Stephen Vilardo’s Week 9 SuperWest Hoops ‘Games to Watch’

The Pac-12 will see some teams in the middle of the standings going head-to-head

Posted on January 4, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

This week we get some rivalry matchups and a heavy dose of Mountain West games that could prove big down the stretch.

While that conference may see some separation at the top in the next week, the Pac-12 will see some teams potentially duking it out in the middle of the standings going head-to-head.

In the West Coast Conference, it is still Gonzaga’s domain. But the Zags will visit a couple of teams this week that may be inching closer. And if they want to prove they are then this week is the week to do it.

Here are some intriguing matchups for the coming week.

Colorado State at Nevada

Wednesday, January 4
7:30 pm PST, FS1

Nevada looks like a team that could challenge in a very competitive Mountain West.

The Rams have at times this season looked like they could be a team to reckon with, despite being a bit up and down in the non-conference.

Jarod Lucas is coming off a career-high and is averaging 17.4 points per game this season. The Wolf Pack attack the rim and get to the fouls stripe, 26.0% of their points have come from the FT line.

CSU is seeing 16.1% of opponents’ points come from the stripe as they are 91st in the nation with a foul committed on 22.4% of possessions. The Rams are second in the NCAA with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.73.

Washington State at Arizona State

Thursday, January 5
5:00 pm PST, Pac-12

This is an interesting matchup in the fact that Washington State looked good last week picking up a win over USC and taking UCLA to the wire, losing by one.

Pulling the road upset over Arizona State will be difficult. The Cougars have won three of the last five meetings between the teams in Tempe, however.

Against USC the Cougs knocked down 14 three-pointers. TJ Bamba leads WSU this season in scoring at 15.9 points per game and three of the four players averaging over 10 points per contest for WSU are guards with Joe Mullins and Justin Powell joining.

The three have combined to shoot 44.3% from the field this season.

ASU has been stingy on defense, especially against guards. The Sun Devils are limiting opposing backcourt players to just 33% from the field.

usc logoUSC at No. 10 UCLA

Thursday, January 5
6:30 pm PST, ESPN

UCLA owns the sixth-longest win streak in the nation at 10 games.

The Bruins won the last two meetings between the teams, but USC has won six of the last nine between the rivals and owns a four-game win streak in games played at the Galen Center.

The Trojans will need to play a solid game if they hope to continue that streak. UCLA is third in the nation with 9.2 more scoring chances per game than opponents.

USC is getting 2.3 fewer scoring chances per game than opponents, and that –2.3 mark ranks 271st in the nation.

The Trojans are blocking 9.4% of opponents’ field goal attempts, the thirteenth-best in the nation while the Bruins are only seeing 4.2% of their shots come back at them.

Something has to give there.

The Bruins enter this one with momentum and should be the favorite, but in the rivalry, you never know.

No. 9 Gonzaga at San Francisco

Thursday, January 5
8:00 pm PST, ESPN2

This is a game I had on my radar since the start of the season. It has lost some of its luster with San Francisco off to an 0-2 start to conference play.

The Dons loss at Santa Clara was not a bad loss, the one at home to San Diego while giving up 48 in the second half was a bit of a shock. Gonzaga has won 24 in a row over the Dons and 27 of the last 28.

USF will need to shoot the three like they did against Arizona State if they want a win in this one. 40.4% of San Francisco’s points this season have come off of threes, the 10th-highest rate in the country. The Zags are allowing opponents to shoot 31.7% on threes.

Gonzaga has won 33 straight games in the month of January.

Stanford at California

Friday, January 6
6:00 pm PST, ESPNU

Stanford and Cal have split their last 16 evenly. Last season the teams split their two meetings with the home team winning each time. In the two meetings, the teams combined to score 199 points in total.

Last year in the loss in Berkeley, Stanford made just 12 field goals. Cal got their second win of the season over Colorado last time out in a game they led all but 26 seconds.

The Cardinal were swept by the Mountain schools last weekend, dropping both games by eight points total.

This one is a rivalry, though, and who knows what might happen in a big rivalry game.

Nevada at San Jose State

Saturday, January 7
1:00 pm PST, Mountain West 

This has unexpectedly turned into a pivotal early season matchup in the Mountain West.

San Jose State opened Mountain West play 2-0 for the first time ever after winning their first conference game for the first time since the 2013-14 season. The Spartans are eighth in the nation with a total rebound rate of 56.1%.

Nevada is 334th in the nation with an offensive rebound rate of 20.0% while the Spartans are getting 81.4% of defensive rebounds available, the fourth-highest rate in the country.

Utah State at Boise State

Saturday, January 7
3:30 pm PST, FS1

This is an interesting matchup as strengths will go head-to-head.

Boise State enters the week leading the Conference and 14th in the nation allowing 59.4 points per game. Utah State enters the week averaging 83.8 points per game, also 14th-best in the country.

The Broncos have rebounded well all season and have limited second-chance points for opponents with a defensive rebound rate of over 80%. The Aggies enter the week shooting an NCAA-leading 43.1% on three-pointers.

Obviously, if the threes are going down then there will not be many chances for Boise State to grab the defensive boards, but the misses could cause some long rebounds and it could change the games.

Boise State is tough against shots, though, as they are limiting opponents to 37.8% from the floor.

Oregon at Utah

Saturday, January 7
4:00 pm PST, Pac-12

All four of the games between the Oregon schools and the Mountain schools this week could be on this list quite honestly. They are intriguing and could really go either way.

If I were to pick them—and you can see my picks in Dane’s article—I’d say these two are winning the weekday games, but nothing is guaranteed with Utah, and Oregon struggles in Boulder.

So having said that, this one could take on more meaning as two teams that look like they may be fighting it out for the top of the second tier in the Pac-12.

Utah is limiting opponents to 36.0% from the field, the fourth-best mark in America. The Ducks are shooting 45.3% from the floor. Both teams are protecting the rim with the Ducks blocking 9.0% of FG attempts, 21st in the nation, and Utah is just behind them at 8.9%.

UNLV at No. 21 New Mexico

Saturday, January 7
6:30 pm PST, CBS Sports

UNLV forces turnovers and New Mexico keeps a hold of the ball.

The Lobos, who lost their first game on Tuesday to Fresno State, are turning the ball over on 15.6% of their possessions, the 34th-best mark in the nation. The Rebels are second in the nation, forcing a turnover on 28.0% of possessions.

As a result, the Rebels average 6.2 more scoring chances per game than opponents, 17th in the nation. UNM is getting 2.8 more scoring opportunities per game than opponents.

The Lobos have more offensive firepower and UNLV will have to deal with that. New Mexico will get the ball inside as 28.4% of their shot attempts have been three-pointers, which is the 21st-fewest rate in the nation.

Oregon State at Colorado

Saturday, January 7
6:30 pm PST, Pac-12

Both teams will have a midweek game, with the Buffs hosting Oregon and OSU at Utah.

This is a big game for both teams regardless of the outcome in the first games of the week. Both teams can view this game as one they can win.

For the Beavers, it is going on the road and stealing a win. For the Buffs, it is holding serve at home and not losing the advantage they gained with the road win at Stanford.

The loss at Cal also must still sting for CU and they can’t afford to drop winnable games at home.

No. 9 Gonzaga at Santa Clara

Saturday, January 7
7:00 pm PST, Root Sports

Gonzaga has won 89 consecutive games over nonconference opponents and by the time this one tips off, that streak could be at 90.

Santa Clara has looked like a team that could give the Zags a run. A three-point loss to Saint Mary’s prevented the Broncos from a 2-0 conference start.

But heading into their mid-week tilt with Pepperdine, SC has won 10 of their last 12 and has a legitimate scorer in Brandin Podziemski has averaged 18.8 points per game while shooting 46.2% from the field in his last four games.

Gonzaga is 45-2 in the last 47 meetings between the two teams. The Zags are shooting 61.4% on non-blocked two-point FGs and their inside play may prove too much for Santa Clara, with Gonzaga shooting an NCAA-leading 52.6% from the floor.

Nevada at San Diego State

Tuesday, January 10
8:00 pm PST, CBS Sports

This one is a week away, so a lot of things may change between this writing and the tip-off, but a week out this one has the feel of a good one.

The Aztecs have a trip to Wyoming prior to this contest while Nevada hosts Colorado State and heads to San Jose, another potential meeting of undefeated teams.

On the court, SDSU will get after it on the defensive and the Wolf Pack will knock get to the free-throw line and knock them down.

The Aztecs are finding their stride and Matt Bradley picked things up on the offensive end last week for them averaging 25.0 points per game last week.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—