Stephen Vilardo’s Week 17 SuperWest Games to Watch

With the Pac-12 title decided, the Arizona schools will battle the L.A. schools for pride & seeding

Posted on March 1, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

As we reach March, things begin to spring back to life and the action on the hardwood heats up.

The game that looked like it would decide the Pac-12 Championship no longer has those implications, but should be a heck of a showdown, nonetheless.

On the other side of Los Angeles tipping off an hour later the same day may be a game that could be far more important to the season goals of the combatants.

This week the WCC Tournament starts and the championship in Las Vegas looks to be round three of the League’s two heavies.

Washington State at Washington

Thursday, March 2
8:00 pm PT, ESPNU

The Cougars enter this one having won five in a row and carrying some major momentum to close out the season.

It is a win streak that started with the 56-51 win over the Huskies inside Beasley Coliseum. The victory was the fifth for the Cougars in the last seven meetings in the series.

WSU will be looking to sweep their arch-rivals in the regular season for the second time in the last four campaigns.

The Cougars are rebounding this season at a rate of 52.1%, the 76th-best mark in the nation. The Huskies are 309th in total rebound rate at 47.3%.

Washington will alter shots and does so at a high rate, ranking 12th in the nation with a blocked shot rate of 8.7% in their loss at Stanford they dipped to 3.4%. As a result, the Huskies allowed almost 50% shooting from the floor.

Washington State could move up to fifth in the Pac-12 with a win and some help. That would earn them a First-Round bye in Las Vegas.

Washington can finish no higher than the eighth spot they are in but could certainly fall as low as 10th depending upon how things shake out.

San Jose State at Air Force

Saturday, March 4
1:00 pm PT, Mountain West

San Jose State is enjoying one of its best seasons in a long time. Tim Miles is a very good coach and it is no surprise things are starting to click for the Spartans.

SJSU has already collected the most wins by a Spartan squad since 1975, except the 1980/81 team, which picked up 22.

A big reason is the consistency in the starting lineup. SJSU is one of only six teams nationally to use only one starting lineup this season.

Rebounding is another big reason. The Spartans are eighth in the nation with a total rebound rate of 55.2% and have upped it to nearly 60% in their last three games.

Air Force ranks 306th in rebounding at 47.4% on the season. The Spartans could control the glass and own the second-chance putbacks as they are getting 33.6% of their own misses, 17th best in America.

The Falcons are also experiencing one of their better seasons in a while. AFA put together their longest conference win streak since 2013 earlier this season.

Air Force will work the ball for the open shot and rank sixth in the nation with an assist rate of 65.3%. Rytis Petraitis made 98 FTs this season, the most by an Air Force freshman.

Stanford at OregonOregon Ducks Logo Pac-12

Saturday, March 4
1:00 pm PT, CBS

Stanford has not won a game in Eugene since 2014 and has not swept the season series from the Ducks since the 2009-10 season.

Both teams have performed below preseason expectations. It is fair to say both teams have shown glimpses this season of why expectations were there.

For Oregon, an NCAA bid is not completely out of reach.

Oregon is 25th in the nation with a blocked shot rate of 8.1% on the season. They are being led in that department by Kel’el Ware who is 11th in the country with 1.4 blocked shots per foul.

The Ducks will need to take care of things this week, first with Cal and then against the Cardinal. Then they still may have work to do in Las Vegas and hope for help around the country.

Winning both games this week, coupled with a pair of ASU losses in Los Angeles, would assure the Ducks of a First-Round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.

UNLV at Nevada

Saturday, March 4
1:00 pm PT, Mountain West

This a Huge game for bragging rights in the state of Nevada and a huge game for the Wolf Pack as they search for an NCAA bid.

The Rebels have won three in a row in the series, including a 68-62 win in Las Vegas earlier this season. UNLV came to Reno and left with a win last season, breaking a four-game losing streak at Nevada.

The Wolf Pack are coming off a tough loss at Wyoming, but own a 7-0 record this season following a loss and have won 14 in a row at the Lawlor Events Center.

Both teams are forcing turnovers: UNLV is third in the nation with a turnover forced on 24.7% of possessions and Nevada has turned things up recently.

The Wolf Pack forced a Wyoming turnover on 25.0% of possessions and are at 23.2% in their last three games.

This season the Rebels are getting an average of 5.0 more scoring opportunities than their opponents.

Utah at Colorado

Saturday, March 4
2:30 pm PT, Pac-12

Utah is looking to sweep the season series from Colorado for the first time since 2016-17.

Since the two schools joined the Pac-12, the Utes hold a 13-11 edge in the series. The home team has been the victor in 42 of 62 meetings between the squads.

The Utes are 11th in the nation with a FG defense of 39.4%. Utah is holding opponents to just 50% on non-blocked two-point FGs this season, the 10th-best defensive number in America.

In their last three games, the Buffaloes have shot just 46.9% on non-blocked two-point shots. Against UCLA they were limited to 39.3% in that category.

This one could be big for seeding purposes as the Utes still have a chance at a five-seed and bye in the conference tournament, but they would need help as well.

The Utes also are eying an NCAA bid and need this win.

For Colorado, a win would assure them of a .500 record at least and offer them a chance at an NIT birth.

California at Oregon State

Saturday, March 4
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12

California enters the week having lost 13 straight games and 12 in a row on the road.

That 13-game run is the third longest in the nation and the 112 straight road losses is the 10th longest streak going right now. The Bears will have one at Oregon earlier in the week, so those figures could grow by one each.

This is the better shot at a win for the Bears. The Beavers took the first meeting between the team by 20 points in Berkeley and have won four of the last five times the teams have met at Gill Coliseum.

In the first meeting, the Beavers ended with +12 in points off turnovers and +7 on second-chance points. That is an issue that has been problematic for the Bears all season.

They rank 303rd in the nation with an offensive rebound rate of 22.3%, in their most recent loss to Washington State the Bears collected just 9.4% of their offensive misses.

Cal’s total rebound rate of 47.7% is 293rd in the country only slightly better than the rate of the Beavers at 47.5%.

Boise State at Utah State

Saturday, March 4
6:00 pm PT, Mountain West

This is a big one in the standings of the Mountain West and may have huge NCAA implications. Both teams have their eyes set on March but have some work to do.

The Aggies are averaging 78.4 per game, to rank 36th in the nation in offensive production. Boise State is stingy on the defensive side of the court.

The Broncos are allowing 63.1 per game to rank 26th in the nation.

Boise State has been exceptionally good inside ExtraMile Arena this season but has gone just 5-5 in true road games this season.

Utah State is 13-2 in games played in Logan this season.

The real strength on strength in this one will be three-point shooting.

The Broncos are incredibly good against the three, limiting opponents to 29.9% from distance—18th in the nation. The Aggies are the second-best three-point shooting team in the nation at 40.0% on triples.

Whose strength is the strongest could have the edge in this one and end up one step closer to punching their ticket to the Big Dance.

Arizona football Pac-12No. 8 Arizona at No. 4 UCLA

Saturday, March 4
7:00 pm PT, ESPN

Obviously when the schedule came out, we were all looking forward to this one. The final regular-season game of the year to decide the Pac-12 champion.

The shine has obviously dulled slightly with the Bruins already clinching the outright Pac-12 regular season title. But it’s still a big one and a lot to get excited about.

The Wildcats have won the last three between the teams but have lost the last four meetings in Los Angeles. The last three have been decided by an average of 8.3 points per game.

The last four times the teams have met at Pauley have not been quite as closely contested with the Bruins taking them by an average of 14.0 points per game.

UCLA is tied for the NCAA lead with 8.8 more scoring chances per game than opponents, the Wildcats are 204th a -0.5 in that category.

Interestingly, the Bruins were -4.0 against Colorado last time out while Arizona was -1.0 in their loss to ASU.

UCLA currently owns a 23-game win streak at home and that NCAA-leading streak would be at 24 when these two meet if UCLA can get past ASU on Thursday.

The Bruins eight-game win streak overall is the eighth longest in the nation currently.

Arizona State at USC

Saturday, March 4
8:00 pm PT, FS1

Arizona State and USC close the regular season in Pac-12 with a Saturday night meeting at the Galen Center.

The Trojans enter the week with a 14-game winning streak on their home floor, the 10th-longest run in the nation.

Obviously, the Trojans have a tough matchup with Arizona if they hope to enter this game with that being a 15-game streak.

USC is 10th nationally with a blocked shot rate of 8.8% the Sun Devils are 19th at 8.4%.

When these two do not reject shots they are still altering them. USC is limiting opponents to a shooting percentage of 49.1% on non-blocked two-point FGs, fifth in the nation, while ASU is seeing opponents shoot just 50.1% on those attempts, ranking 13th in the country.

USC took the first meeting in Tempe 77-69. It was the sixth straight win for the Trojans over the Sun Devils. USC has also won six in a row in the series when playing in Los Angeles.

The last time Arizona State returned home with a win at USC was 2014.

WCC Championship

Tuesday, March 7
6:00 pm PT

This most likely will be round three between Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.

If that is indeed the matchup, then we will once again see the contrasting styles of play. Saint Mary’s will slow it down and play tight defense. The Zags will speed things up and outscore you.

The home teams were 2-0 this season. What will a neutral floor bring us? The Gaels are fourth in the nation in scoring defense allowing just 59.3 per game. Gonzaga leads the nation in scoring at 87.4 points per game.

Both teams lost in the regular season to Loyola Marymount. Can Cam Shelton and the Lions pull another upset in the tournament?

They would have SMC in the semifinals. The other side could bring Santa Clara and their seven-game win streak. Should the streak reach 10 games, they would be dancing in March.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—