group of the Pac-12 era.

Still, Andy Enfield is 6-3 against Mick Cronin and 4-0 against him at home.

USC’s Bronny James vs Arizona State | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

To continue the streak, playing with high intensity on defense is a must. The Bruins have one of the worst offenses in the country and are near the bottom of College Basketball in field goal percentage.

Cronin does have some weapons, but Enfield has the personnel to adequately counter.

Vince Iwuchukwu and Jordan Morgan are ideally built to handle Adem Bona, while the multitude of guards at USC’s disposal are a solid match for Sebastian Mack and Lazar Stefanovic.

The X-Factor is Dylan Andrews. Stuck in a cold shooting streak, if Andrews finds his rhythm it might be enough to tip the scales.

Still, USC is a different team when they face the Bruins and the analytics already indicate a Trojan victory.

Look for Boogie Ellis to have an efficient game with the USC bigs blocking plenty of shots.

Utah at WashingtonWashington football pac-12

Saturday, January 27
7:00 pm PT, ESPN2

The Utes remain in position to make the NCAA Tournament despite the loss earlier this week to Washington State.

But the margin will get thinner if they stumble again in Seattle. The Huskies scored 81 points against Colorado and still lost by 17.

Point guard Sahvir Wheeler has been off, shooting 9-for-28 from the field over the last two games after shooting 50 percent or better in four of the previous five contests.

That’s a problem for a Mike Hopkins’ team that relies on Wheeler to facilitate the offense. Tellingly, the senior guard has just five total assists over the last two matchups despite averaging 5.7 per game this season.

For the Dawgs to salvage the week, Wheeler must get back to his pass-first mentality.

As for the Utes, injury issues abound.

Washington’s Sahvir Wheeler vs Stanford | Tony Avelar/AP

The status of Deivon Smith, Rollie Worster, and Lawson Lovering are all somewhere between questionable and doubtful.

Without a clear answer at point guard, Craig Smith is forced to be creative with his lineups. Gabe Madsen, then, will come under further pressure to deliver.

The three-point specialist has been inefficient as of late but might find more open looks if Washington decides to run its zone defense.

Hopkins has been re-implementing the zone on more and more defensive possessions despite vowing to ditch it coming into the year.

If the Utes get extended opportunities to attack the zone, ball movement around the perimeter tends to get the UW players out of position which leads to open looks.

At the same time, the scheme consistency gives up offensive rebounds and might provide Utah with key second-chance opportunities.

It might take a 25-point night from Branden Carlson to get the job done, but the Utes could secure the pivotal road split.


Dane Miller’s Game Picks

2023-24 Week 4 Pac-12 Games


Pick

Colorado at Washington State
Jan 27, 2:00 PM PT
Washington State
No. 9 Arizona at Oregon
Jan 27, 2:30 PM PT
Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon
Arizona State at Oregon State
Jan 27, 4:00 PM PT
Arizona State
UCLA at USC
Jan 27, 5:00 PM PT
usc logoUSC
Utah at Washington
Jan 27, 7:00 PM PT
Washington football pac-12Washington
 Overall Record 126-52-0 (71%)



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