Posted on January 12, 2022
The Conference witnessed its first major upset of the season this week when Stanford took down previously unbeaten USC at Maples Pavilion.
The victory moved the needle for the Cardinal’s at-large chances, drawing the nation’s attention to Harrison Ingram in the process.
The true freshman is on his way as a lottery pick and appears a lock for the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after dropping 21 on the Trojans.
Washington handled Cal on Wednesday, setting up some key showdowns today.
With the conference race in full swing and nearly every program back from their pauses, the results of the next two days will begin to shape the picture as March begins to inch closer.
I preview all five games here, and my picks appear at the bottom.
Stanford at Washington State
Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum, Pullman, WA
Thursday, January 13
2:00 pm PT, ESPNU
Winning at home is one thing, but getting the job done on the road is an entirely different story.
The Tree face a Washington State team fighting to position itself for an at-large bid, with a roster that knows a loss at home would erode that goal.
Generally balanced on paper, the Cougars have an advantage in two key categories: blocked shots and turnovers committed.
If WSU holds steady in the paint and takes care of the ball, Stanford could find itself fighting from behind all game.
Kyle Smith’s team is 5-0 when posting 14 assists or more, demonstrating the effectiveness of playing team basketball.
The key to watch is Washington State’s assist-to-field-goal ratio, where isolation “hero ball” could spell trouble for the Cougars.
But Smith knows sharing the rock is the ticket to victory, and his team should get the job done with offensive rebounding and outside shooting.
Oregon at No. 3 UCLA
Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Thursday, January 13
6:30 pm PT, ESPN
But the Duck-Bruin rivalry has produced several Instant Classics over the past decade, and the absence of fans won’t eliminate the potential for another historic finish.
Analytically, UO is outclassed on paper across the board. The Bruins hold the edge in points per game, three-point percentage, rebounds per night, assists per contest, turnovers committed per game, and blocked shots.
But the Ducks have a slight advantage in field goal percentage. That could open a sliver of daylight for Oregon to take advantage of.
A hot night from the field combined with effective doses of Dana Altman’s zone-press scheme could lead to a UO upset.
Still, the Ducks might have to play a near-perfect game to get it done, with turnovers leading to fast break points from start to finish.
A victory, though, would jumpstart Oregon’s chances to reach the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team.
Colorado at No. 6 Arizona
McKale Center, Tucson, AZ
Thursday, January 13
8:00 pm PT, FS1
In fact, the last time Colorado beat Arizona in Tucson, Dwight Eisenhower was the President and the Beatles had yet to release their first album.
Facing the top offense in the nation, CU must keep pace with Tommy Lloyd’s Wildcats. With multiple weapons across every position, Arizona gets it done differently each game.
Christian Koloko can go off if left unchecked, Azuolas Tubelis is a matchup nightmare, Bennedict Mathurin can put up 30 without a problem, and Kerr Kriisa can rain threes from anywhere.
And that’s without mentioning Mr. Do-Everything, Dalen Terry.
The only way for the Buffaloes to squeak out a win is if they force UA to beat themselves. The Wildcats are sloppy with the ball too often and treat defense as optional at times.
That leaves the Cats vulnerable to a team with an active defense and hot shooters on offense.
But in a rivalry matchup in front of a crowd ready to pop off, Arizona should handle its business.
Oregon State at No. 5 USC
Galen Center, Los Angeles, CA
Thursday, January 13
8:00 pm PT, ESPNU
Controlling nearly the entire game, USC went cold in the final five minutes and couldn’t hit enough free throws in crunch time.
But back in the friendly confines of the Galen Center, Andy Enfield should have his team ready to go.
The odd 2:00 pm PT start time on Tuesday gives way to a more traditional 8:00 pm tip on Thursday night. The mojo should be back in high gear, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this game turned into a blowout.
OSU’s Jarod Lucas couldn’t connect from deep on Monday, generating concerns that the junior is in the midst of a shooter’s cold streak.
His production from the field is the primary X-Factor in this matchup, where a strong night from Lucas could change the game.
Still, even if the sharp-shooter is hot, Enfield’s roster is ready to prove the loss on the Farm was nothing more than a fluke.
Look for USC’s length to generate turnovers and transition buckets, with Evan Mobley knocking down threes all game.
California at Washington
Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle, WA
Wednesday, January 12
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
The matchup against Mike Hopkins’ team is a litmus test for California. A win would indicate the growth of the program in Mark Fox’s third year, while a loss would be a cold dose of reality.
The Bears are the stronger shooting and rebounding team, but UW’s zone defense generates turnovers and could be a problem for Fox.
Pulling down offensive rebounds is how Colorado handled the Husky zone, a game plan that California is sure to emulate.
On defense, the Bears’ man-to-man must contain Terrell Brown Jr. The guard was limited to 4-of-16 from the field in Boulder, destroying the Dawgs’ offensive flow in the process.
Look for Cal to stay glued to their defenders and extend their defense beyond the three-point line to disrupt Washington’s rhythm.
In a matchup of defense-first programs, the first team to score 60 points likely walks away with the win.
Dane’s January 12-13 Game Picks
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