March 1, 2022
What to look for in the Pac-12 Tournament first round matchups
It's time to go ALL IN in Las Vegas
March is here! The best time of the year for college basketball fans is finally upon us. Before we get to March Madness, though, we have conference tournaments to enjoy. Here is a preview of all four first-round matchups in the Pac-12 tournament.
Game 1: No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Washington
Colorado 20-7, 9-7 Pac-12
Washington 7-15, 2-12 Pac-12
First Matchup: Colorado defeated Washington 66-43 in Boulder on Feb. 6th
Key Stat: Colorado held Washington to 35% shooting and forced 21 Huskie turnovers.
Key Players: Mya Hollingshed had 20 pts, 6 rebs, and 4 ast for the Buffaloes. Nancy Mulkey had 16 pts and 4 rebs for the Huskies.
Colorado has success when they: hold their opponent under 60 points.
The Buffaloes have had one of their best seasons under sixth-year head coach JR Payne. Colorado has made its stamp this year on the defensive end. The Buffs lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense, giving up just 57 ppg on the season. They also lead the Pac-12 in steals per game and are second in Turnover Margin. Colorado is 16-1 when they hold their opponents to under 60 points. If the Buffaloes can continue to play at a high level on the defensive end, they could see a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament.
Washington has success when they: play the way they’ve played over the last two weeks.
The Huskies have played a lot better than their 2-12 Pac-12 record shows. They’ve only lost four Pac-12 games by double figures. While it hasn’t been the smoothest season for first-year head coach Tina Langley, her Huskies have battled through a tough schedule and have been playing better recently. They lost to No. 12 Arizona by nine and defeated Arizona State for their first conference victory two weeks ago. Last week, they beat Cal on the road and took No. 2 Stanford to the wire in Palo Alto. If the Huskies play with the competitiveness and energy they’ve brought over the past two weeks, they could upset Colorado.
Game 2: No. 8 Oregon State vs. No. 9 Arizona State
Oregon State 13-12, 6-9 Pac -12
Arizona State 12-13, 4-9 Pac-12
First Matchup: Arizona State defeated Oregon State 67-57 in Tempe on Feb. 4th
Key Stat: Arizona State scored 23 points off of 19 Oregon State turnovers.
Key Players: Jade Loville had 33 pts on 12-22 shooting for the Sun Devils. Talia von Oelhoffen had 16 pts and 4 ast for the Beavers.
Oregon State has success when they: outrebound their opponent.
Oregon State got off to a great start in conference play, winning four of their first six Pac-12 games. Then it was announced that sophomore center and preseason all Pac-12 performer Taylor Jones was out for the season after having shoulder surgery. Since the announcement, the Beavers are 2-7. However, this year, the Beavers have found the most success when they outrebound their opponents, going 12-6 when grabbing more boards. They lead the Pac-12 in defensive rebounds per game and are third in the league in rebounding margin. Taya Corosdale and Kennedy Brown are top 11 in the conference in rebounds per game. They only outrebounded Arizona State by 1 in the first matchup, so they will need to have a stronger showing on the glass if they want to beat the Sun Devils this time.
Arizona State has success when: Jade Loville scores 18+ points.
The Sun Devils have had a similar conference season to the Beavers. They started off well, winning four of their first seven, including victories over Colorado, Oregon and Arizona. However, Arizona State limps its’ way into the Pac-12 tournament, losers of their last six games. The Sun Devils this year have been led by Boise State transfer Loville. Loville is third in the Pac-12 in scoring, averaging 16.9 ppg and fourth in three-point shooting, making 43.7% of her outside shots. The Sun Devils have gone as Loville has gone. Arizona State is 8-4 when Loville scores 18 or more points. If she can have another big game against Oregon State, it gives Arizona State a good chance of moving on to the next round.
Game 3: No. 7 UCLA vs. No. 10 USC
First Two Matchups: UCLA won both games against their crosstown rival. The Bruins won the first game at the Galen Center 68-58. In the second game at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA won 66-43.
Key Stat: UCLA held USC to an average of 33% shooting over the two games and forced a combined 38 turnovers in the two matchups.
Key Players: Charisma Osborne averaged 19 pts, 6 rebs and 5 ast in the two games for the Bruins. Jordan Jenkins averaged 15 pts and 8 rebs in the two matchups for the Trojans.
UCLA has success when: Charisma and Ilmar’I Thomas combine for 30+ points.
UCLA has been a team ravaged by injuries this season. Only two players have played in every game this season for the Bruins. They also have had multiple players miss a large percentage of the season with injuries. Cori Close has done a great job with what she’s had to work with this year. UCLA has been led by Osborne and Thomas, who are the second and fifth-leading scorers in the Pac-12, respectively. The Bruins have been most successful when both of their stars shine. When Osborne and Thomas combine for more than 30 points, UCLA is 10-4. They combined for 30+ in both games vs. USC and will probably need to do it again to beat the Trojans.
USC has success when they: Score 70+ points.
First-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb inherited a tough job at USC. They have been up and down in her first year but have done some good things. They beat Arizona early in the conference year and led the Pac-12 in blocks. Two of the top three scorers for the Trojans are freshmen, something that will give Coach Gottlieb excitement about the future of the program. This year, the Trojans have been most successful when scoring 70 or more. Of USC’s 12 wins, 10 have seen them score over 70 points and they have yet to lose when they score 70 or more. The Trojans didn’t break the 60 point mark in either game against UCLA, so they will need to score more to avoid a third loss to the Bruins.
Game 4: No. 6 Utah vs. No. 11 California
First Matchup: Utah defeated Cal 80-75 in overtime in Berkley on Feb. 13th
Key Stat: Utah shot 17-20 from the free-throw line and made nine 3’s.
Key Players: Gianna Kneepkens had 21 pts and 9 rebs for the Utes. Dalayah Daniels had 17 pts and 8 rebs for the Bears.
Utah has success when they: make at least nine 3’s.
The Utes have been explosive on offense in Coach Lynne Roberts seventh season at the helm. Last week, I wrote a story on what has allowed Utah to be the No. 1 offense in the Pac-12. The biggest key for the Utes has been their three-point shooting. They lead the Pac-12 and are top six in the nation in three’s made per game. They also lead the Pac-12 in three-point percentage, making 35.6% of their shots from outside the arc. Utah this season is 13-3 when they make at least nine threes. When they defeated Cal earlier this year, Utah hit nine threes. Another productive night from outside should allow the Utes to advance to the second round.
Cal has success when they: shoot more free throws than their opponent.
The Bears are a very young team. Cal got less than 5% of their scoring this year from its’ senior class. Cal has the leading scorer in the conference on their team in freshman Jayda Curry, but she is the only player on the team averaging double figures. Cal’s offense has been up and down this year; however, one of their biggest areas of success has been free-throw shooting. The Bears shoot 78.2% from the line, which is second-best in the Pac-12. However, Cal is only sixth in free throws attempted and T-4th in free throws made. When Cal shoots more free throws than their opponent, they are 9-4. Cal only shot 11 free throws in the first matchup against Utah while the Utes had 20 free throw attempts. The Bears will have to get to the line more if they want to pull off the upset.
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.