TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's time to find out if the Buffs are ready for prime time.

With three of its previous four games not even televised and the other contest aired regionally, Colorado was able to quietly climb into a second-place tie with Cal in the Pac-12 standings.

Tad Boyle's suddenly bubble-conscious team can make a clamorous statement to the college basketball world on Thursday night when CU faces Arizona here at the McKale Center.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPN.

"You can't ask for anything more than playing a quality opponent on national TV," Boyle said. "That's where you want to be in February."

The Buffs (16-7, 8-3) want to be in the NCAA Tournament in March.

In order to do that, CU will have to play well away from the Coors Events Center with five of the final seven regular-season games on the road.

Entering this week's action, the Buffs are one game behind Washington (16-7, 9-2) in the chase for the program's first conference title since 1969.

"It feels great," sophomore forward Andre Roberson said of playing on the first CU team to be in contention this late in the season since Chauncey Billups' sophomore year (1996-97). "We've been working hard every day in practice, and it's good to see it finally paying off.

"But we have to keep it rolling. We have some tough games coming up that we have to be prepared for."


The Pac-12, ranked ninth in conference RPI, is not projected to receive more than two bids to the NCAA Tournament.

The Buffs -- who are a dominant 13-1 in Boulder and a flaccid 2-4 in true road games -- desperately need a strong finish to the regular season.

CU does not have a top-50 RPI victory today (lost to No. 24 Colorado State and No. 48 Cal.

The Buffs, who check in with an RPI of 73 this week, are just 3-6 against opponents in the top 100 with wins over No. 62 Arizona, No. 76 Washington, and No. 83 Oregon; the other losses were to No. 69 Wyoming, No. 96 Stanford and No. 98 Maryland.

"I think there's a lot of work to do. We can't think ahead or take any game for granted," senior forward Austin Dufault said. "There are teams that are in the middle of the pack but only a couple games back. You look at Arizona, they just won two games on the road. I think the Pac-12 is anybody's to win.

"We just have to think about ourselves, take care of our business, and we'll be in good shape."

The Wildcats (16-8, 7-4) beat Cal and Stanford in the Bay Area last week.

There were 10 ties and 10 lead changes during the first meeting between these two evenly matched teams in Boulder. CU held on for a 64-63 win after holding Arizona to 3-for-20 shooting from 3-point distance.

The Buffs prevailed even though Roberson finished the game without a point and 0-for-8 from the field.

"I think he had an off game. Sometimes when a player gets in foul trouble in the first half, the game doesn't feel the same to him," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. "I know he will be a terrific player (Thursday). He's also one of the conference's most productive players."

Roberson, the Pac-12's leading rebounder, had 11 boards, a career-high seven blocks and seven points during CU's 72-71 win over Oregon last Saturday.

The Buffs pulled out their second substantial one-point conference home, despite a tough night shooting for leading scorer Carlon Brown (10 points on 4-for-14 from the field, including 0-for-6 behind the arc).

"I think one of the positives we take out of the oregon game is Carlon probably didn't play as well as he's capable of and we still won. Just like against Arizona with Andre," Boyle said. "To beat a team like Arizona at Arizona, we can't have too many sub-par performances. We've got to be playing well."