CU men's basketball preview: No. 9 Arizona
MATCHUP: Arizona Wildcats (22-5, 10-4 Pac-12 Conference) at Colorado Buffaloes (19-9, 8-7).
GAME TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m., Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Radio — 760 AM; TV — ESPN2.
COACHES: Arizona — Sean Miller, seventh season (185-57, 304-104 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, sixth season (127-77, 183, 143 overall).
LEADERS: Arizona — Scoring: F Ryan Anderson, Sr., 15.8 ppg; Rebounding: Anderson, 10.2 rpg; Assists: G Parker Jackson-Cartwright, So., 3.8 apg. Colorado — Scoring: F/C Josh Scott, Sr., 16.4 ppg; Rebounding: Scott, 8.9 rpg; Assists: G Dom Collier, So., 2.9 apg.
NOTABLE: Arizona leads the all-time series 13-11 and has won the past six in a row, including the past two at CU by at least 27 points apiece. ... Anderson ranks second in the league in rebounding and eighth in scoring. ... The Buffs' next home victory will be the program's 400th at the Coors Events Center. ... Despite sub-standard efforts in both categories during last week's games in Los Angeles, the Buffs still lead the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage (.394) and free throw percentage (.731). Arizona ranks second in free throws at .725. ... Junior forward Wesley Gordon needs two blocked shots to match former teammate Andre Roberson's career total of 150 for fourth place on CU's career list.
At this stage of the college basketball season, little is guaranteed.
A victory on Wednesday night doesn't mean the Colorado Buffaloes should start making plans to collectively watch the NCAA tournament selection show on March 13. Nevertheless, knocking off No. 9 Arizona in a Pac-12 Conference showdown at the Coors Events Center will give CU some much-needed breathing room leading up to the league tournament.
"The whole message to this team is to control what we can control," head coach Tad Boyle said. "That's what we have to do. Really, when it comes down to it, it's things like attitude. It's things like effort, energy level, confidence, playing with defensive principles. It's not about making shots or making free throws. It's about doing the things we have control over — execution on offense, shot selection on offense, energy, effort, attitude. All the little things."
For all the foibles that emerged from last week's disastrous set of games in Los Angeles — the Buffs blew a 15-point lead in the final eight-plus minutes at USC before getting routed at UCLA — those results would be glossed over with a victory against the Wildcats.
Moving into the top 10 in this week's AP poll, Arizona is perhaps the hottest team in the Pac-12, having won six consecutive games since the program's 49-game home win streak was snapped by Oregon a month ago.
"I'm always excited to play basketball in general. But yeah, this is a great opportunity to beat a good team," redshirt sophomore George King said. "We haven't beaten a ranked team yet this year, so this is a good opportunity for that. Arizona is a really good basketball team. They're good defensively. They're good at creating turnovers, so we have to protect the ball.
"Offensively, they run some really good sets for their shooters and their post guys, so defensively the Buffaloes have to be dialed in."
The Wildcats were rude guests during their past two visits to Boulder, winning each game by at least 27 points. In order to reverse that trend and improve upon a 14-1 mark at home while collecting the first win against a ranked foe this season — the Buffs did beat current No. 13 Oregon when the Ducks were unranked — CU will have to get the best of an Arizona squad that ranks among the top defensive and rebounding teams in the Pac-12.
Arizona ranks second in the league in scoring defense (68.0) and third in defensive field goal percentage (.414) while leading the league in scoring margin (plus-14). Offensively, the Wildcats rank second with a .492 field goal percentage and boast a league-leading average rebounding margin of plus-11.4 — a solid 2.2 better than the second-place Buffs.
"The rebounding battle is going to be key," Boyle said. "Arizona is the best rebounding team in our league when you look at rebounding margin. We're the No. 2 team. It's going to come down to defense and rebounding.
"That being said, we're going to have to take care of the ball and make sure we get a great shot every time down. Because the one thing you know about Arizona is they're not going to beat themselves. We have to make plays, and we have to make basketball plays, in order to beat Arizona."