Arizona is coming off an impressive 93-77 win over Utah, while Colorado took care of business at Arizona State to set up Saturday’s showdown between conference rivals. The No. 20 Buffaloes represent the fourth nationally ranked opponent for the Wildcats, giving Arizona a chance at a much-needed, high-profile win.
Arizona (12-5, 2-2 Pac-12) have yet to beat a nationally ranked team this season and despite having one of the toughest schedules in the country, have little to show for it in eye-catching victories. The Wildcats are 10-3 in Tucson against the Buffaloes, and a perfect 7-0 at home under Sean Miller.
Colorado (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12), which defeated Arizona 67-60 a year ago in Boulder, is more than capable of leaving Tucson with a win, particularly if the Wildcats don’t play to form. When Arizona’s in rhythm, they look unbeatable. When they are not, they are very beatable.
Season-starting center Chase Jeter is likely to miss his second consecutive game with back spasms. However, his absence was not a problem for his teammates against the Utes as the Wildcats finished with a plus-six rebounding edge and advantages in scoring in the paint, second chance points, and offensive rebounds.
This means graduate transfer Stone Gettings will likely make his second-straight start alongside lineup stables Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Dylan Smith and Zeke Nnaji.
McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey lead Colorado in scoring at 13.4 points per game. Wright is the team’s assist leader at 5.0 per game while Bey is a rebounding machine, averaging 9.6 boards per game.
Meanwhile, Arizona’s freshmen trio of Mannion, Green and Nnaji are all scoring in double figures, with Mannion the current Pac-12 assists leader and Nnaji pulling down 8.5 rebounds to go along with his 16.9 points scoring average.
The team that is able to set the tone and play at their pace will win on Saturday. Both teams can defend, so things can get sloppy at times. Where Arizona excelled against Utah was its ability to turn steals into points and turn defensive rebounds into transition scoring opportunities. The Wildcats were able to enter their offense before the Utah defense could get set up. It led to a wide open game where Arizona dominated.
Colorado will do everything in its power to slow the Wildcats down at McKale Center. The Buffaloes, who do play up tempo at home, tend to be more physical in true road settings, grinding the game down to a crawl and being better at all of the intangibles. Of course, the intangibles have been what’s hurt Arizona in its five losses.
Arizona did improve in being better at all the little things against Utah and hope that level of aggressive remains through this brief two-game home stand.
The odds makers favor the Wildcats by six points, which sounds about right.