Dan Miller’s Round 2 Pac-12 Hoops Tournament Preview

Posted on March 9, 2023

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

DThe Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament features quarterfinal matchups between all eight remaining eight teams.

[Read how each of them got here in Stephen Vilardo’s Round 1 Game Notes.]

The action begins with UCLA against Colorado and ends with USC versus Arizona State.

I preview all four games here and my picks, along with Stéphane Vilardo’s, appear below.

9-seed Colorado vs. 1-seed UCLA

Thursday, March 9
Afternoon PT, Pac-12 Network

TeaAn injury to Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark has dominated the discussion surrounding UCLA for the past few days.

One of the most integral parts of the Bruins’ roster, Clarke’s absence cannot be underestimated.

Nevertheless, Mick Cronin has managed to develop quality depth with Dylan Andrews and Will McClendon coming off the bench. The two rarely used players should be out with Clarke for the rest of the year.

However, the roof of the team now arguably rests on David Singleton’s shoulders.

The senior was already the X-factor for UCLA as a speedy sixth man, and his return to the starting lineup will play a key role in the Bruins’ success in March.

Colorado guard Julian Hammond III vs. Washington | imagination of powers

Matched up with Colorado, the key to advancing to the semifinals is forcing turnovers. The Buffs are sluggish with the ball, entering the game ranked 262nd in TeO’s commits per game.

Tad Boyle doesn’t have much inside presence on the team, yet his group rebounds and blocks shots at a high rate. Coming into the quarterfinals ranked No. 19 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, Colorado’s strength is its defense.

Adem Bona’s battle in the paint with Lawson Lovering is worth watching. UCLA doesn’t play two big games at once, arguably playing into Colorado’s personnel hands.

However, the Buffs have no one to stop Jaime Jacquez Jr., and the Pac-12 Player of the Year’s statistics are there to eat.

As long as UCLA’s defenders stay connected to their opponent and disrupt the passing lane like they have all year, Cronin’s group should score enough points to pull away in the second half.

5-seed Washington State vs. 4-seed Oregon

Thursday, March 9
2:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

IIn what could be the game of the day in the Pac-12 tournament, Washington State battles Oregon for a shot at the semifinals.

Arguably, playing in the early rounds benefits the Cougars. After breaking the ice on Wednesday, Kyle Smith’s team could be hot on offense, playing with a high defensive intensity.

Ducks, on the other hand, are prone to coming out of gates and falling into a hole too soon.

Still, the matchup to watch is the battle between WSU’s Mohamed Gueye and Oregon’s N’Faly Dante. The two big players are among the league’s top centers and trade buckets in all games.

Gueye has a finesse advantage and can score from midrange, but Dante is stronger and a better defender in the paint.

Outside of the primary big, the play of the wings can be a determining factor.

WSU Forward DJ Rodman vs Cal | Seattle Times

The Cougars have Andrej Zakimowski, Jabe Mullins and DJ Rodman to score from the perimeter, while Oregon has similar talent in guard-forward hybrids Jermaine Coisnard, Quincy Guerrier and Rivaldo Soares.

However, Wajju is the superior three-point shooting team, and should win the battle between the wings.

This leaves the matchup between TJ Bamba and Will Richardson as a wildcard. Bamba has the ability to finish any game and Richardson can be downright cold.

Schematically, the key to defeating WSU is defending the perimeter and forcing turnovers. Kyle Smith’s team specialized in hitting shots from deep and taking care of the ball, creating a respectably efficient offense.

But, if Oregon forced the Cougars to commit turnovers while fighting shots from three, WSU’s offense fizzled out.

At the same time, Oregon must win by rebounding margin and limit its own turnovers. Mistakes have been a problem for the Ducks and any turnovers above their average of 12.4 per game can be costly.

10-seed Stanford vs. 2-seed Arizona

Thursday, March 9
6:00 PM PT, Pac-12 Network

AArizona began its Pac-12 tournament with a revenge game against Stanford.

The Cardinals dazzled Tommy Lloyd’s defense earlier this year in Palo Alto, scoring 88 points on 61.1 percent shooting from the field.

Tree’s height also fueled UA’s offense across the board, although a greater percentage of the struggles were attributed to Azuolas Tubelis’ fouls.

The Wildcat big hardly played in the matchup and attempted only two shots with zero rebounds.

This is unlikely to be replicated in Las Vegas.

Combined with perceived feuds against Kerr Krissa and Courtney Ramey in All-Conference team selections, the Cats must be highly motivated.

The key for Arizona is limiting turnovers.

Mistakes have been a persistent problem throughout UA’s season and could tilt the scales in Stanford’s favor. Krissa, in particular, must value the ball and execute it without fouling up.

Stanford forward Brandon Engel vs. Utah | David Baker/AP

The junior led the Pac-12 in assists, averaging 5.4 per game, yet dished it out more than 2.7 times per night. If the Estonian keeps his errors below his average, Arizona will be in a strong position.

On defense, the Cats should have Spencer Jones.

The Cardinal forward had a rough night from the field in the early rounds, but Lloyd has the ability to single-handedly beat the team with his three-point shooting.

Brandon Angel and Harrison Ingram are the other primary threats to the game plan. Angel is a mismatch for Tubliss when Stanford is on offense and a problem for UA’s leading scorer on defense.

The 6-foot-8 and 240-pound Angel is the type of player Tubliss has historically struggled against. If Arizona’s leading scorer happens to be a Cardinals junior, Jerrod Haase’s group could pull off an upset.

Likewise, Ingram is a matchup problem with no easy answer. Cedric Henderson Jr. and Pelle Larsson are set to rotate against him, but Ingram has the advantage over both size and physicality.

The X-factor, however, is Omar Bellow. The Arizona center’s efficiency against Maxime Renaud could tip the scales either way. If Balo is missing his shots around the rim, Arizona will be in trouble.

There aren’t many teams in the nation with the personnel to adequately match and frustrate with Arizona, but Stanford is one of them. In that sense, this game is officially on upset alert.

6-seed Arizona State vs. 3-seed USC

Thursday, March 9
8:30 p.m. PT, ESPN

IIn the quarterfinal nightcap, Arizona State will take on USC on ESPN.

The Trojans have a matchup problem for the Sun Devils. Bobby Hurley’s system is guard-oriented and does most of its damage with its starters.

USC has a similar guard-based offense but is taller with stronger scorers. Boogie Ellis may be the top player in the Pac-12 and Drew Peterson is among the best in the league.

Add in an improved group of role players with Kobe Johnson, Reese Dixon-Waters and Trey White, and Andy Enfield has the roster structure to overcome ASU.

Neither team particularly emphasizes getting the ball into the hands of their big players, leading to very similar matching systems.

ASU forward Warren Washington vs. OSU | Stephen R. Silvani/USA Today Sports

USC is one of the elite in blocking shots and a respectable passing team. Enfield’s group also limits their turnovers fairly well, which makes the Trojans well-rounded and difficult to beat.

Joshua Morgan matches up quite well with Warren Washington, turning the game into a straight battle between guards.

Like every Arizona State game, the shooting efficiency of Desmond Cambridge Jr. and DJ Horn could determine the game. Frankie Collins is also a skilled distributor, and it could be tough to stay away from him against USC.

On the other hand, the game plan to beat the Anfield team is relatively straightforward. If the Sun Devils defense is able to disable Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson off the field, USC doesn’t have a consistent third or fourth threat.

From a big-picture perspective, Arizona State is on the wrong side of the bubble and more on the line.

But, if the selection show is held today, the Trojans may not feel comfortable. With high stakes on the table for both the events, this matchup could be the most intense of the day.

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