Miller: Week 2 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Previews

Conference play begins early this shortened season amidst more nonconference tilts

Posted on December 2, 2020

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

The Conference’s image was sustained after the first week, and may have increased slightly. Colorado, Stanford, and USC posted noteworthy victories, but UCLA has been underwhelming. And with Oregon yet to play, it’s still too early to gauge the Pac-12’s national reputation in 2020-21.


 

But it’s safe to say that the Conference is loaded with freshmen talent that will continue to draw eyes as the season wears on.

Conference play begins this week due to the Pac-12’s new 20-game slate. The regular-season champion is usually determined by just a few games, making these early season contests meaningful despite the early start.

At the same time, nonconference action continues to provide additional opportunities for the league to increase its reputation. In any case, the race for the Top 4 seeds in the Conference Tournament begins now.

Here’s a look at noteworthy upcoming games from December 2nd to December 8th.

Washington at Utah

Thursday, December 3rd
3:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Though the game remains scheduled, the Utes have suffered through a rash of coronavirus cases that could result in another postponement. The positive tests have prevented Larry Krystkowiak’s team from playing up to this point, but the lack of practice time arguably hurts more. Nonetheless, the Utes return several key players from last year’s team and have enough roster continuity to limit the impact of those missed practices. Still, the Huskies have played two games and should be more prepared than Utah. And the absence of a rowdy home crowd likely negates half of the Utes’ home court advantage. The culmination of factors could result in a pivotal road win for UW.


 

UConn v. USC

Thursday, December 3rd
4:00 pm PT, ESPN

usc logoIn another nonconference opportunity that is just as important for USC as for the Pac-12, the Trojans square off with UConn at Mohegan Sun Arena. Evan Mobley figures to continue to be the focal point of Andy Enfield’s offense. The inside-out attack will be tested against Connecticut, putting the onus on USC’s guards to effectively work the ball inside. The focus down low should present plenty of opportunities on the perimeter. If Ethan Anderson and the Trojan guards are able to knock down their three’s, the Mobley brothers could end up having a field day in the paint, should the UConn defense over-compensate.

Seattle at UCLA

Thursday, December 3rd
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

In what may have once been an overlooked game, the Bruins take on Seattle at Pauley Pavilion. After losing handily to San Diego State, and needing triple overtime to take care of Pepperdine, nothing is promised for UCLA. Seattle is arguably the weakest opponent Mik Cronin’s team has faced to date, but that shouldn’t give the second-year coach any comfort. Optimistically, the return of starting big-man Jalen Hill should address some of the issues that plagued the Bruins in the first two games. But getting the season back on track with a dominating performance against Seattle would be more than welcomed.

No. 25 Arizona State at California

Tuesday, December 3rd
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Sun Devils take on California at Haas Pavilion in the first road conference game for Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley. Normally, a road game in Berkeley would be somewhat of a cause for concern considering Cal’s historic performances at home. But without any fans in attendance, most home court advantages figure to be all but negated this year. And with seasoned veterans Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr. in the starting lineup, a double-digit Arizona State win can safely be expected. For the Bears, getting Matt Bradley going early and often is key. Still, strong performances from Andre Kelly and Grant Anticevich could be needed to pull off the victory.

No. 21 Oregon vs. Seton Hall

Friday, December 4th
6:00 pm PT, FS1

Continuing their Multi-Team Event in Nebraska with a final matchup against Seton Hall, the reloaded Ducks play just their second game of the season. The Big East opponent figures to be the most difficult challenge yet, and an Oregon win would further solidify its national reputation. The guard play of Will Richardson and Chris Duarte projects to determine the Ducks’ success in 2020-21, and their performance against the Pirates could tip the game either direction. Just as importantly, N’Faly Dante’s presence down low and on defense will go far in securing an Oregon win.

Washington State at Colorado

Saturday, December 5
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Tad Boyle and the Buffs host Washington State in both programs’ second conference game of the year. The CU Events Center is typically one of the toughest buildings to play at in the Pac-12, but it remains to be seen how the lack of fans changes the dynamic. The elevation factor remains, as does Colorado’s comfort in playing in the building, but it will be interesting to see how opponents fair in Boulder as the season wears on. For Washington State, this game never was on the radar as a possible road victory. Just keeping the score remotely competitive will arguably be a step in the right direction.


 

Wyoming at Oregon State

Sunday, December 6th
1:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

In a nonconference test against a Mountain West opponent, the Beavers take on Wyoming in what charts out as a winnable matchup. Games such as this one don’t have as much of an impact on the Selection Committee’s perception of the Pac-12, though a home loss would be noted. But that doesn’t matter to Oregon State. A win is a win, and in the COVID-19 Era, everyone is just thankful to have a game to play. That being said, based on the early season performance of Wayne Tinkle’s squad, an OSU victory is more than expected. Handling any early-game runs from the Cowboys could be key. However, maintaining a consistent performance from start to finish, especially at the free throw line, should be enough for a Beaver victory.

California at UCLA

Sunday, December 6th
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Bears and Bruins are the featured Sunday night game in the Pac-12. The matchup is UCLA’s first conference game of the year and the second for Cal. Though Mik Cronin’s team underperformed in Week One, starting Pac-12 play on the right foot appears to be in the cards. The Bears are highly dependent on Matt Bradley, making the defensive game plan one of the more straightforward strategies of the year. At the same time, a strong shooting night from the likes of Ryan Betley, Makale Foreman, or Joel Brown could make this game closer than expected.

Colorado State at Colorado

Tuesday, December 8th
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The term “can’t lose game” is probably underutilized for good reason, but this in-state rivalry certainly qualifies as one for Colorado. The Rams haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2013, but are coming off a winning season after posting back-to-back losing records over the previous two years. The Buffs beat CSU last season in Colorado Springs, and the return trip to Boulder figures to be another CU victory. A defeat would be harmful to Colorado’s eventual seed on Selection Sunday, as well as the Pac-12’s reputation.

Here’s a link to the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Standings.

Have a question for Dane? Ask it here.

Previews of Games Played Previously This Week

Indiana 79, Stanford 69

Wednesday, December 2nd
10:30 am PT, ESPN

In the third-place game of the Maui Invitational, the Tree take on Indiana. This matchup is important for both the Pac-12 and the Cardinal. A win would serve as another noteworthy addition to Stanford’s resume and maintain the Conference’s perception nationally. Jerod Haase’s team must limit their turnovers to walk away with the victory, and would do well to limit the one-on-one offense they have run through two games. Haase’s starting five are as talented as any they will face, and sharing the ball should make it easier to take down the Hoosiers.

Missouri 83, No. 21 Oregon 75

Wednesday, December 2nd
6:00 pm PT, FS1

Dana Altman and the Ducks enter the season ranked in the AP Top 25 for 22 consecutive weeks dating back to last season. They open the year on a neutral court in Omaha, Nebraska, against SEC foe Missouri in Oregon’s first game without Payton Pritchard. Fortunately, Will Richardson and Chris Duarte are more than capable of picking up where the First Round NBA Draft pick left off. Coming off a Pac-12 Regular Season championship, UO also lost former five-star recruit CJ Walker to the transfer portal. But Altman’s teams historically play well against nonconference opponents, and that doesn’t figure to change against Missouri.

Washington State 59, Oregon State 55

Wednesday, December 2nd
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

In an early but pivotal conference matchup for both teams, the Cougars host the Beavers to open Pac-12 play. Washington State has looked shaky through two games, while Oregon State has exceeded expectations. Wayne Tinkle’s junior college transfers have shined, particularly Warith Alatishe. With a victory over California already in the books, Tinkle and Company will be confident in their chances of emerging from the Palouse with a win. On the other hand, Kyle Smith’s team has struggled shooting the ball through two games. The Cougs might need to rely on their defense to pull out the victory, but could struggle to find a way to win if Isaac Bonton gets off to a slow start.







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