Dane Miller’s Jan 20 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews

Posted on January 19, 2022

  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

The Conference race is heating up with several key games tipping off on Thursday.

The Trojans travel to Boulder where they haven’t had any success over the past few years, UCLA takes on Utah in Salt Lake City, and Arizona travels to Palo Alto to play Stanford.

The results will impact the perception of the league’s bubble teams, where the needle could be moved in either direction depending on the final score.

I preview all four games here, and my picks appear at the bottom, along with those of fellow senior basketball writer Stephen Vilardo.

usc logoNo. 16 USC at Colorado

CU Events Center, Boulder, CO
Thursday, January 20
4:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

On a seven-game winning streak against USC, the Buffs haven’t lost to Andy Enfield’s team since 2018.

But the three-year undefeated mark will be put to the test in Boulder, where the Trojans are seeking to bounce back from their defeats to Oregon and Stanford.

In a matchup that could turn into a battle between Evan Mobley and Jabari Walker, the role players on each team might determine the outcome.

USC’s Boogie Ellis must get out of his shooting funk, after going 16-for-45 from the field over the past three games with seven turnovers to just seven assists.

USC’s Boogie Ellis | Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And Drew Peterson can’t disappear the way he did against the Ducks and Cardinal, where he combined for just 16 points on 4-for-9 from the field.

If the duo play the way they had been up to last week, USC has a chance to pull off the road win.

At the same time, CU’s K.J. Simpson and Tristan da Silva could tip the scales in Colorado’s favor. The guard and wing only average 15.7 points combined, but each are just a few games removed from career-high nights.

In a game that could come down to the wire, the team that receives an unexpected performance from one of its supporting players might emerge with the win.

Arizona football Pac-12No. 3 Arizona at Stanford

Maples Pavilion, Stanford, CA
Thursday, January 20
8:00 pm PT, ESPNU

Jerod Haase and the Cardinal snapped a 20-game losing streak to Arizona last season, sweeping the Wildcats for the first time since 2008.

But this isn’t Sean Miller’s Cats.

Running an up-tempo free-flowing offense, UA is no longer reliant on a dominant guard that takes instruction from his head coach each half-court possession.

Tommy Lloyd’s system emphasizes aggressive ball movement, transition shooting, and pesky defense that produces game-changing runs.

Arizona’s Kerr Kriisa | Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

It’s a perfect system for Kerr Kriisa, who will take deep contested threes without fear and distribute the ball to Arizona’s bigs and wings.

But there are flaws in the Wildcats’ execution of the system. Turnovers have hampered UA all season, with the Cats sitting at 240th in the country with 13.8 per game.

The Cardinal, on the other hand, are even sloppier with the ball. Stanford commits 15.7 turnovers per game, the 17th-most in Division I basketball’s 350 teams.

For the Tree to pull off the upset, they must force Arizona to commit turnovers, take care of the ball on offense, and win the rebounding margin.

No. 9 UCLA at Utah

Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
Thursday, January 20
8:00 pm PT, FS1

The Bruins head to Salt Lake City where they are 4-4 during the Pac-12 Era.

Despite getting swept in the desert, Utah may have found some confidence after their performances on the road. David Jenkins Jr. emerged from his four-game slump on Monday, posting 14 points in 25 minutes.

Craig Smith figures to need a strong game from the senior guard, with Branden Carlson’s status still in question after his emergency appendicitis.

UCLA is one of the top teams in the country at taking care of the ball, turning it over just 9.2 times per game. Tyger Campbell holds a 4.21-to-1 assist to turnover ratio and is the heart and soul of the Bruins’ offense.

UCLA’s Tyger Campbell | Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Finding ways to frustrate the redshirt junior may be Utah’s only hope.

On the analytics side, the Utes have an advantage in just two categories: free throw shooting and rebounding.

If Utah is able to play bully-ball down low on both sides of the court, get to the free throw line, and force UCLA to earn their points at the stripe, this game could be closer than anticipated in the second half.

Washington football pac-12Washington at Oregon State

Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, OR
Thursday, January 20
8:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Huskies look to continue their upswing on the road against the Beavers.

Mike Hopkins’ team has turned the corner since the start of January, rattling off three wins over the last four games. But getting the job done away from home is an entirely different ball game.

Oregon State has struggled this season, yet undoubtedly views this game as winnable. OSU’s motivation figures to be palpable, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Beavs win the 50/50 balls and effort plays.

Yet, Wayne Tinkle must create a game plan to deal with UW’s zone. The system intentionally gives up mid-range shots and is susceptible to open looks from three with quick ball movement.

Washington’s Terrell Brown Jr. | Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Still, when executed correctly, the Hopkins System frustrates even high-powered offenses.

In order to defend Gill Coliseum, Oregon State must be disciplined in their shot selection.

Settling for contested threes or tough jumpers from the elbows is what the Dawgs want, potentially playing directly into Hopkins’ hands.

Poor shot selection can be counteracted with offensive rebounding, but the efficient way to deal with the zone is to get the ball inside after quick passes around the perimeter.

That forces the Husky defenders to get out of position, creating openings around the basket.

If the Beavs are able to move the ball effectively, they should send Washington home with an “L”.

January 20 Game Picks

[Be sure to check out Stephen Vilardo’s Week 11 Men’s Hoops Stat Previews as well]

—More from Dane Miller—