Posted on January 19, 2022
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.
No. 16 USC at Colorado
CU Events Center, Boulder, CO
Thursday, January 20
4:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
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.
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.
No. 3 Arizona at Stanford
Maples Pavilion, Stanford, CA
Thursday, January 20
8:00 pm PT, ESPNU
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.
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
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.
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 at Oregon State
Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, OR
Thursday, January 20
8:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
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.
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—
- Dane Miller’s Post-Spring Pac-12 Football Power Rankings
- Miller: Pac-12 Hoops Attendance a Measure of Success
- Dane Miller’s WSU-Texas A&M Semifinal NIT Preview
- Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Sweet 16 NCAA Preview
- Dane Miller’s Washington State Quarterfinal NIT Preview
- Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Second-Round NCAA Previews
- Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Second-Round NIT Previews
- Dane Miller’s First-Round Pac-12 NCAA Previews
- Dane Miller’s First-Round Pac-12 NIT Previews
- Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Tournament Championship Preview
- Dane Miller’s Semifinal Men’s Hoops Tourney Previews
- Dane Miller’s Round 2 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Tourney Preview
- Dane Miller’s Round 1 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Tourney Preview
- Dane Miller’s March 5 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
- Dane Miller’s March 3 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Preview
- Dane Miller’s March 1 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Preview
- Dane Miller’s Feb 26 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
- Dane Miller’s Feb 24 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
- Dane Miller’s Feb 23 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Preview
- Dane Miller’s Feb 19-20 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
- Dane Miller’s Feb 17 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
- Dane Miller’s Feb 15 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Preview
- Dane Miller’s Feb 12 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
- Dane Miller’s Feb 9 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
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- Dane Miller’s Feb 5-6 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
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- Dane Miller’s Week 13 Men’s Hoops Power Rankings
- Dane Miller’s Jan 29-30 Men’s Hoops Previews
- Dane Miller’s Jan 27 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews
Dane Miller’s Post-Spring Pac-12 Football Power RankingsThe offseason has produced coaching changes, roster movement, and controversy - May 16, 2022
Miller: Pac-12 Hoops Attendance a Measure of SuccessLarger home crowds generally correlate to more wins and a recruiting advantage - April 29, 2022
Dane Miller’s WSU-Texas A&M Semifinal NIT PreviewThe Cougs' march to Madison Square Garden has set the program up for a strong 2022-23 - March 29, 2022