Dane Miller’s Jan 15 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews

Posted on January 15, 2022

  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

Pac-12All 12 teams are in action today, with four of the six matchups airing on the Pac-12 Network.

The day starts off with a pivotal test for Washington State against California and ends with one of the top games of the season when Oregon takes on No. 5 USC.

The Conference race was turned upside down with the Ducks’ upset of UCLA on Thursday, along with Stanford’s victories over WSU and the Trojans this week.

Winning at home and splitting on the road has historically been the recipe for success in the Pac-12, and several games today will determine which teams are able to get it done.

I preview all six matchups here, and my picks, along with those of Stephen Vilardo, appear at the bottom.

Cal at Washington State

Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum, Pullman, WA
Saturday, January 15
1:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Bears are 2-24 on the road during the Mark Fox Era, and have just two conference road victories since he took over the program in 2019.

The struggles away from Berkeley aren’t an indictment on Fox’s coaching ability, but rather an indication of how far the program dropped during the Wyking Jones Era.

Since taking over the helm, Fox has built recruiting momentum through high school prospects and the transfer portal, establishing a respectable team in his third year.

But the next step in the evolution of California Basketball is winning on the road. And facing a Washington State team angry after blowing a lead to Stanford, the deck is stacked against them.

Cal’s Andre Kelly| Elaine Thompson/AP

The Cougars have started almost every game this season with a strong first half, only to collapse in the final 20 minutes.

Look for Noah Williams, Michael Flowers, and Tyrell Roberts to hunt for their shots in the early-afternoon matinee.

The result could be a quiet offensive game from Efe Abogidi and Mouhamed Gueye, but the tag-team bigs should make their presence known on defense.

Barring a colossal performance from Cal’s Jordan Shepherd, WSU figures to avenge its Thursday night loss.

Washington football pac-12Stanford at Washington

Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle, WA
Saturday, January 15
3:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Cardinal are seeking their third sweep of the Washington programs since the Pac-12 expanded in 2011.

Accomplishing the feat in 2018 and 2020, the matchup with the Huskies has become a substantially more meaningful game after Stanford took down USC and WSU earlier in the week.

Unfortunately, due to UW’s struggles throughout the season, the game in Seattle is designated as Quad 3 for the Tree. That ups the ante in the context of their At-Large resume, where a Q3 loss is treated as inexcusable.

Washington’s Cole Bajema | Elaine Thompson/AP

To get the job done, Jarod Haase’s team must deal with Mike Hopkins’ zone. Varying over the season and adjusted mid-game, the zone remains susceptible to quick ball movement around the perimeter and sharp passes inside.

Baiting opponents to take shots from the perimeter and mid-range jumpers from the elbows, the Hopkins System can frustrate even the best teams.

Rebounding figures to be the key at Hec Ed, where the team that holds the rebounding advantage likely walks away with the win.

Arizona football Pac-12Utah at No. 6 Arizona

McKale Center, Tucson, AZ
Saturday, January 15
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

At this point in the season, the list of Arizona players dealing with injuries is longer than the healthy roll.

Christian Koloko has a nagging back problem that hampers him at times, Kerr Kriisa is fighting through a thumb injury, Azuolas Tubelis had a minor knee scare on Thursday, and Pelle Larsson gets beat up each night.

The nation-leading pace that the Wildcats play with under Tommy Lloyd results in personnel concerns, and the continued absence of Kim Aiken Jr. isn’t helping.

Adama Bal and Shane Nowell don’t see the floor either, forcing UA into a seven-man rotation.

Arizona’s Pelle Larsson and Justin Kier | Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

The system has worked through two months, but the wear-and-tear is beginning to show.

Taking on the struggling Utes at McKale Center, Arizona’s focus and motivation in the first ten minutes could be a wildcard.

The home crowd figures to provide a boost, but the Cats may have a lackadaisical start that isn’t remedied until the crowd blows the roof off the building.

In the end, Lloyd’s team should run away with this one on the back of pesky defense and efficient shooting from the field. Look for Bennedict Mathurin to put up 20 points or more against the Utah defenders.

Colorado at Arizona State

Desert Financial Arena, Tempe, AZ
Saturday, January 15
7:00 pm PT, ESPN2

Arizona State finally returns from its COVID-pause to take on Colorado on ESPN2.

With expectations low, the Sun Devils and Bobby Hurley are probably just happy to play a game.

Hurley told the local Tempe media that he was one of the individuals that contracted the virus, and had a difficult time with the symptoms.

With the Coronavirus problems likely in the rearview mirror for the rest of the year, ASU can get back to business.

Arizona State’s DJ Horne | Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard

The Sun Devils have defended The Bank well against the Buffs since they joined the Conference, posting a 6-2 record against CU since 2011.

But outmatched in a handful of key analytics, Arizona State must generate turnovers and blocked shots.

Having established a defensive identity, any lapses leading to open three’s or offensive rebounds resulting in second-chance points could be the difference in Tempe.

And Hurley’s team faces Colorado seeking the pivotal split of their Desert road trip. Jabari Walker and Evan Battey were nowhere to be found in Tucson, potentially spelling trouble for ASU.

Look for the Colorado duo to combine for 40 points or more as the Buffs vent some frustration after getting blown out on Thursday.

Oregon State at No. 3 UCLA

Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, January 15
7:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Networks

Mick Cronin was not happy after the Ducks upset UCLA on Thursday.

At one point in his post-game press conference, Cronin called the performance an “abomination” and “embarrassment,” even going so far as saying he will get new players if he can’t fix it.

The unusually harsh language probably lights a fire under the Bruins, and it wouldn’t be surprising if UCLA comes out swinging.

Look for Cronin’s team to play with a level of defensive intensity that’s unmatched up to this point of the year, and an offense that is committed to sharing the ball.

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. | Ashley Landis/AP

Enter Jarod Lucas.

The Oregon State junior found his stroke again on Thursday, connecting on 6-of-10 three-pointers and dropping 27 in the loss.

There likely isn’t a better three-win team in the country than OSU, but the Beavs couldn’t have caught UCLA at a worse time.

The result could be a blowout victory for the Bruins in front of an empty Pauley Pavilion.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12usc logoOregon at No. 5 USC

Galen Center, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, January 15
8:00 pm PT, FS1

In a matter of 48 hours, the Ducks could go from a team not considered to be an At-Large threat, to a program squarely on the bubble.

That’s often the case with Pac-12 teams when facing the LA schools on the road. Seeking its fourth sweep of UCLA and USC since 2011, Oregon has the firepower to get it done.

N’Faly Dante’s and Franck Kepnang’s frontcourt size can handle the Trojan bigs, while the scoring threats of Will Richardson and Jacob Young are enough to push UO over the top.

Oregon’s Jacob Young | Ashley Landis/AP

And the Trojans have looked shaky over the past few games.

After struggling to take down Oregon State at the Galen Center, there is a distinct possibility the Ducks pull off the upset.

USC is a substantially stronger rebounding team, generates far more blocked shots, and shares the ball at a higher clip. The challenge is on Dana Altman’s defensive scheme to negate the Trojans’ strengths.

There’s no easy way to avoid blocked shots, but by focusing on rebounding and defensive effort, the Ducks can frustrate Andy Enfield’s game plan.

In a matchup with potential NCAA Tournament implications, look for Oregon to produce one of its top performances of the season.

At the end of the night, the team with a higher three-point percentage likely secures the win.

January 15 Game Picks

—More from Dane Miller—