Miller: Week 10 Saturday Men’s Hoops Previews

With games from the late-morning through the early part of the night, what’s not to like?

Start the barbecues: It’s winter in the West, and we have a full day of hoops to get to.

And with games from the late-morning through the early part of the night, what’s not to like?


 

But with just a single matchup outside the Pac-12 Network this weekend, the Conference’s reach isn’t as wide as one would hope for on a Saturday in late January.

Still, the Cardinal take on the Sun Devils in primetime on ESPN2, another opportunity for the Tree to prove they deserve an at-large bid to the Big Dance.

And earlier in the day, the Buffs and Utes renew their rivalry, Cal takes on Arizona in Tucson, and Oregon State tests UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.

I preview each of those games below, along with the basketball version of the Apple Cup on Sunday.


Washington State at Washington

Sunday, January 31st
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The hardwood version of the Apple Cup: Say no more.

Washington State has struggled in the new year, losing seven of its last eight, and only keeping the final score close in one matchup. On the other hand, Washington has strung together back-to-back wins, including a surprising victory over Colorado in Seattle.

UW’s Quade Green continues to anchor the Dawg offense, but Erik Stevenson and Jamal Bey have emerged as threats to score. The trio pack a potent punch, propelling Washington to 75 points or more in five of its seven games since January 1st.

But for Kyle Smith, a defeat to the Huskies could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. WSU is a young team, yet there was deserved optimism about the trajectory of its season in late December, a hope that has all but collapsed in the new year.

Fortunately, Washington presents an opportunity for the Cougars to turn their season around.


Utah at Colorado

Saturday, January 30th
11:30 AM PT, Pac-12 Network

In their lone game of the week, the Utes enter the third matchup of their four-game stretch away from the Huntsman Center. Since joining the Pac-12, Utah is 3-6 in Boulder and haven’t left the state with a win since 2017.

The Buffs are the nation’s best free throw shooting team, and near the top in both turnovers committed and assist-to-turnover ratio. Facing a CU team ranked 14th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating, and 36th on defense, Larry Krystkowiak’s team is eyeing an uphill climb.

But Timmy Allen has been playing lights-out since going cold against USC on January 2nd. The junior may need to have his best game yet for Utah to pull off the upset, and even then, it might not be enough.

Yet, if Alfonzo Plummer hits his threes at a high clip, the Utes might get it done.


California at Arizona

Saturday, January 30th
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Coming off losses on Thursday, the Wildcats and Bears try to salvage their weekend. The Arizona bigs struggled against Stanford’s defense, while California committed too many turnovers down the stretch in Tempe.

Something has to give, and Mark Fox’s roster isn’t built to slow down a team with numerous inside threats. Christian Koloko, Jordan Brown, and Azuolas Tubelis each could have strong afternoons against the Bears’ guard-focused rotation, especially in second-chance opportunities off of offensive rebounds.

To counteract, Matt Bradley and Grant Anticevich might need to have a field day from beyond the arc. UA’s defense is ranked 60th in the KenPom metrics, and Sean Miller’s unit sometimes has lapses on ball screens along the perimeter.

If Cal is able to draw the Arizona bigs to the three point line and execute dribble handoffs and screens that cause miscommunication within Miller’s defense, the Bears could stay in the game long enough to make it interesting.



Oregon State at No. 23 UCLA

Saturday, January 30th
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

With their matchup against Oregon postponed, Mick Cronin and the Bruins were left to watch the Thursday night games from the comfort of their homes. Perhaps the UCLA staff took the extra time to study the film of Oregon State’s loss to USC earlier in the day.

If they did, the Bruin coaches saw a Beaver bench that went 4-for-22 from the field with just ten points. Replicating the defensive effort the Trojans displayed on Thursday should be enough to secure the victory.

But UCLA’s forte is its firepower on the other end of the court.

The Bruins have the nation’s 12th-ranked offense according to KenPom, and Cronin’s game-plan may be simple: share the ball and get open looks. With shooters at nearly every position, there aren’t many flaws in the offensive attack on display in Westwood.

That could be a problem for the Oregon State defense that is ranked 174th in the KenPom metrics.


Stanford at Arizona State

Saturday, January 30th
5:00 pm PT, ESPN2

In arguably the matchup of the day in the Conference of Champions, the Sun Devils and Cardinal square off on ESPN2. Not many back east were giving Jerod Haase’s team the benefit of the doubt as they adjusted to life without Bryce Wills and Daejon Davis.

But the Tree have proven they can win without them.

Players that only occasionally saw the floor through most of the season have morphed into key contributors. Michael O’Connell was arguably the difference on Thursday night in Tucson, but Noah Taitz hit two threes in the first half to provide some early separation, and Lukas Kisunas played strong defense all night.

But with the absence of Ziaire Williams, junior forward Jaiden Delaire has taken his game to another level.

Averaging 20 points over the last two games, if he continues his strong shooting in Tempe, the Cardinal could secure their first road sweep of the Arizona schools since 2004





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