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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Mar. 7

A Regular Season Championship and Pac-12 Tournament seeding are on the line tonight

Posted on March 7, 2024


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Pac-12It’s the last week of the Regular Season.

The battle for the Regular Season Championship is on the line and seeding for the Pac-12 Tournament is coming down to the wire.

I preview all six Thursday games in the Pac-12 here and my picks appear at the bottom.

Colorado at OregonOregon Ducks Logo Pac-12

Thursday, March 7
6:00 pm PT, ESPN2

The Ducks host the Buffs in what might be a defacto NCAA Tournament elimination game.

A loss by either team could effectively remove them from the Bubble discussion and require a championship in Vegas to reach the Big Dance.

That’s not a fate either team wants.

Translation: This game matters. More than most.

Colorado has one of the best players in the country with KJ Simpson. The junior guard averages 19.9 ppg and has scored 20 points or more in seven of the last nine contests.

Mahamadou Diawara swats the ball vs CU| Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

His efficiency is the difference.

Simpson is shooting 49.6 percent from the field on the season. That is a ridiculous number considering he is a high-volume shooter who averages 13.8 shots per game.

How good is he? Over the last four games he is scoring 26.7 ppg with 5.75 assist per contest.

There’s no stopping him. And after Oregon’s defense disappeared at McKale Center, it’s fair to ask if Simpson will score 30.

But the key to beating Colorado is upping the pace and forcing turnovers. The Buffs are already sloppy with the ball and like to run a quick tempo.

If Dana Altman gets them even more sped up, the turnovers that lead to transition buckets should follow.

Washington football pac-12Washington at No. 18 Washington State

Thursday, March 7
6:00 pm PT, FS1

The Cougs needed overtime to beat Washington earlier this season.

But this game means a little something more to Wazzu.

Conference realignment split the two destinies of the programs, sending one to opulent riches and the other to the WCC.

The true effects of it won’t be felt for years and perhaps decades.

Washington State fans, players, and coaches know it.

Whatever happened in the first game doesn’t matter. This is Beasley Coliseum on the Palouse.

Isaac Jones blocks a shot vs Washington | Kevin Clark/The Seattle Times

The WSU crowd has finally woken up and should have a dramatic impact on the game.

When asked how loud it was when UCLA came to town, Myles Rice said, “When we played at Arizona, and it was so loud in there, that’s how it kinda felt.”

If that was the atmosphere against the Bruins, just wait for what they have in store for the Dawgs.

Did I mention that it’s Senior Day with a shot at the Pac-12 Regular Season Championship on the line?

Kyle Smith’s team has the chance to be the best squad that WSU has ever had. Seasons like this don’t just happen.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Cougar players. Look for them to rise to the occasion and stomp Washington.

Arizona football Pac-12No. 5 Arizona at UCLA

Thursday, March 7
6:30 pm PT, ESPN

Legacies.

That’s what the two most historic programs in the Pac-12 play for. UCLA established itself first during the John Wooden era and Arizona took over during the Lute Olson era.

Ever since, Pac-12 basketball has been defined by the Wildcats and the Bruins.

The last game at Pauley Pavilion as members of the Pac-12 is undoubtedly one of the most historic moments in the history of the rivalry.

Nobody knows what will happen down the road. Mick Cronin might be unwilling to schedule Arizona at Pauley Pavilion. This could be the Wildcats’ final chance to play at the historic venue for the indefinite future.

Jaden Bradley dribbles around a UCLA defender | Darryl Webb/AP

If the programs keep trending in the directions they are headed, Cronin won’t want to schedule Arizona.

That sets the table for a game that matters most.

Tommy Lloyd’s team is clicking on all cylinders at the beginning of March. Kylan Boswell scored 19 points against Oregon and is playing the best basketball of his career.

Caleb Love remains efficient and is passing the ball at an elite level.

Over the last four games, he is averaging 5.5 assists each night to go along with 23.3 points. Love is shooting 41.0 percent from three and 48.4 percent from two over the stretch.

Unless Cronin’s defense finds a way to make him inefficient, the Bruins face an uphill climb.

Arizona State at USCusc logo

Thursday, March 7
8:00 pm PT, FS1

The Trojans are playing their best basketball of the season.

Andy Enfield’s squad is the healthiest it’s been all year and Isaiah Collier is playing like a Top 5 pick in the NBA Draft.

The freshman leads USC with 17.0 ppg on 49.6 percent shooting from the field. Collier scored 31 against Washington last game and dropped 24 on Washington State a few days before.

Since returning from injury on February 7, the freshman is putting up 20.5 points each contest.

That’s a problem for Bobby Hurley.

Bronny James handles the ball vs ASU | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Sun Devils have not been playing good defense this season and could get lit up by Collier. He’s particularly deadly around the rim.

A slasher with the ball in his hands, the freshman gets to the rim and scores. His quickness is next level and will put the ASU defender on an island. If Hurley’s defenders lose the one-on-one matchup, it’s over.

On the other end of the court, Arizona State matches up better. Not much of the offense flows through a dominant big and the Sun Devils are full of players that score on the perimeter and midrange.

That should help negate the elite shot-blocking ability of Enfield’s bigs.

In the end, the game could come down to whether or not ASU hits its shots outside of the paint.

California at Stanford

Thursday, March 7
8:00 pm PT, ESPN2

The tides have turned.

California had been in the cellar of the College Basketball world for the last half-decade.

Until Mark Madsen showed up.

Now, the Bears have as many Conference wins as UCLA and could finish as high as fifth place in the regular season Pac-12 standings. And while the turnaround may be a surprise to some, the writing was on the wall.

Madsen brought in the league’s No. 2 transfer class and runs good schemes. That’s really all it takes: good players and strong coaching. Cal has it.

Celestine celebrates hitting 3 free throws to beat Stanford | Jed Jacobsohn/AP

That makes the season finale against Stanford one of the most important games of the year.

The Tree have taken several steps backwards this season and are dealing with another coaching decision controversy that is raising eyebrows.

Jared Bynum hasn’t played since February 7th and the roster may be fracturing as a result. It doesn’t help that Spencer Jones has been dealing with an injury and Kanaan Carlyle is stuck in a shooting slump.

Facing a program on such shaky ground, effort plays will make the difference.

From a personnel standpoint, the defensive matchup between Fardaws Aimaq and Maxime Raynaud will be key. The Stanford big could go off for 25 points and substantially open up the Cardinal offense if Aimaq can’t guard him.

Utah at Oregon State

Thursday, March 7
8:00 pm PT, ESPNU

The Utes have struggled away from Salt Lake City.

Craig Smith’s team is just 1-7 in Conference road games and has just two true road victories on the season.

Taking on Oregon State in Corvallis is no easy task.

The Beavers beat Arizona and Arizona State at Gill Coliseum earlier in the season and have been playing better as of late.

Jordan Pope has his shooting confidence back while Tyler Bilodeau has upped his game.

Jordan Pope shoots a basket vs Utah | Isaac Hale/AP

But Wayne Tinkle’s team is vulnerable in the interior. That’s a major issue facing Utah.

The Utes have three bigs that can all do damage on offense and combine to help produce one of the top rebounding teams in the country.

Branden Carlson, Keba Keita, and Lawson Lovering could all have strong games. And with Deivon Smith running the point, OSU’s flaws could get exposed.

Look for Utah to pound the ball inside on offense and dominate the glass on defense. Unless Pope goes off for 30, a rare Utah road win is a reasonable expectation.


Dane Miller’s Game Picks

2023-24 Week 11 Pac-12 Games


Pick

Colorado at Oregon
Mar 7, 6:00 PM PT
Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon
Washington at Washington State
Mar 7, 6:00 PM PT
Washington State
No. 5 Arizona at UCLA
Mar 7, 6:30 PM PT
Arizona football Pac-12Arizona
Arizona State at USC
Mar 7, 8:00 PM PT
usc logoUSC
Cal at Stanford
Mar 7, 8:00 PM PT
California
Utah at Oregon State
Mar 7, 8:00 PM PT
Utah
 Overall Record 164-75-0 (69%)



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