Miller: Week 7 Thursday Men’s Hoops Previews

Fans will be treated to two Quad 1 matchups in Oregon-Colorado and USC-Arizona

Posted on January 7, 2021

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

In the first week of conference play since the NCAA released its NET Rankings, Pac-12 fans are treated to two Quad 1 matchups on Thursday alone.


 

The Oregon-Colorado and USC-Arizona tilts are important games for the Regular Season Championship race, and the winners of each should find themselves in a favorable position as March slowly creeps up.

In the Conference of Champions, holding sway at home is pivotal in the race, but it also impacts seeding for the NCAA Tournament. The best teams don’t lose at home, and each will be thoroughly tested against a quality opponent.

At the same time, Arizona State and Washington State have something to prove to the Committee this week, and it starts with a strong Thursday.

Below, I preview each matchup beginning with an odd early-afternoon showdown in Boulder.

No. 17 Oregon at Colorado

Thursday, January 7th
2:00 pm PT, FS1

Is this finally the year?

The Oregon Ducks have never won in Boulder, going 0-9 in the series dating back to 1960. The number next to Oregon’s name has meant nothing to CU over that stretch, as the Buffaloes are 4-0 against against ranked UO teams at the CU Events Center. Last season, the No. 4 Ducks were upset by the Buffs 74-65 in what may be the best Colorado win of the Pac-12 Era. And apart from the matchup in 2012, the games haven’t been all that competitive, with Tad Boyle’s squad owning an 11-point average margin of victory since the Conference expanded.

But this year there aren’t 11,000 screaming fans to will the home team to victory. Yet, the altitude challenge remains. With half their normal advantage, the weight of extending the streak to 10 games falls on the shoulders of McKinley Wright IV. A strong showing from the veteran senior guard could be enough to send the Ducks home with an “L” once again.

USC at Arizona

Thursday, January 7th
6:00pm PT, ESPN2

Since 1984, USC is an astounding 3-33 at McKale Center.

usc logoBut for the second game in a row, the Wildcats face one of the toughest defensive teams in the nation. Washington State, which leads the country in opponent field goal percentage, gave the Arizona offense fits, and Andy Enfield’s Trojans are just a notch below the Cougs, holding opponents to 35.2% from the field. Nationally, USC is fourth in opponent field goal percentage and 17th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating.

But Arizona is 23rd in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating, pitting two evenly balanced systems against each other. The matchup to watch is USC’s perimeter defense against the Wildcats’ three point shooting. The Cats average seven made threes per game, and if they meet or exceed their average they could send the Trojans packing for the 11th straight time at McKale Center.


 

Washington at Stanford

Thursday, January 7th
6:00 pm PT, FS1

Hoping to salvage their season, the Dawgs take on the Cardinal in Santa Clara. A win would be a shot in the arm to the Husky program, but the second leg of the trip to the Bay Area is likely the matchup the team has its eye on. Still, Stanford may also be overlooking this game as it waits to face Washington State on Saturday, making this showdown a potential trap game.

But good coaches find ways to motivate players and keep them focused on the task at hand. Jerod Haase can’t let his foot off the pedal in their race for an at-large bid, especially with the way the bottom quarter of the Pac-12 is viewed nationally. A defeat to UW would move the Tree towards the bubble, and that should be enough to keep his veteran-laden team focused on tackling Hopkins’ zone.

Washington State at California

Thursday, January 7th
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

In the Kyle Smith Era, Washington State has just a single conference road win. Although Smith has been in Pullman for only one season, the 1-8 road record in the Pac-12 has an oversized impact on the way WSU is perceived regionally, as well as nationally. To turn that image around, the Cougs can’t afford to drop this game in Berkeley. The Bears are likely without their leading-scorer Matt Bradley and likely won’t have their second-leading scorer in Grant Anticevich.

But Cal is 4-1 at Haas Pavilion this season, and the Bears made their hay by winning at home in Mark Fox’s first year. To pull out the victory against WSU’s stellar defense, transfers Makale Foreman, Ryan Bentley, and Jarred Hyder must play efficient basketball and limit turnovers.

As for Smith, the four-headed monster of Isaac Bonton, Noah Williams, Efe Abogidi, and Andre Jakimovski must stay out of foul trouble and keep the defensive pressure up all night.


 

UCLA at Arizona State

Thursday, January 7th
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

For the first time since December 16th, the Sun Devils take the floor to play a game of basketball. The last time Bobby Hurley’s squad played, they were blown out by UTEP at the Bank in Tempe. Much has changed in the interim, but as of Thursday night, Arizona State isn’t considered a Tournament team. Fortunately, Marcus Bagley has returned from injury and should be cleared to play, if he clears COVID protocols.

UCLA’s Chris Smith is out for the remainder of the year, due to an ACL injury, opening the door for ASU to emerge with a victory. Hurley is still tasked with slowing down Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell, though the loss of the Bruins’ second-leading scorer could be tough to deal with in Tempe.

In the end, the amount of rust the Sun Devils show in the first half could be the difference in the game.







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