Posted on March 11, 2022
Arizona toppled the surging Cardinal, Colorado handled the Ducks, UCLA easily dispatched the Cougars, and USC held on against the Huskies.
The Pac-12 remains positioned to send three of its schools to the NCAA Tournament, with the Buffaloes on the outside looking in.
A win over Arizona would change the narrative, but the East Coast and Midwest-centric prognosticators have an oversized influence on the Selection Committee.
Forced to secure the automatic qualifier, the Buffs’ season is on the line.
I preview both Semifinal games here, and my picks along with Stephen Vilardo’s appear at the bottom.
No. 4 Colorado v. No. 1 Arizona
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Friday, March 11
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
Arizona is 5-1 in the previous six matchups, but Colorado’s lone victory was in the 2012 Championship Game.
The Cats enter Friday night with Kerr Kriisa’s status in doubt.
The emotional leader and go-to shooter in crunch time will be a significant hole to fill, but grad-transfer Justin Kier is experienced and commands the respect of the roster.
Often pointed to as the leader of the team, Kier has the passing and shooting acumen to step in seamlessly. Yet, UA’s depth becomes questionable with just a seven-man rotation.
True freshman Adama Bal figures to play the most important minutes of his career, coming in an as a hybrid wing that can knock down threes.
Tommy Lloyd could need an efficient night from the Frenchman, where missed shots might contribute to CU runs.
As for the Buffaloes, Tad Boyle and his roster are fighting for their lives.
Calling out the well-known East Coast bias of ESPN and the College Basketball Media in general, Boyle knows his team must beat Arizona to have a shot at the Big Dance.
Colorado dominated the Wildcats in the paint at the Coors Events Center, bullying the UA bigs from the opening tip. The game plan figures to be the same this time around with the season on the line.
The key, though, could be UA’s three-point defense and its own outside shooting.
Boyle’s squad is the top three-point percentage shooting team in the Pac-12, and might need to hit timely shots to quell what promises to be a heavy Arizona crowd at T-Mobile Arena.
On the other hand, opportune threes could spark Wildcat runs that determine the game.
With a Championship Game appearance up for grabs, does it get any better than this?
No. 3 USC v. No. 2 UCLA
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Friday, March 11
8:30 pm PT, FS1
Finishing around 11:00 pm, the quick turnaround for the Semifinal matchup figures to benefit UCLA.
The Bruins had a cake walk against Washington State, dominating the Cougars from start to finish. With a fresher roster, UCLA may come out with a hot start.
But the Trojans have the firepower to overcome a slow first half. Boogie Ellis had one of his best games in a USC uniform in the quarterfinals, scoring 17 points on 60 percent shooting.
Andy Enfield will need the guard to step up once again, especially if Isaiah Mobley has another quiet night.
The All-Conference junior has been held to nine points twice over the last three games, shooting 14-of-33 from the field over the stretch.
Drew Peterson has been off, too, limited to 11 points per game during the month of March. But Peterson’s shooting has been even worse, knocking down just nine of his 27 attempts.
And it won’t get any easier against UCLA’s defense.
Mick Cronin landed three players on the Pac-12’s All-Defensive team, and KenPom ranks the Bruins’ defense as the 11th-best in the country.
Combined with the No. 15 offense, according to KenPom, UCLA gets it done on both sides of the floor.
Facing such a challenge, it’s going to take a strong night from Ellis, Mobley, and Peterson to get the job done at T-Mobile Arena.
The X-Factor in the matchup, however, could be Chavez Goodwin. The redshirt senior averages 11.3 points per game, but has been held below his average for the last six games in a row.
If the forward puts up 20 points or more, USC should feel good about its chances.
With so much on the line, this game might turn into another Crosstown Rivalry Instant-Classic.
Semifinal Pac-12 Tournament Game Picks
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