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Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Tournament Previews for Mar 13

For the other nine teams outside of Arizona, Washington State, and Colorado: It’s win-out or die

Posted on March 13, 2024

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

The entire year has led to this point.

Pac-12At most, the Pac-12 is looking at two at-large bids plus the automatic bid that’s handed out from winning the Tournament.

Colorado has surged lately and enters Vegas with a strong enough resume to sneak in.

But, as for the other nine teams outside of Arizona, Washington State, and CU: It’s do or die.

I preview the First Round games of the Pac-12 Tournament here and my picks appear at the bottom.

Washington football pac-12No. 8 Washington v. No. 9 USCusc logo

Wednesday, March 13
Noon PT, Pac-12 Network

USC might be the team nobody wants to play.

The Trojans struggled to stay healthy all season and finally have their full roster together.

Boogie Ellis and Isaiah Collier lead the way. The duo each average 16.6 points per game and combine for 7.2 assists per night.

But the momentum is meaningless if they can’t get by Washington.

The Huskies have more talent than perhaps any other 8-seed since expansion in 2011-12. Keion Brooks Jr. is one of the top players in the league and Koren Johnson has become an elite scorer.

Boogie Ellis vs Arizona | Jose Marcio Sanchez/AP

If either is hot from the field, UW will be tough to beat.

Rebounding could decide the game. Both teams are poor on the glass but Mike Hopkins’ squad runs a faster pace.

That means if Washington is able to convert defensive rebounds to transition scores, the number of possessions should favor UW.

More possessions equal more opportunities to score. But it does require efficient shooting.

KenPom gives Washington the 31st-quickest tempo in the nation compared to USC down at 129th. The analytic index also puts the Husky’s offensive efficiency at 41st with USC mired down at 95th.

If the game devolves into a high-scoring affair, the advantage on paper is UW.

No. 5 UCLA v. No. 12 Oregon State

Wednesday, March 13
2:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

If the Bruins think they can walk into this game, show up, and win, they’ve got another thing coming.

Oregon State has been playing well over the last few weeks. Sophomore Michael Rataj has been a key component in the resurgence.

And after the run OSU went on in 2021 with Wayne Tinkle at the helm, you can bet his players will come out playing like there’s no tomorrow.

Jordan Pope and Tyler Bilodeau lead the way. The second-year duo are efficient, somewhat high-volume, shooters that are the engine of the Beaver offense.

If Pope, in particular, gets hot from the field, Mick Cronin’s team could be in trouble.

Jordan Pope vs Utah | Mark Ylen/AP

UCLA doesn’t have a lockdown defender that Cronin has had in years past. There’s no obvious solution for Pope.

The rest of the matchups are manageable. Berke Buyuktuncel is an adequate defensive match for Bilodeau and Cronin has Brandon Williams to guard Rataj.

That could make the game come down to Adem Bona. The Beavers do not have a strong interior presence, although KC Ibekwe has flashed lately.

If Bona dominates the paint on both sides of the glass while staying out of foul trouble, UCLA has a chance to avoid what would be one of the worst ends to a season in program history.

No. 7 California v. No. 10 Stanford

Wednesday, March 13
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Bears have stumbled into the Pac-12 Tournament.

Mark Madsen’s group has lost three straight games and has struggled on the defensive side.

In the three losses, Cal has given up an average of 85.3 points per game.

That’s not going to get it done in March. To beat Stanford, the Bears must get it together on defense. The Cardinal are talented and just stomped Madsen’s team by 22 last week.

Momentum isn’t on the Bears’ side.

Spencer Jones vs Cal | Neville E. Guard/USA TODAY Sports

But there’s nothing like facing a win-or-go-home situation. California doesn’t have a strong enough record to get to any postseason tournaments, making this contest all or nothing.

The same could be said of Stanford, too, although the Tree are dealing with their own internal strife and might be somewhat relieved once the season is over.

Slowing down Maxime Raynaud is a must. If he’s able to shoot efficiently and easily pass the ball from the perimeter, Stanford’s entire offense is opened up.

Fardaws Aimaq could struggle to contain him again. If that happens, Cal might be in an uphill battle to outscore the Tree.

No. 6 Utah v. No. 11 Arizona State

Wednesday, March 13
8:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Jose Perez quit the team.

However you want to phrase it, or whatever reasons you attribute to it, there’s no denying that he abandoned his team at the most crucial time of the season.

Suddenly, the Sun Devils don’t have their second-leading scorer, who had played almost 31 minutes a game.

Perez was Bobby Hurley’s most efficient three-point shooter, although he would score most of his points in the midrange or around the rim.

His loss is significant. Both from a personnel standpoint and a team morale optic.

Frankie Collins vs USC | Dom Contini/ASU Athletics

Utah has not been playing good basketball recently. Branden Carlson got injured against Oregon and his status is questionable. If he can’t go, the Utes will be without their leading scorer and senior leader.

But role players are necessary to go on a run in March and Utah is essentially forced to win the Pac-12 Tournament to make it to the Big Dance. Translation, Craig Smith already needed his role players to step up.

Cole Bajema, as an example, can single-handedly change games. His ability to get hot from three could be the X-Factor in Utah advancing to face Colorado.

On the other bench, this game will show what Hurley’s program is truly about. How his players react to Perez leaving should indicate the type of program Hurley runs.

Dane Miller’s Game Picks

2023-24 Week 11 Pac-12 Games


No. 8 Washington vs. No. 9 USC
Mar 13, Noon PT
usc logoUSC
No. 5 UCLA vs No. 12 Oregon State
Mar 13, 2:30 PM PT
Oregon State
No. 7 California vs. No. 10 Stanford
Mar 13, 6:00 PM PT
No. 6 Utah vs. No. 11 Arizona State
Mar 13, 8:30 PM PT
 Overall Record 169-80-0 (68%)

—More from Dane Miller—