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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Mar. 2

As college basketball hits its peak, a battle is raging for the Pac-12 Regular Season Title

Posted on March 2, 2024


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12The first Saturday of March is here.

As college basketball hits its peak, a battle is raging for the Pac-12 Regular Season Championship.

No. 6 Arizona hosts Oregon in a game that could have substantial consequences while No. 19 Washington State hosts USC.

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

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon at No. 6 ArizonaArizona football Pac-12

Saturday, March 2
11:00 am PT, ESPN

Oregon heads to the McKale Center needing a win to make the NCAA Tournament.

It’s Senior Day in Tucson and a Noon tip.

It doesn’t get better than this. The crowd will play a major role that can’t be understated. 14,000 screaming fans that lose their mind when a Wildcat player hits a three. Pure delirium when a steal leads to a transition dunk.

There aren’t many environments comparable to what happens at McKale. It’s been built on 40 years of success. Season ticket holders cough up 20k a season for two seats in the lower bowl.

This is Arizona.

Jackson Shelstad scored 20 vs OSU | Amanda Loman/AP

But to beat the Ducks, the Cats have to be on point. Dana Altman’s team has dealt with injuries all season but are looking to avenge the embarrassing defeat at Matthew Knight Arena earlier this year.

True freshman point guard Jackson Shelstad is the next great Payton Prichard in the making. How he handles the UA home crowd could be the difference.

If Shelstad struggles to score and turns the ball over, Tommy Lloyd’s team could run away with it.

But if the freshman hits his first three and his teammates are able to generate turnovers on defense, it’s game on.

usc logoUSC at WashingtonWashington football pac-12

Saturday, March 2
1:00 pm PT, CBS

Washington has a chance to build momentum for the Pac-12 Tournament.

Mike Hopkins has an elite offense with scorers all around.

Three-point specialist Moses Wood scored 18 points against UCLA’s defense on Thursday. The journeyman went 4-for-5 from three and 5-for-6 from the field with zero turnovers.

And that’s just one example.

Sophomore Koren Johnson is playing at an All-Conference level coming off the bench. The guard only averages 10.1 points per game on the season but is putting up 17.4 over the last five contests.

Combined with a player like Braxton Meah dropping 19 on the Bruins with an 8-for-8 split from the field, watch out for the Dawgs in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Isaiah Collier had 24 pts vs WSU | James Snook/USA TODAY Sports

But taking care of USC won’t be easy.

Isaiah Collier is projected as a high lottery pick and Boogie Ellis can go off for 30 in any given game. Yet, the Trojans don’t use their bigs on offense enough.

The group is one of the better shot-blocking units in the nation, but they aren’t much involved on the offensive side of the ball.

That should allow the UW defenders to match up relatively evenly on the perimeter without worrying about helping on the inside.

It should be a high-scoring affair that could be decided by a role player having a surprising game.

UCLA at No. 19 Washington State

Saturday, March 2
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Bruins lost another game on Thursday and are teetering on collapse.

The message from Mick Cronin doesn’t seem to be getting delivered. UCLA gave up a shocking 94 points to Washington on Thursday. It was the most points the Bruins had given up all season and at the most critical time.

March is here and Cronin’s defense has disappeared.

That’s an awful sign for the rest of the season. There aren’t many games left to fix the narrative of the year. This squad has the chance to be Cronin’s worst team since taking over in 2019-20.

And Kyle Smith has weapons.

Andrej Jakimovski had 18 pts and 5 reb vs USC | wsucougars.com
Andrej Jakimovski had 18 pts and 5 reb vs USC | wsucougars.com

True freshman Isaiah Watts went off against the Trojans, scoring a pivotal 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Without his points, the Cougs don’t win that game.

Andrej Jakimovski’s mom and brother are in the United States for the first time, too, providing extra motivation for the forward to show out.

That’s without even mentioning Jaylen Wells on the wing or Rueben Chinyelu off the bench, let alone Myles Rice and Isaac Jones.

Smith’s team takes care of the ball at an elite level, is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, and has the top defense in the Pac-12.

That’s a recipe for another embarrassing loss if Cronin’s players aren’t locked in on “D”.

California at Utah

Saturday, March 2
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Bears and Utes are in pivotal battle in the Pac-12 standings.

California currently sits as the 6-seed while Utah is at the 7-seed. What difference does it make?

Since 2011-12, the 6-seed is 19-10 all-time in the Pac-12 Tournament while the 7-seeds are 7-12.

A 7-seed has never won a Pac-12 Tournament Tournament Championship. The 6-seed has won it all twice since the Conference expanded.

In March, seeding in conference tournaments can be the difference between going on a magical Cinderella run and letting the auto-bid slip away.

Fardaws Aimaq snagged 11 rebounds vs Colorado | Cliff Grassmick/BuffZone

To beat Craig Smith’s team on the road, the Bears have to win the rebounding margin. Smith has variable lineups with three different bigs that can make the difference on the glass.

Keba Keita averages 6.1 rebounds per game while Lawson Lovering is snagging 4.3 and Branden Carlson is securing 6.9.

Other than winning the boards, containing Deivon Smith is key.

The point guard is a tripe-double machine that does it all. But he’s not a very strong three-point shooter and could be inefficient if Cal forces him into late-shot-clock looks from deep.

On the other end of the floor, getting Fardaws Aimaq going is arguably key. He has a height advantage over Keita and should be able to take advantage.

But if Aimaq struggles and Cal can’t rebound, it might be too much to expect the Bears to pull off the upset in Salt Lake City.


Dane Miller’s Game Picks

2023-24 Week 10 Pac-12 Games


Pick

Oregon at No. 6 Arizona
Mar 2, 11:00 AM PT
Arizona football Pac-12Arizona
USC at Washington
Mar 2, 1:00 PM PT
Washington football pac-12Washington
UCLA at No. 19 Washington State
Mar 2, 4:00 PM PT
Washington State
Cal at Utah
Mar 2, 6:00 PM PT
California
 Overall Record 161-73-0 (69%)



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