CU men's basketball preview
SATURDAY: The No. 6 Colorado Buffaloes (22-11) will face the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats (23-10) in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game at 4 p.m. at the Staples Center.
BROADCAST: Television on CBS with Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Reggie Miller (analyst) and Dan Bonner (reporter). Radio on KOA (AM 850) with Mark Johnson (play-by-play) and Chris Lewis (color). Follow on Twitter @RyanThorburn.
SEASON SERIES: Teams split 1-1 (CU won 64-63 on Jan. 21 in Boulder; Arizona won 71-57 on Feb. 9 in Tucson).
COACHES: Tad Boyle is 46-25 in his second season at CU. Sean Miller is 69-33 in his third season at Arizona.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado - G Nate Tomlinson, 6-3, Sr., 5.9 ppg, 3.2 apg; F Andre Roberson, 6-7, So., 11.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg; F Austin Dufault, 6-9, Sr., 10.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg; G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-5, Fr., 10.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg; G Carlon Brown, 6-5, Sr., 12.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg. Arizona - F Jesse Perry, 6-7, Sr., 12.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg; F Solomon Hill, 6-6, Jr., 12.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg; G Nick Johnson, 6-2, Fr., 9.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg; G Jordin Mayes, 6-2, So., 4.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg; G Kyle Fogg, 6-3, Sr., 13.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg.
SERIES: CU leads 9-6.
UP NEXT: The winner of today's game earns the Pac-12's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The loser will likely participate in the NIT.
Colorado's second-year head coach pointed out that Connecticut won five games in five nights last March to win the Big East Tournament.
That led to six more wins in the NCAA Tournament and a national championship for the Huskies.
"We believe that we can win this tournament. A four-game slate, four days, anything is possible in March. We just have to regoup and play the way we play," Carlon Brown said after CU limped to the finish line with three lopsided losses in the final four regular-season games. "It's possible. We've all played a hectic AAU schedule before. We've got young legs. We know what's at stake.
"It means a lot to us to really go for that goal."
After beating Utah, Oregon and Cal over the last three nights, sixth-seeded CU will face No. 4 Arizona for the conference tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament today at the Staples Center (4 p.m., CBS).
The Buffs (22-11) will play in their first conference tournament championship game since the 1990 Big Eight final where they lost 92-80 to Oklahoma in Kansas City, Mo.
Against the Bears (24-9), Brown was spectacular again, scoring 17 points on 8-for-15 shooting in the semifinals Friday night.
Andre Roberson continued to make a case for tournament most valuable player with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Seniors Austin Dufault (15 points) and Nate Tomlinson (10 points, no turnovers) played with great poise.
True freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker have raised the level of their defensive play since returning home to their native Los Angeles.
"I like the feeling of this team," Boyle said. "I like the feeling in this locker room right now."
The Wildcats (23-10) had a bye in the opening round, took care of UCLA in the quarterfinals, and outscored Oregon State 45-27 in the second half of a 72-61 semifinal victory on Friday.
CU and Arizona split two meetings in the regular season with each team defending its home court.
Defense will win this Pac-12 championship game.
"I think it's really appropriate that you've got the two best defensive basketball teams playing for the championship," Boyle said. "I know our guys will be ready to go. We're going to be playing with a lot of emotion. I'm sure they are too. A lot's at stake."
Cal, despite the 70-59 loss to CU, is still considered to be in solid position for an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Regular-season champion Washington is on the bubble after losing to Oregon State in the quarterfinals.
The Arizona-CU winner is in. The loser will likely have to settle for an NIT appearance.
The Buffs thought they had a spot in the NCAA field locked up a year ago but were snubbed and settled for a run to Madison Square Garden in the "other" tournament.
"I don't want to talk about bubbles. I don't want to talk about the NCAA Tournament," Boyle said. "We want to just come here and get the job done. What these young men went through last year, we don't want to go through again."