With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Arizona has settled into the driver's seat toward claiming the Pac-12 Conference regular-season crown.
At 14-1 in league play, the Wildcats hold a one-game lead over Oregon, with three games remaining for both squads. Arizona was able to keep rolling over the weekend with wins at Washington State and Washington despite a pair of unexpected injury setbacks.
Earlier last week, guard Kadeem Allen got his finger entwined in the jersey of teammate Parker Jackson-Cartwright and incurred a frightening injury to his pinkie finger in which the bone poked through the skin. However, Allen avoided a fracture and instead was diagnosed with a dislocation. While he missed both games in Washington, and he could return as soon as this upcoming weekend.
Arizona, which climbed to No. 4 in this week's AP top 25 poll, also played Saturday at Washington without 7-footer Dusan Ristic, who suffered a sprained ankle two days earlier at Washington State.
The Wildcats, however, have a more difficult challenge over their final three games than No. 6 Oregon, which can look to its upset loss at Colorado on Jan. 28 as to why it sits in second place instead of first. Arizona plays at home this weekend against USC and No. 5 UCLA before finishing the regular season with a rivalry battle at Arizona State.
Oregon, which won its lone head-to-head matchup with Arizona this year, could move into position for the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament if Arizona falters. While the Ducks finish the regular season with three straight road games, they will be heavily favored in dates against Cal, Stanford, and last-place Oregon State.
Arizona's other 7-footer, Finish freshman Lauri Markkanen, was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for his performances in the Wildcats' 2-0 swing through the state of Washington.
Markkanen posted his fourth double-double of the season Thursday at Washington State, going 7-for-13 from the field before finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Markkanen added another double-double two days later at Washington, recording 26 points and 13 rebounds. Markkanen went 12-for-13 at the free throw line over the two games.
The Colorado Buffaloes welcome a Utah team to the Coors Events Center on Thursday that is dealing with a similar reality to CU in seeing its slim NCAA Tournament hopes finally dashed.
Unlike CU, which needed an upset win at Oregon to even have chance at working back into the conversation for the tournament bubble, Utah saw its tourney fate sealed with a loss Sunday at lowly Oregon State, which had been 0-14 in the league.
Utah played last week at Oregon without leading scorer and rebounder Kyle Kuzma, but his 19 points and nine rebounds wasn't enough to lift the Utes at Oregon State.