Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Tournament Previews for Mar 14

Today's matchups feature USC-Arizona, UCLA-Oregon, Stanford-WSU, and Utah-Colorado

Posted on March 14, 2024

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

2024 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament LogoThe first day of the final Pac-12 Tournament did not fail to deliver.

California blew an 18-point second-half lead and lost by 11 in overtime to Stanford.

The collapse was the second-largest in the Tournament’s history and the Tree ended the game on a 42-to-13 run.

It sets the stage for a major set of matchups on Thursday.

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

usc logoArizona football Pac-12No. 9 USC v. No. 1 Arizona

Thursday, March 15
Noon PT, Pac-12 Network

Tommy Lloyd and the Wildcats get a rematch with USC.

The Trojans outplayed Arizona in Los Angeles five days ago, but in some ways, that wasn’t surprising. The Cats had already locked up the Regular Season Championship and were playing in a mostly meaningless game.

Whether or not Lloyd’s roster can flip the switch and play like it’s March, however, remains to be seen.

They better be ready to play because Isaiah Collier is an elite scorer and Boogie Ellis just dropped 25 on Washington.

The 1-seed almost always struggles in the first 10 minutes of the matchup. The key for Arizona will be to prevent early scoring runs.

Oumar Ballo vs. USC | arizonawildcats.com

The USC players are willing to play with pace and have the green light to take shots. If one or two of them get hot early, the game could get uncomfortable.

Oumar Ballo is the X-Factor for the Cats. The UA big should have an advantage in the interior and his ability to finish will be pivotal.

If he plays through the contact and makes his shots around the rim, Arizona will be in a far better position.

Even so, Arizona’s success likely comes down to Caleb Love. He is coming off the worst game of his Wildcat career and is somewhat of a Wild Card.

If Love is forcing shots and missing open looks, USC could secure the upset. But if Love plays like he has most of the year, UA should pull away.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12No. 5 UCLA v. No. 4 Oregon

Thursday, March 15
2:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

UCLA’s Dylan Andrews and Adem Bona combined for 48 of the Bruins’ 67 points on Wednesday.

No other UCLA player scored more than 10 points. If Mick Cronin’s team is going to advance to the Semifinal, he will likely need more balanced scoring.

Enter Lazar Stefanovic.

The junior scored just six against Oregon State but did snag nine rebounds and had just one turnover.  The Serbian arguably holds the key to the Bruins advancing, especially if Andrews and Bona have strong games again.

UCLA’s Dylan Andrews vs. Oregon | Damian Dovarganes/AP

The Ducks take care of the ball well and have a respectably efficient offense. They operate at a medium tempo, too, which might translate well against Cronin’s slow-down defensive style.

The trio of Jermaine Couisnard, N’Faly Dante, and Jackson Shelstad lead the way. The Ducks can knock down their shots from the perimeter and are able to score inside with Dante.

If Couisnard, in particular, gets going from three, watch out.

But Oregon is not the best rebounding team. Offensive rebounds that lead to second-chance opportunities could end up costing UO the game.

Yet, if the Ducks win the rebounding margin and can handle UCLA’s slow pace, an appearance in the Semifinal is a reasonable expectation.

No. 10 Stanford v. No. 2 Washington State

Thursday, March 15
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Stanford stormed back in the second half and beat California in overtime on Wednesday.

Benny Gealer stepped up.

The former walk-on played crucial minutes down the stretch and helped engineer a Cardinal run that forced OT.

His Plus-Minus stat was off the charts, ending the contest with something like a game-changing +26.

The Tree will need strong guard play against Washington State.

Kyle Smith and the Cougs are looking to bounce back after losing to Washington in the final game of the regular season.

Andrej Jakimovski vs. Stanford | WSU Athletics

The Wazzu defense is elite and forces offenses to become inefficient. Smith’s players contest almost every shot and are rarely caught out of position. The result is the league’s No. 1 field goal percentage defense.

If the Cardinal turn the ball over against them, it’s going to be a long game.

True freshman Isaiah Watts has emerged for Washington State. He’s averaging 13.0 ppg over the last three contests and is shooting a combined 14-for-23 (60.8 percent) from the field.

His addition as one of the scorers on offense makes WSU a different team. Watts is 10-of-17 from deep over the last three games. He just isn’t missing many shots.

Compiled on top of the scoring power Smith already has in Isaac Jones, Myles Rice, and Jaylen Wells, and suddenly Wazzu’s offense becomes dangerous.

No. 6 Utah v. No. 3 Colorado

Thursday, March 15
8:30 pm PT, FS1

This might be the Game of the Season so far in the Pac-12.

The stakes are high for both teams. Colorado is on the precipice of securing an at-large bid but would be nervous on Selection Sunday if they lose to the Utes.

Utah, on the other hand, needs this victory to keep its March Madness hopes alive.

Star forward Branden Carlson played through injury on Wednesday and might have a somewhat limited offensive repertoire as a result. He’s clearly not at 100% and might be vulnerable to physical contact in the paint.

That means Eddie Lampkin Jr. has to step up.

Deivon Smith vs. Colorado | Rick Bowmer/AP

Craig Smith has three bigs to rotate against him, but Lampkin has the physicality necessary to take advantage.

Still, the Pac-12 is KJ Simpson’s world and we are all just living in it.

The Junior guard is one of the best players in the country and could go off. Simpson scored 25 against Utah in the first game and 28 against the Utes in the second game.

The two teams split the regular season with each winning on their home floor.

The rubber match is huge.

For CU to advance, it must keep the rebounding margin competitive and limit turnovers.

Dane Miller’s Game Picks

2023-24 Pac-12 Tournament Games


No. 9 USC vs. No. 1 Arizona
Mar 14, Noon PT
Arizona football Pac-12Arizona
No. 5 UCLA vs No. 4 Oregon
Mar 14, 2:30 PM PT
Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon
No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 2 Washington State
Mar 14, 6:00 PM PT
Washington State
No. 6 Utah vs. No. 3 Colorado
Mar 14, 8:30 PM PT
This Week 3-1-0 (75%)
 Overall Record 172-81-0 (68%)

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