Miller: Week 5 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Previews

Oregon-UCLA and Arizona-Colorado rivalries highlight this week's games

Posted on December 23, 2020

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

The Christmas break brings time off for most of the Conference, but not before a few rivalry matchups are sprinkled in.


 

Over the next seven days, UCLA and Oregon continue their series while the Wildcats and Buffaloes take their distaste for each other to the next point of demarcation.

Both games project to have an impact on the race for the Top 4 seeds in the Pac-12 Tournament.

At the same time, undefeated Washington State has a chance to showcase its squad and prove its worthy of consideration for one of the coveted byes.

But with just three games on the horizon, the lull in action is the calm before the storm. By this time next week, regular conference play will have begun.


UCLA at No. 25 Oregon

UPDATE: This game was canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test for a referee scheduled to call the game. It will be rescheduled for date convenient for both tams.

Wednesday, December 23rd
Noon PT, ESPN

A clash of Titans.

The Ducks and Bruins square off in a midday tilt on ESPN. It may only be December, but this game has the chance of shaping the Conference race come March. Picked to finish first in the Pac-12, UCLA pits its experience and defensive prowess against Dana Altman’s press-zone and offensive firepower.

There’s no telling who emerges with the victory, but a close game is almost guaranteed. And an instant-classic may be in the making.

Over the years, this rivalry has produced numerous legacy-defining moments and historic games that are still played on television during the offseason. From Lonzo Ball’s late game three at Pauley, to Dillon Brooks’ game-winning shot at Mathew Knight Arena, this rivalry is as storied as they come in the Pac-12 Era.

If there’s only one Conference of Champion’s game you watch over the Christmas break, this is the one.


 


Northwestern State at Washington State

Wednesday, December 23rd
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Through seven games, the Cougars are undefeated and relatively untested. Kyle Smith’s schedule has been arguably the weakest in the Conference of Champions, making Washington State somewhat of an unknown commodity.

There’s no denying that Smith’s freshmen class and underclassmen are talented, but WSU has yet to face an NCAA Tournament caliber team. Not even Smith himself knows how his players will react against a quality opponent, and likely won’t find out until their matchup with Arizona State next week.

But in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with reveling in a 7-0 start that projects to be extended to eight after the Cougs are finished with Northwestern State.


 


Colorado at Arizona

Monday, December 28th
6:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The history of the Arizona-Colorado rivalry can be traced to the Buffs’ second season in the Pac-12. The Wildcats were ranked No. 3 in the country and CU’s Sabatino Chen appeared to hit a last-second game-winning three in Tucson. That perception changed when the wily video coordinator at McKale Center waited until the refs were at the monitor to show the replay to the crowd.

At just the right time, the angle that showed the ball still in Chen’s hand as time ran out caused the 14,500-strong crowd to erupt in anger. The refs looked at each other awkwardly—perhaps a bit fearful of the repercussions of jilting such a large crowd—then waived off the basket.

What followed that afternoon and over the next several seasons lingers to this day, as the Cats managed to beat CU in overtime on that fateful day in 2013. The very next year, Colorado’s Xavier Johnson famously said after a loss to the Wildcats in Tucson, “We have better players than them, I think,” and that the return trip to Boulder would be, “a 20-point blowout,” in favor of CU.

Four weeks later, No. 4 Arizona beat the Buffaloes by 28 in Boulder.

The rest is history. The animosity is real.







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