Miller: Week 8 Saturday Men’s Hoops Previews

With February just around the corner, holding steady at home remains the key

Posted on January 16, 2021

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

If you don’t already get the Pac-12 Network, you’ll want to visit a friend who does, or maybe borrow their log-in credentials, because you are going to need it today.


 

With four games on everyone’s favorite channel to bootleg, strap yourself in for a quality Saturday of West Coast basketball. The quadruple-header on the Pac-12 Network begins with the Game of the Day at Noon between Stanford and Colorado.

Following the battle in Boulder, the Conference serves up an appetizer in UCLA-UW, followed by Arizona State at Oregon State.

But the nightcap is reserved for the second great matchup of the weekend, a showdown at the Galen Center between USC and Washington State.

With February just around the corner, holding steady at home remains the key to winning the Regular Season Championship. And in Boulder, NCAA Tournament ramifications may be on the table for the Cardinal.

I preview that game, and the remaining four below.

Stanford at Colorado

Saturday, January 16
Noon PT, Pac-12 Network

A quadruple-header on the Pac-12 Network begins with the Game of the Day in the Conference of Champions.

Tied in the standings with a 4-2 conference mark apiece, the Tree and Buffs square off in a matchup that feels like a turning point for both teams. A victory could set the winner on a path toward a bye in the Conference Tournament, while the loser may get shuffled to the muddy middle of the conference race.

And in terms of the NCAA Tournament, the victor might set itself apart come Selection Sunday.

But Stanford has lost six games in a row at the CU Events Center, and has just one victory in Boulder since Colorado joined the Conference. Yet, after dropping the opening game of their Mountain trip in Salt Lake City, Jerod Haase and his players arguably find themselves in a must-win situation.

The Cardinal aren’t a lock for the Big Dance, and a defeat would further damage their resume which already took a hit after losing to Utah on Thursday.

Washington at UCLA

Saturday, January 16
2:00 PM PT, Pac-12 Network

For the first time since 1993-94, the Bruins are 6-0 in conference play.

The loss of Chris Smith hasn’t changed the trajectory of UCLA’s season, as many expected. Instead, Mick Cronin’s players appear to have sharper roles and more chemistry on the floor.

Tyger Campbell, in particular, has stepped up his game to another level. The redshirt sophomore guard is averaging 19 points per game over the past two contests, and is 14-for-18 from the field against two respectable opponents in Arizona and Washington State.

Among nearly every statistical category, the Bruins find themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with the nation’s best. Cronin’s team is in the top quartile for points per game, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, assists, turnovers, and free-throw percentage.

In other words, there aren’t many flaws that opponents can exploit.

If things keep trending this direction, UCLA could find itself as a No. 4 Seed or higher in the Big Dance.


 

Arizona State at Oregon State

Thursday, January 14
4:00 PM PT, Pac-12 Network

Punched in the mouth by COVID-19 and the attenuating quarantine protocols, Arizona State has played in just three games over the past calendar-month.

Nobody could have predicted what Bobby Hurley’s team would be forced to go through, and the sixth-year coach admitted earlier this week that it’s been exhausting to deal with. But for a two-hour period on Saturday afternoon in Corvallis, all that can be forgotten.

The Sun Devils take on an Oregon State team coming off a 34-point loss to Arizona, in what appeared to be a glorified scrimmage at times. Wayne Tinkle’s team, dealing with COVID issues of their own, only practiced twice before facing UA.

And it showed.

The scales should be slightly more balanced this time around, though ASU has just as many weapons as the Wildcats.

But for the Beavs and Devils, just getting to play a game of basketball is all that matters.

Washington State at USC

Saturday, January 16
6:30 PM PT, Pac-12 Network

With a chance to gain a stronger foothold on second-place in the conference race, the Trojans take on a Cougar team looking for a split in Los Angeles.

usc logoWashington State has just two Pac-12 road wins during the Kyle Smith Era, but the defense-first mentality that the Cougars play with matches up well against USC.

Stopping Evan Mobley is Task One, but WSU can’t allow the Trojan’s outside shooters to gash them from deep. And on offense, Isaac Bonton may need to score 25 points, with another 50 coming from a combination of Noah Williams, Andrej Jakimovski, and Efe Abogidi.

But the identity of both teams is their defense, with USC second in the country in opponent field goal percentage and Washington State not far behind in ninth. In this clash of defensive juggernauts, the team able to get to the free throw line more often could end up with the victory.


 

California at Utah

Saturday, January 16
7:00 PM PT, ESPNU

The spark provided from Utah’s win over Stanford on Thursday could ignite a flame that grows into a mid-season run.

Last year, by comparison, UCLA started off conference play on the wrong foot, then rattled off 11 of its final 13 games to put itself into a position for an at-large invitation.

This year, the Utes opened Pac-12 play with four-straight losses, but were competitive enough for most of the game to beat UCLA, Oregon, and Colorado. Now with a victory over Stanford, Larry Krystkowiak finds his team in a situation parallel to the 2019-20 Bruins.

But the victory over the Cardinal would be quickly forgotten if California walks out of the Huntsman Center with a win. Timmy Allen must continue to light up the nets, and Alfonzo Plummer has to pick-and-choose his shots efficiently.

Yet, even with the confidence from beating Stanford, the Utes can’t overlook the Bears. If they do, the new-found momentum in Salt Lake City could be dashed before it takes off.




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