TUCSON, Ariz. -- Most coaches would put the game plan from a 36-point loss through the shredder.

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle gave his team the same blue print to beat No. 3 Arizona in the Pac-12 opener Thursday night at the McKale Center (6 p.m., ESPNU) that he provided the Buffs before the Dec. 8 loss at then-No. 9 Kansas.

"Our game plan going into Arizona is a lot like it was going into KU," Boyle said. "We want to control tempo, take care of the basketball, and not give them easy baskets off of our turnovers."

The Buffs (10-2), who have won three consecutive games since the 90-54 loss in Lawrence, Kan., obviously allowed the Jayhawks to do as they pleased at Allen Fieldhouse. KU shot 54.8 percent from the field while CU committed 18 turnovers and finished with eight assists.

Colorado coach Tad Boyle has devised a similar game plan for Thursday’s game at Arizona as the Buffs had against Kansas last month.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle has devised a similar game plan for Thursday's game at Arizona as the Buffs had against Kansas last month. ( JEREMY PAPASSO )

CU point guard Spencer Dinwiddie expects the visitors to be much more composed and competitive against the unbeaten Wildcats (12-0).

A win would count the same in the standings as all of the others, but beating the preseason Pac-12 favorite on the road would make a national statement for the young and talented Buffs.

"We look up to them in a lot of ways. They are the perennial program in the Pac-12, especially since UCLA has had a couple of down years," Dinwiddie said. "They're kind of where we want to be, and it's always a good measuring stick to play teams that good."

CU will face a highly motivated Arizona team. Boyle and the Buffs cut down the nets after their 53-51 win in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game last March in Los Angeles, leaving Sean Miller and the Wildcats to settle for an uninspired NIT appearance.

"Colorado, rightfully so, rode a lot of momentum they got from making the tournament into winning a game in the (NCAA) Tournament," Miller told the Arizona Daily Star this week. "But it's amazing that there was one shot that separated us from doing that and not them."

Miller and Boyle each have a good mix of key returning players and highly touted freshmen.

Senior forward Solomon Hill (12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and sophomore guard Nick Johnson (12.7 ppg, 2.3 apg) are back to lead the Wildcats. They are joined in the starting lineup by standout point guard transfer Mark Lyons, who played for Miller at Xavier.

The Buffs counter with the 6-6 Dinwiddie (14.4 ppg, 2.8 apg), Askia Booker (14.8 ppg) and senior Sabatino Chen in the backcourt.

Andre Roberson (12.1 ppg, 12.1 rpg) and Josh Scott (13.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) will try to control the paint against Hill, 7-foot freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski and 6-8 freshman forward Brandon Ashley.

"We're similar teams," Dinwiddie said. "Some might say they're more talented, but we're going in there to beat them just like any other team."

CU was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. It appears Boyle will exceed outside expectations for a third consecutive season based on a solid non-conference performance that included quality wins over Dayton, Baylor, Murray State and Colorado State.

"I definitely feel like we can win the regular season and also the tournament," Roberson said. "I think that's everybody in the conference's goal, and we want to do the same thing and win a conference championship this year."

The road to a title begins in Tucson, Ariz., where the Wildcats are 7-0 this season, shooting 50.8 percent from the field, out-rebounding opponents by an average of 7.3 boards and winning by an average of 18.4 points.

The CU coaches can't wait to see if the Buffs can execute the KU game plan to perfection this time after a good week of practice.

"I want our team to compete mentally, I want them to compete physically, and I want to play with poise," Boyle said. "If we do that, I'll take whatever results come. This is one of 18 league games. We can't make it bigger than what it is, but we can't shy away from the significance of it either."

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanThorburn

CU at Arizona preview THURSDAY NIGHT: The Colorado Buffaloes (10-2) open up Pac-12 play at the No. 3 Arizona Wildcats (12-0) at 6 p.m. at the McKale Center (14,545).

BROADCAST: Television on ESPNU with Roxy Bernstein (play-by-play) and Miles Simon (analyst). Radio on KOA (850 AM) with Mark Johnson (play-by-play) and Chad Brown (analyst). Follow on Twitter: @RyanThorburn.

CU STORY LINES: The Buffs finished non-conference play on a three-game winning streak after an 80-52 victory over Hartford on Saturday. ... CU is 2-0 in conference openers under Tad Boyle. ... The Buffs' last road win against a top-5 opponent was an 81-79 overtime win at No. 5 Missouri on Jan. 15, 1973. ... CU is a Pac-12-best 6-1 in games decided by 10 or fewer points. ... Andre Roberson notched his conference-best sixth double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds against Hartford. Josh Scott added a career-high 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting and had 10 rebounds.

ARIZONA STORY LINES: The Wildcats finished a perfect non-conference schedule with a 68-67 win over San Diego State in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Dec. 25. ... Arizona, the preseason conference favorite, remained No. 3 in both the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, behind Duke and Michigan. No other Pac-12 teams were ranked. ... In seven home games to date, Arizona shoots 50.8 percent from the field, outrebounds foes by 7.3 rebounds per game and posts a +18.4 scoring margin. ... The Wildcats are 3-2 all-time against CU in Tucson, including a 71-57 win last season.

KEY STAT: The Buffs have not won a conference road opener since the 1968-69 season (80-56 win at Oklahoma State on Jan. 4, 1969), a streak of 21 consecutive losses.

COACHES: Tad Boyle is 58-28 in his third season at CU. Sean Miller is 81-35 in his fourth season at Arizona.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- F Andre Roberson, 6-7, So., 12.1 ppg, 12.1 rpg; F Josh Scott, 6-10, Fr., 13.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg; G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-6, So., 14.4 ppg, 2.8 apg; G Askia Booker, 6-1, So., 14.8 ppg, 2.3 apg; G Sabatino Chen, 6-4, Sr., 4.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg. Arizona -- C Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0, Fr., 6.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg; F Brandon Ashley, 6-8, Fr., 8.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg; F Solomon Hill, 6-7, Sr., 12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg; G Mark Lyons, 6-1, Sr., 13.4 ppg, 3.2 apg; G Nick Johnson, 6-3, So., 12.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg.

SERIES: CU leads 10-6, including a 64-63 win in Boulder last season and a 53-51 win in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game last March in Los Angeles.

UP NEXT: The Buffs finish the road trip on Sunday at Arizona State (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network).