Miller: Week 12 Thursday Men’s Hoops Previews

This should be the best Thursday of basketball in the Conference of Champions so far this year

Posted on February 11, 2021

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

The busiest Thursday of the conference season tips off in the middle of the afternoon and ends with a Pac-12 After Dark special.

Jam-packed with six games, it’s questionable why the Conference didn’t move two of the matchups on its own network to Wednesday. As scheduled, the games overlap throughout the night, forcing fans to pick and choose which matchup they want to watch.

But that doesn’t take away from what should be the best Thursday of basketball in the Conference of Champions so far this year.

Colorado takes on Stanford in a heavy-hitting showdown that could shape each team’s Tournament expectations, while Arizona State finally returns to the court, and UCLA faces a tough challenge in Pullman.

Without further ado, here are my previews of those games along with the remainder on Thursday.

Utah at California

Thursday, February 10
3:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

After upsetting the Utes in Salt Lake City, Mark Fox seeks to win his third-straight over Larry Krystkowiak since taking over the reigns in Berkeley.

Statistically, Utah has the edge in every major category from points per game to rebounds, assists, and turnovers. Yet, Fox has an additional weapon he didn’t have the last time the two programs met on January 16th: Matt Bradley.

The leader of the Bears is averaging 19.4 points per game since returning from his second ankle injury, and is an efficient 19-23 from the free throw line over those five matchups. But in the showdown in Salt Lake City, Fox received a game-changing performance from Jarred Hyder, who scored 11 points in Cal’s nine-point victory.

And coming off a 13-point outing against Stanford on Sunday, Hyder could once again prove to be the deciding-factor.

Colorado at Stanford

Thursday, February 10
4:00 pm PT, ESPN2

In the Game of the Day in the Pac-12, the Buffs take on the Cardinal at Maples Pavilion.

A Colorado victory would ensure a sweep of Stanford for the first time since 2017, which also was the last time Tad Boyle took down the Tree on their home floor.

While Jerod Haase’s squad owns a slight advantage in rebounds and blocked shots per game, CU has the upper-hand in nearly every other metric.

At least on paper.

But to be fair, part of the discrepancy is likely due to Stanford’s injury issues.

And fortunately for fans of the Cardinal, Bryce Wills should be available after missing Round One in Boulder.

Still, with two of the leading Pac-12 Player of the Year candidates facing off, and NCAA Tournament implications to boot, it would be a surprise if this game was decided before the final possession or two.

Oregon State at Arizona

Thursday, February 10
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Wildcats scored a season-high 98 points against the Beavers in Corvallis just a few short weeks ago, with Bennedict Mathurin and Jordan Brown combining for 56 on their own. If that doesn’t motivate Wayne Tinkle’s players to come out focused on defense, they may as well throw in the towel already.

But Sean Miller’s team has lost three of their last four and face a Beaver program that put together wins over USC and Oregon since the Cats laid down their historic beat down at Gill Coliseum.

The result could be a determined OSU roster eager to prove the performance in Corvallis was nothing more than a fluke due to a lack of practice time after returning from a COVID pause.

Even then, UA knows it has the firepower to make this an ugly game, and newly eligible point guard Kerr Kriisa adds an extra dimension on defense while also opening up the offensive side of the court with effective passing.

Oregon at Arizona State

Thursday, February 10
6:00 pm PT, ESPN

Playing in their first game since January 30th, the Sun Devils can continue the momentum they generated from sweeping the Bay Area programs at the Bank.

But Oregon is fighting to keep its head above water in the NCAA Tournament bracket projections, and a loss would be a setback that could prove costly in the short term.

The status of Chris Duarte remains questionable, with Dana Altman describing his injury as a game-time decision. Perhaps that’s code for he’s not available, but that won’t become clear until the ball is tipped.

Regardless, the UO defense could have its hands full with Remy Martin and Josh Christopher bringing the ball up the court. Altman’s press-zone is designed to speed opponents up, but Arizona State’s identity is to play loose and fast, potentially turning the game into a pace that favors the Sun Devils.

No. 20 USC at Washington

Thursday, February 10
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Andy Enfield’s Trojans find themselves ranked for the first time since 2017 with the possibility of entering the Big Dance as high as a 4-seed, if things go right.

usc logoTaking care of business in Seattle is the first step in what projects to be an arduous journey to the Promised Land. Evan Mobley might be in the driver’s seat to win the Conference’s Player of the Year award, while Enfield himself is lined up as the Coach of the Year.

Yet, all that could be squandered with a poor showing at Alaska Airlines Arena. If the Men of Troy underestimate Mike Hopkins’ team, they could find themselves embarrassed the way Colorado was in their trip to the Emerald City.

In that sense, the Dawgs present a dangerous trap game that could snare USC if it’s not prepared.

UCLA at Washington State

Thursday, February 10
8:00 pm PT, FS1

Don’t look now, but Washington State might not be the underdog that some people may think they are.

Last season, Kyle Smith shocked the nation with a win over a Top 10 Oregon team led by Payton Pritchard, and the Cougs are one week removed from another head-turning upset over the Ducks in Eugene.

Isaac Bonton is one of the best players in the country, and the pieces around him are capable of combining for a strong enough night to take down the Bruins. And with big-man Jalen Hill unavailable and Cody Riley a game-time decision, UCLA is not healthy enough to walk into Beasley Coliseum overly confident.

If Noah Williams has a breakout performance and WSU avoids costly technical fouls, it’s not out of the question for the Cougars to pull off the upset.

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