Arizona Basketball Preview: No. 17 Arizona hosts Colorado

After beating Utah in their Pac-12 home opener, the No. 17 Arizona Wildcats (14-2, 3-0) will host the Colorado Buffaloes (10-5, 0-2) on Saturday.

In a war of attrition, the Arizona Wildcats wore down the visiting Utah Utes to come away with a workmanlike 66-56 victory in front of the McKale faithful. The Cats will look to do more of the same as they their host Pac-12 South rivals, the Colorado Buffaloes.

The Buffs have stumbled into conference play, dropping their opener at Salt Lake City to the Utes by a score of 76-60. Last night, they dropped a hard-fought game in Tempe to the Arizona State Sun Devils by a score of 78-77 as ASU’s Tra Holder sunk two late free throws to seal the win for the Sun Devils.

While both losses look bad, the Cats should not take these Buffs lightly. Colorado started off the season well with victories against ranked opponents such as then-ranked No. 22 Texas and No. 16 Xavier. Both teams were bigger and longer than Colorado; however, the Buffs were able to find ways to win, despite lacking a physical advantage.

For example, Colorado was able to significantly out-rebound a larger Texas team, who have since fallen to a disappointing 7-7 record. Regardless, the Buffs play with effort and intensity that matches their seventh-year head coach Tad Boyle. Against Xavier, Colorado used more than hustle plays to pull off the upset as they were able to drain 9 shots from deep off of 20 attempts.

The Cats should be wary of this Buffs team as they roll into McKale Center on Saturday night. While I do think that the Cats will be able to physically dominate and wear down Colorado just as they did to Utah, this Buffs team can potentially sink all those three-point shots that the Utes struggled to hit.

Jan 5, 2017; Tempe, AZ, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard George King (24) passes the ball by Arizona State Sun Devils guard Kodi Justice (44) and Arizona State Sun Devils guard Tra Holder (0) during the first half at Wells-Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado’s senior leader Xavier Johnson would especially like to exact revenge against the Cats one last time in McKale. The Mater Dei High School product has yet to participate in a win against Arizona during his time in Boulder as he had to sit out last season’s Buffs win against Arizona in Boulder.

He was brutally welcomed to this budding Pac-12 South Rivalry after getting “gloved” by Aaron Gordon on a SportsCenter Top 10 play most Cats fans will remember.

Since the Buffs joined the Pac-12 in 2011, the Cats own a 9-4 advantage over Colorado. Last season’s games were close, as the two teams split; however, much of the Buffs excellent front court play last year can be attributed to Josh Scott who has since graduated.

Expect a well-played game and keep an eye out for Colorado’s four seniors Xavier Johnson (13.9 ppg), Derrick White (16.3 ppg), Josh Fortune (8.2 ppg), Wesley Gordon (7.0 ppg) and junior guard George King (10.3 ppg), as they will all look to contribute from deep and on the glass to give the Cats a close game.

Prediction: 82-77  Arizona Wins 

A determined Buffs team will come out hot and lead at the half, but the bigger Cats will settle down defensively and wear down Colorado on the glass to come away with a win.

I don’t expect a big win like most anticipate. The Cats got lucky many times on Thursday night with the Utes missing good shots and I don’t think Colorado will miss those opportunities.

Here’s more information on where you can watch the game:

Date: Saturday, January 7th

Time: 6:30pm PST, 7:30pm MST

Location: McKale Memorial Center (14,545)

Line: Arizona -12.5

Television: PAC12 Network

Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network Arizona Wildcats (Try TuneIn Radio)

Team Records:

  • Arizona Wildcats (14-2, 3-0):  lost to No. 13 Butler and No. 7 Gonzaga on neutral courts, possess eight-game winning streak
  • Colorado Buffaloes (10-5, 0-2): After beating teams like No. 22 Texas and No. 16 Xavier in non-conference play, the Buffs have started their Pac-12 slate with losses at Utah and at ASU

Arizona Starting Lineup (Probable):

PG Kadeem Allen

SG Kobi Simmons

SF Rawle Alkins

PF Lauri Markkanen 

Dusan Ristic

6th man Parker Jackson-Cartwright

When it comes to this rivalry, it really seems like a boom-or-bust matchup with the Buffs. Typically, Arizona either blows out Colorado by 15-20 point margins or the two teams battle for all of forty minutes in a 50:50 ballgame. Regardless, it should be exciting to see the Cats try for a sweep over their Rocky Mountain rivals and start off Pac-12 play with a 4-0 record.

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