Miller: Week 8 Thursday Men’s Hoops Previews

Daytime games are becoming more common on the Conference schedule

Posted on January 14, 2021

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

Conference play continues on Thursday with three mid-day start times and two matchups during traditional viewing hours.

While the daytime games may be accessible to some, the odd tip-off times prevent many fans from watching live, forcing them to record the game and stay off social media. The awkward scheduling may be another effect of COVID-19, or it could signal a substantial change in the Conference’s scheduling philosophy.

Be that as it may, two pivotal matchups in the Pac-12 begin on national television just a few hours after lunch. Stanford faces a test in the altitude of the Huntsman Center, and Washington State tries its luck at Pauley Pavilion.


 

Yet, in what may be the oddest scheduling quirk of the Pac-12 Era, the day begins with an 11:00 AM Pacific Time tip-off in Boulder.

I preview that matchup below, as well as the remaining games of the day.

California at Colorado

Thursday, January 14
11:00 AM PT, Pac-12 Network

The Buffs return to the CU Events Center fresh off a win in Salt Lake City for the first time since 2012. Star senior guard McKinley Wright IV is one assist away from setting the All-Time Colorado record for assists in a career, and should eclipse the mark in the first few minutes of the game.

The Bears are 1-6 in Boulder since the Conference expanded, and could have their hands full with the nation’s best free throw shooting team. Compounding matters, Cal is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country and at the bottom of the barrel in blocked shots.

The lack of inside presence projects to be exploited by Evan Battey and Jabari Walker, and Mark Fox can bet that Tad Boyle’s game-plan is to exploit that advantage using Wright’s ball-handling and distribution. The result could be over-compensation on defense to protect the paint, allowing CU’s outside shooters to rain threes.

But if Cal’s Andre Kelly goes toe-to-toe with Battey while staying out of foul trouble, the Bears could keep the game close through the mid-way point of the second half.

Stanford at Utah

Thursday, January 14
2:00 PM PT, ESPN2

There are no Gimmie-Games in the Conference of Champions, and this early afternoon showdown in Salt Lake City is no exception. Though the Utes are below .500 and 0-5 in Quad 1 matchups, don’t let their record fool you.

Larry Krystkowiak’s squad nearly took down Oregon, Colorado, and UCLA, providing his players with plenty of confidence to pull off the upset.

The Tree, on the other hand, are 1-1 in Quad 2 designated games and must continue to make statements that they belong in the Tournament. Without an elite team to garner the respect of the East Coast and national media, the Pac-12 and its programs must fight for every scrap of respect.

A defeat would put a damper on Stanford’s trip to the Mountain schools, while a victory could spur a dramatic showdown with Colorado on Saturday.


 

Washington State at UCLA

Thursday, January 14
2:00 PM PT, FS1

After opening Pac-12 play with five-straight wins, UCLA returns to Pauley Pavilion to face Washington State. In many ways, the first-place Bruins face a Cougar team that mirrors Mick Cronin’s coaching style.

With a defense-first mentality, Washington State leads the nation in opponent field goal percentage and is ninth in the country in rebounds per game.

But Kyle Smith’s squad doesn’t have the offensive firepower to match UCLA, and the Cougars project to be without starting guard Noah Williams, who suffered a back injury in WSU’s last game against Stanford. If Williams were unable to play, Washington State could start four freshmen.

Still, Isaac Bonton is capable of single-handedly taking over the game, and Mick Cronin’s defensive game-plan begins with stopping the senior guard.

A convincing Bruin win may help increase their potential seed in the NCAA Tournament, while a Cougar victory could generate national respect.

Washington at USC

Thursday, January 14
6:30 PM PT, Pac-12 Network

usc logoOver a period of 45 minutes on Tuesday night, Andy Enfield and the Trojans were brought back to Earth. The reality check provided by the five-point overtime win over UC Riverside should be a lesson well-learned.

Had the Big West program been blown out by the Trojans as many expected, the matchup with the 1-9 Huskies could have been a trap game. But now that Enfield and his players know the fine line they must walk, the likelihood of a Washington upset is substantially decreased.

And with the length and touch needed to attack a zone, the Mobley brothers could exploit Mike Hopkins’ system all game.

On the other side of the floor, the tenacious USC defense projects to make life miserable for the Dawg offense that lacks a scoring threat outside Quade Green. To keep the game within reach, Hopkins must find production aside from his senior leader and avoid settling for outside shots.

If UW gets to the line early and often, it could keep the game from getting out of hand in the first half.


 

Arizona at Oregon State

Thursday, January 14
8:00 PM PT, FS1

Back on the hardwood for the first time since January 4th, Oregon State faces an Arizona team without its starting shooting guard. On Monday, Sean Miller announced that Jemarl Baker Jr. is out for the rest of the year due to a broken hand, throwing another wrench in UA’s season.

The injury will force Miller to change his starting lineup, though the back-to-back defeats at home for just the second time in the Pac-12 Era arguably forced his hand, regardless of the injury to Baker Jr.

While there’s no denying the impact the loss of Arizona’s second-leading scorer will have, the Cats have plenty of firepower to make up for it.

Bennedict Mathurin projects to get the first start of his career, while Terrell Brown Jr. could start for the first time as a Wildcat. Throw in the possible return of Christian Koloko to the starting lineup, and Miller has himself a reborn starting five.

With a 5-2 record at Gill Coliseum since 2011-12, UA must contain OSU’s Ethan Thompson to extend its success in Corvallis.







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