Dane Miller’s Pac-12 1st-Round NCAA Tournament Previews

Arizona, Oregon, and WSU look to build on CU's win over Boise State and remain undefeated

Posted on March 20, 2024

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

The Pac-12 entered the Big Dance with four teams in, and all four remain after Colorado’s win over Boise State on Tuesday.

Arizona, Oregon, and Washington State look to keep the Conference undefeated in today’s First-Round contests against Long Beach State, South Carolina, and Drake, respectively.

The Wildcats are heavy favorites while the Ducks and Cougars are narrow underdogs.

I preview all three matchups here and my game picks appear at the bottom.

15-seed Long Beach State v. 2-seed ArizonaArizona football Pac-12

Thursday, March 21
11:00 am PT, TBS
Salt Lake City, Utah

Arizona’s star players are cold.

Caleb Love is 7-for-34 from the field over the last three games. Pelle Larsson is 9-for-22 over the same stretch. And Kylan Boswell is 4-for-23.

The Wildcats are playing their worst basketball of the season.

To break out of the funk, Love has to take over the game. The team is at its best when he is playing confidently and freely. A faster pace tends to help because it allows for Arizona to make mistakes and recover quickly.

But if the pace is slowed down against a physical and lengthy defense, the Wildcats could struggle.

Long Beach State does have the country’s No. 141 field goal percentage defense which would put it sixth in the Pac-12.

Caleb Love vs Oregon | Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

But LBSU’s pace is No. 27 per KenPom. That’s not the type of team that is built to frustrate the Cats. At least if they run their normal game plan.

But if Dan Monson finds a way to keep the pace slow, anything can happen.

Still, LBSU has a turnover problem. Long Beach State enters the game No. 259 nationally in turnovers per contest which would be ninth in the Conference of Champions.

Making matters worse, Monson’s team is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country (315th out of 351).

It’s an analytical nightmare matchup for the Beach. To get the shocking upset, they will have to limit turnovers and hit their threes.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-1211-seed Oregon v. 6-seed South Carolina

Thursday, March 21
1:00 pm PT, TNT
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

South Carolina shares the ball and doesn’t turn it over.

The Gamecocks are 50th nationally in assists per game and 41st in turnovers per contest.

But they operate at a snail’s pace. Out of all 362 teams in the KenPom metrics, South Carolina is 354th in pace.

That means they value every possession and take their time to get a good shot. It’s the polar opposite of the last two offenses Oregon has faced to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona and Colorado like to run and gun. Instead, South Carolina’s pace is most comparable to UCLA.

N’Faly Dante vs Colorado | Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

In half-court games that grind to a halt, rebounding is pivotal. Second-chance opportunities could be backbreaking and make the difference in a win or loss.

South Carolina has respectable height among its primary contributors, but it doesn’t have a dominant big like N’Faly Dante.

Oregon has struggled to rebound through most of the year and enters the game No. 247 in rebounds per game. The Gamecocks are slightly better at No. 140, setting the table for what might be the deciding battle.

If the Ducks win the rebounding margin and limit their turnovers, the Oregon magic could survive another day.

10-seed Drake v. 7-seed Washington State

Thursday, March 21
7:05 pm PT, truTV
Omaha, Nebraska

The Cougars have stumbled into the NCAA Tournament.

Kyle Smith’s team has lost two of their last three games and faces a Drake squad that’s fresh off a tournament run in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Bulldogs have an efficient offense and run at a moderate pace. They are not a strong rebounding team and rarely block shots. That makes their defense suspect and could make them vulnerable to Wazzu’s slow-down pace.

Tucker DeVries leads Drake in minutes played per game, scoring, shot attempts per game, and turnovers per game.

The offense mostly flows through him and a few supporting players, making the defensive game plan somewhat straightforward.

If DeVries is adequately contained, Drake will be in a tougher position.

Eric Lee/St Louis Public Radio
Drake’s Darnell Brodie blocks a shot | Eric Lee/St Louis Public Radio

Even so, Washington State’s offense has to step up.

Myles Rice has been ice cold from three over the last seven games, going 0-for-22 from the perimeter over the stretch. If he continues to miss from three, Wazzu’s offensive struggles could continue.

But the key might be shutting down Darnell Brodie.

The senior forward is 6-foot-10 and 275-pounds. He averages 11.3 ppg and 7.9 rbg.

If Brodie is winning the battles against Oscar Cluff and Rueben Chinyelu, Washington State could be in trouble.

Wednesday’s Result: Colorado 60, Boise State 53

Wednesday, March 20
6:10 pm PT, truTV
Dayton, Ohio

Neither of these teams should have been in the Play-In Game.

It’s a shame that one of them will get knocked out before the First Round even begins. But the winner will be in position to go on a deep run.

Boise State has length. The top three scorers are 6-foot-8, 6-foot-7, and 6-foot-8. The height helps out on defense, pushing the Broncos to No. 28 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric.

That translates to the third-best defense in the Pac-12.

It won’t be an easy game, but Boise State doesn’t have a dominant big.

That is a fatal problem facing Colorado. Eddie Lampkin Jr. is a beast that’s playing his best basketball of the season.

Lampkin Jr. vs Oregon | Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

Without an adequate opposing big to stop him, Lampkin could go off.

Staying out of foul trouble, then, becomes a vital part of Tad Boyle’s game plan. Lampkin can’t pick up his first personal foul early in the game or he might be forced to the bench.

That would level the playing field and force the CU guards to contend more with Boise State’s lengthy defenders.

Yet, KJ Simpson is the player that will decide the game.

If he’s scoring efficiently and getting buckets around the rim, it could be over for Boise State.

Dane Miller’s Game Picks

Pac-12 Matchups in 2024 NCAA Tournament


No. 15 Long Beach State vs. No. 2 Arizona
Mar 21, 11:00 AM PT
Arizona football Pac-12Arizona
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 6 South Carolina
Mar 21, 1:00 PM PT
Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon
No. 10 Drake vs. No. 7 Washington State
Mar 21, 7:05 PM PT
This Week 1-0 (100%)
 Overall Record 178-83-0 (68%)

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