Posted on November 11, 2022
USC dropped a shocker to Florida Gulf Coast, while Oregon State rallied to beat Tulsa at Gill Coliseum. California lost to UC Davis, as well, but that defeat was fairly predictable.
With a handful of pivotal matchups from Friday through Sunday, the Pac-12 as a whole can continue to build its nationwide reputation.
As always, the results in nonconference play shape the number of teams the Conference gets into the NCAA Tournament, and there are substantial opportunities over the next few days.
I preview six select matchups here and my picks for all the games over the holiday weekend will periodically appear at the bottom once the official odds are posted.
CSU Bakersfield at Utah
Friday, November 11
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
Picked to finish eighth in the Big West’s Coaches Poll, the group is somewhat of an unknown, although the roster is likely a far cry from their 2016 NCAA Tournament squad.
With three transfers and four freshmen added to the roster, the Roadrunners’ strength is their guards. Led by Marvin McGhee III and forward Cameron Smith, CSU Bakersfield operates one of the slowest-paced offenses in the nation.
Getting the Roadrunners out of their comfort zone with a quick tempo is probably part of Craig Smith’s game plan. At the same time, exploiting CSU Bakersfield’s lack of interior size is likely a primary talking point.
Look for Branden Carlson to have a field day in the paint, with Ben Carlson and Keba Keita contributing meaningful minutes, too.
Stanford vs Wisconsin
Friday, November 11
4:30 pm PT, FS1
The Badgers are expected to be in a down year after their Round of 32 loss in the NCAA Tournament last season. Picked to finish ninth in the Big 10, Wisconsin does most of its damage with its starting five.
As such, the Badgers’ depth issues are apparent, which favors the Cardinal.
Jerod Haase legitimately rotates nine contributors and has various interchangeable pieces and lineups to employ.
Taking care of the ball will be pivotal, though. Turnovers have burdened Stanford for several seasons and it committed 16 against Pacific. As a comparison, Wisconsin only gave up 10 in its opener to South Dakota.
If the Tree wins the turnover battle or at least draws the points-off-turnovers margin, they have enough talent to secure the victory.
UC Irvine at No. 21 Oregon
Friday, November 11
8:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
With nine-straight winning seasons, the Anteaters won’t be intimidated by the atmosphere at Matthew Knight Arena.
But, matched up against a team still working to finalize their rotation, a strong start from the Ducks should put the game to bed early.
To a certain extent, UC Irvine has players in the interior that can match up height-wise with Oregon’s three bigs. The difference, though, is the skill level of those big men.
N’Faly Dante, Nate Bittle, and Kel’el Ware are head and shoulders above what the Anteaters field in the paint.
The Oregon guards are superior as well, setting the table for what should be a 20-plus point victory for the Ducks.
Washington State at Boise State
Saturday, November 12
4:00 pm PT, Mountain West Network
The Jackrabbits are a respectable program and the loss was arguably not surprising.
If anything, the stumble motivated BSU to seek some revenge against Wazzu.
It’s still early in the season, yet the Cougars appear to have reimagined their offense. Too often resorting to one-on-one “hero ball” over the last few seasons, Tennessee transfer Justin Powell has changed the dynamic.
His career-high 12 assists helped produce four WSU players scoring in double-digits, an offensive development that substantially changes the perception of this year’s squad. If the trend continues.
Look for the Cougs to exploit their advantages on the offensive interior while emphasizing defending the perimeter on defense.
Colorado at No. 11 Tennessee
Sunday, November 13
11:00 am PT, ESPN
Ranked No. 11, Tennessee is picked to finish third in the SEC after its disappointing flameout in the Round of 32 of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Led by a handful of upperclassmen guards, the Volunteers present a formidable challenge.
Utilizing a 7-deep rotation, Tennessee willingly shares the ball and is a strong offensive rebounding team. The Vols are elite on defense, too, creating 17 steals in the opener.
But UT was sloppy in its first game, committing 15 turnovers and opening the door for Tad Boyle’s squad.
It won’t be easy, but if CU can limit Tennessee’s offensive rebounds while forcing turnovers it may have enough offensive firepower to keep the game within striking distance in the second half.
Arizona State at Texas Southern
Sunday, November 13
Noon PT, ESPN+
It’s the most anticipated home nonconference matchup since Houston came to the Health and Physical Education Arena in 2001.
The home crowd promises to be hyped for the historic showdown, genuinely believing they can pull off the victory. It’s a tough set of circumstances for an ASU team that nearly lost to Tarleton State in the opener.
Texas Southern’s nonconference model for the last 10 years has been to play high majors on the road, presumably to fund the athletics department but also to gain experience for SWAC play.
It’s worked well, too, with TSU making the NCAA Tournament six times since the start of the 2013-14 season including back-to-back appearances the last two years.
Bobby Hurley’s team must utilize their interior height advantage and his guards can’t go 11-for-38 from the field as they did in the opener.
If they don’t take a step forward, a Texas Southern victory arguably wouldn’t be a shock.
Dane Miller’s Game Picks
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