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Dane Miller’s NCAA Pac-12 Second Round Previews


Posted on March 19, 2022




  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

Jhe Conference of Champions advanced two teams to the knockout stages, keeping hopes of the league’s Final Four alive.

The Bruins and Wildcats face tough second-round opponents, but both matchups have telltale favorable signs that could point to two more Pac-12 wins.

I’m previewing both matches here, and my picks and Stephen Vilardo’s picks appear at the bottom.

Dane Miller's NCAA Pac-12 Second Round PreviewsDane Miller's NCAA Pac-12 Second Round PreviewsNo. 5 St. Mary’s c. No. 4 UCLA

Moda Center, Portland, OR
Saturday March 19
4:10 p.m. PT, TBS

JThe Bruins endured a scare against the 14-seeded Akron Zips on Thursday night, coming from behind late in the second half to secure the victory.

The four-point victory may pale in comparison to the Gaels’ 29-point crush of Indiana, but what happened in the first round can be thrown out the window.

UCLA survived and moved on, that’s all that matters in March.

The game against St. Mary’s presents a much tougher challenge, however, with the second-place WCC team holding the 9th-best defense in the nation according to KenPom.

Based on the well-respected metric, St. Mary’s “D” is the second toughest unit the Bruins have faced all season, only behind Gonzaga, who held UCLA to 63 points.

Dane Miller's NCAA Pac-12 Second Round Previews
UCLA’s Cody Riley | Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Yet the Gaels have one glaring flaw: bouncing back.

Ranked 247th in rebounds per game, St. Mary’s is vulnerable to second-chance opportunities and doesn’t plant the boards on offense.

The lack of offensive rebound forces him to shoot effectively from the field, resulting in one of the slowest tempos in all of college basketball.

The slower pace arguably favors UCLA, which thrives in games where the opponent is limited to 70 or less.

Johnny Juzang must have a better game than his 3-for-11 performance in the first round, and Myles Johnson can’t fade like he did on Thursday, but the game in Portland looks favorable for the Bruins style of play.

If UCLA can continue to keep its turnovers low and do some damage on the glass, it should find a way to move to the Sweet 16.

Dane Miller's NCAA Pac-12 Second Round PreviewsArizona Football Pac-12No. 9 TCU vs. No. 1 Arizona

Viejas Arena, San Diego, CA
Sunday March 20
6:40 p.m. PT, TBS

JOmmy Lloyd’s team showed their NCAA Tournament inexperience in their first-round game against Wright State.

The Cats committed 19 turnovers in the 17-point win, arguably disappointing and potentially making this game a fashionable upset pick.

TCU has one of the best defenses in the country, but their offense is blocked in the Stone Age. The Horned Frogs’ points per game (252nd), 3-point percentage (315th) and turnovers per night (313th) rank among the worst in the nation.

Still, it’s one of the best rebounding (28th) and shot blocking (69th) teams, coming in as the 15th best defense according to KenPom.

Arizona has only faced a higher caliber unit when it faced Tennessee and the three times it played UCLA.

Dane Miller's NCAA Pac-12 Second Round Previews
Arizona’s Christian Koloko | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

But without such a strong attack to strike fear into Lloyd’s staff, the game plan could be focused on the defensive side of the ball.

Perimeter defense will be essential, but will generate turnovers and make the transitional figure a priority for UA, with the underlying goal of accelerating TCU to make mistakes.

Capitalizing on TOs and scoring on the fast break could help break up the Horned Frog defense, increase the pace and produce more offensive opportunities for Arizona to take advantage of.

Perhaps more importantly, however, Bennedict Mathurin is eager to bounce back from his ineffective first round game.

The Pac-12 Player of the Year almost never has back-to-back bad games and numbers to exploit ball screens all night.

As long as the Cats handle the ball better than they did on Thursday, they should move to the Sweet 16.


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