CU men's hoops preview

TODAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (20-7, 9-5 Pac-12) host the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats (24-2, 11-2) in a 7 p.m. game at Coors Events Center in Boulder.

BROADCAST:

Radio — KOA (850 AM), with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. TV ESPN, with Dave Pasch, Bill Walton and Holly Rowe on the call.

STORYLINES: CU is 5-1 in its last five games after defeating Arizona State, 61-52, on Wednesday. ... Arizona won the first matchup, 69-57, on Jan. 23 in Tucson, Ariz. Nick Johnson had 18 points for Arizona and Xavier Johnson had 21 for CU. ... Under head coach Tad Boyle, CU is 0-4 against teams in the top four of the Associated Press national rankings. ... Overall, CU has lost 12 consecutive games to top-four teams, the last win coming on Feb. 4, 2003, against No. 3 Texas. ... Since its school-record 21-0 start, Arizona is 3-2 in its last five games, with two of the wins coming by four points or less. All five games have come since sophomore Brandon Ashley broke his foot, ending his season. ...


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Since joining the Pac-12, CU is 3-4 against Arizona, including 2-0 in Boulder. ... Arizona leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (allowing 57.7 points per game), scoring margin (plus-15.1), field-goal percentage defense (38.1 percent) and rebounding margin (plus 8.9). ... CU has the sixth-best defense in the conference (allowing 68.5 points per game), ranks seventh in field-goal percentage defense (42.3) and is second in rebounding margin (plus-7.4). ... For the season, Wildcats' Nick Johnson is ninth in the conference in scoring (15.8 points per game), while freshman Aaron Gordon is seventh in rebounding (7.8 per game). ... During Pac-12 play, CU's Askia Booker is 10th in the conference in scoring (16.4 per game). Josh Scott is sixth in rebounding (8.3) and 14th in scoring (15.6). ... Arizona's T.J. McConnell is the nephew of former CU women's basketball coach Kathy McConnell-Miller.

KEY STAT: In Arizona's win over the Buffs last month, the Wildcats had 23 points off of 16 CU turnovers. The Buffs are 7-1 this season when opponents score 10 points or less off of their turnovers and 3-5 when the opponent has at least 20 points off turnovers.

COACHES: Tad Boyle is 89-45 in his fourth season at CU and 145-111 for his career. Sean Miller is 120-45 in his fifth season at Arizona and 240-92 during his career.

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Colorado

G Xavier Talton, 6-2, So. (4.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.7 apg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (14.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.4 apg); F Dustin Thomas, 6-7, Fr. (3.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (12.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (14.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg). Arizona

G Nick Johnson, 6-3, Jr. (15.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.5 apg); G T.J. McConnell, 6-1, Jr. (8.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.4 apg); F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 6-7, Fr. (8.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg); F Aaron Gordon, 6-9, Fr. (11.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg); C Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0, So. (9.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg).

SERIES: CU leads the all-time series 11-9, including 7-2 in Boulder. Arizona's last win in Boulder came on Dec. 3, 1973.

UP NEXT: CU will visit Utah on March 1.

There are several arenas in college basketball known for the electricity of the crowd.

Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium and Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse are among the best.

The Coors Events Center may not be on that level just yet, but when it comes to big games, it's tough to beat the home arena of the Colorado Buffaloes.

"This place seems to have an edge to me, when you watch the games," ESPN's Rece Davis said on Friday. "I think players feed off of that. Guys want to play in places where there is some electricity and certainly this is one of those places."

Davis is part of the ESPN College GameDay crew that is in Boulder for Saturday's matchup between CU (20-7, 9-5) and No. 4 Arizona (24-2, 11-2).

It's a matchup that has been highly anticipated all year and figures to showcase the Coors Events Center as a top-notch place to watch basketball.

"Tomorrow is not a game I'm going to have to worry about our fans being ready or our players being ready," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "We will be ready to play."

No question, the sellout crowd will be rockin' all day, from the moment the doors open at 6 a.m. for the College GameDay show.

The Buffaloes know they have to bring that same intensity to the court for the 7 p.m. tipoff.

"We need to get off to a good start," Boyle said.

A poor start contributed to CU's 69-57 loss to the Wildcats in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 23. Arizona jumped to an 18-4 lead and never looked back.

"It's a different venue, different game," Boyle said. "We're a different team than we were down there, too, and they are as well."

CU was playing just its third game since losing Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending injury, and they weren't in sync like they are now.

Arizona, meanwhile, is still trying to adjust to life without Brandon Ashley, who suffered a season-ending foot injury two minutes into a loss at California on Feb. 1. Including that Cal game, the Wildcats are 3-2 without Ashley; they were 21-0 and No. 1 in the country with him.

With or without Ashley, the Wildcats will be a difficult matchup for the Buffs.

"They're as good of a defensive team as we've faced all year long and we know that," Boyle said. "We're going to have to earn everything that we get and we're going to have to play well tomorrow."

In or out?

Heading down the stretch of the season, the NCAA Tournament is starting to enter into the minds of many fans around the country.

CU fans are wondering whether their team has done enough to earn a spot in the Tournament. Davis and ESPN partner Digger Phelps both believe CU is worthy.

"To me, it's Colorado, Arizona and UCLA (from the Pac-12)," Phelps said. "Maybe a fourth team. Win tomorrow, you seal the deal."

In addition to its 20-7 record, CU has a No. 43 BPI ranking and is No. 23 by realtimepri.com.

"I think it would be a situation, in my judgment anyway, that they would have to play their way out, rather than play their way in," Davis said of the Buffs. "(The tournament committee) is still going to have to take 68. That's getting pretty far down the ladder sometimes. To me, Colorado is solidly in that group."

Looking ahead

Phelps likes CU's team in 2014-15, especially if Dinwiddie decides to return for his senior season rather than go to the NBA.

"If we can convince Dinwiddie to come back next year, you're preseason Top 10," he said.

Notable

Boyle said that he would consider starting senior center Ben Mills on Saturday because it is Senior Night. CU's other senior, Beau Gamble, has been battling a heel injury recently. Although Gamble practiced Friday, he may not be in line to start. ... Forward Wesley Gordon is "not 100 percent" healthy, Boyle said, but Gordon is expected to play. He twisted his ankle on Feb. 9, missed two games and has played 29 total minutes off the bench in the last two.

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.