Their longstanding individual rivalry is the sort of thing that’s becoming a relic in college basketball.
Opposing all-conference players, each built similarly while playing the same position, who square off annually for the entirety of a four-year career is going the way of the four-corners offense. Fans at Colorado and Arizona State have been treated to four seasons of the always-intriguing matchup between ASU guard Remy Martin and the Buffs’ McKinley Wright IV.
Barring a matchup at the Pac-12 Conference tournament next week in Las Vegas, the standout guards are set to square off for the final time Thursday night at the CU Events Center (7 p.m., ESPN2).
ASU and CU have met seven times during the overlapping careers of the two senior guards, and Wright owns a solid lead in the one category he likely cares the most about with wins in five of those seven matchups. The Buffs have posted the only road win during that span (last season) while also winning their two matchups on neutral courts (the 2018 Pac-12 tournament and the 2019 Pac-12 game in China).
Each guard has nearly posted a triple-double against the other. Wright recorded 20 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds in that first-round win in the 2018 Pac-12 tournament. In the season-opening matchup in China to start the 2019-20 season, Martin collected 23 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists (as well as five steals).
There are a few statistical anomalies between the duo. Martin, the more prolific pure scorer, actually trails Wright in scoring average in their seven head-to-head showdowns (16.9 for Wright, 13.3 for Martin). Wright is the more natural point guard, and he has posted 43 assists to Martin’s 35 in those matchups, yet Wright’s assist-to-turnover rate of 1.87 in those games trails Martin’s 2.19.
Martin has an edge on Wright in head-to-head 3-point percentage (.394 to .200) but Wright gets the nod in just about every other category in their matchups, including overall field goal percentage (.451 to .376), rebounding (4.9 to 4.3), and free throw percentage. Oddly, the duo has attempted the exact same number of free throws in their matchups — 19-for-26 for Wright, 16-for-26 for Martin.
Martin arrives in Boulder on a hot streak, with his eight consecutive 20-point games ranking as the third-longest streak in the Pac-12 since the 1996-97 season.
“Remy Martin, especially over the last two years, has really started to score the ball,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “His first couple years, he was a good player. Explosive. But certainly even this year, his ability to shoot the three consistently, his ability to keep people off-balance — he can get a bucket when he wants to get a bucket.
“Our biggest thing is we’ve got to make him work for everything and make him take tough 2s. Try to take his 3s away and try to keep him off the foul line. Because he can score in a lot of different ways. He’s got a good pull-up game. He’s got good mid-range. He can get to the rim. And he can shoot the three and he’s a good foul shooter. So he’s going to get some. You’re not going to shut Remy Martin out. We just have to do a good job of making him work for everything. It’s a team defensive effort against a guy like that. It’s not just one guy.”
No. 3, please
The Buffs were eliminated from contention for the Pac-12’s regular season championship on Monday. On Wednesday night, the No. 2 seed fell out of reach.
Oregon’s win against UCLA, combined with USC’s rout of Stanford, pushed the Buffs out of contention for the No. 2 spot. However, with a win against Arizona State on Thursday, the Buffs would secure the No. 3 seed, eventually moving ahead of Saturday’s loser in the USC at UCLA matchup.
The Buffs have never been seeded better than fifth at the Pac-12 tournament.
Even if he returns for a sixth season at CU, Dallas Walton probably will never be an elite rebounder, despite his 7-foot frame.
Yet even after posting just two rebounds in each of the Buffs’ wins last week against USC and UCLA, Walton still has enjoyed a hot streak, at least by his standards, recently on the glass.
Walton is averaging just 3.0 rebounds per game, but over the past seven games he has averaged 4.1 rebounds per game. That run includes four of his top five rebounding games of the season — seven against Oregon State on Feb. 8, six at Oregon State on Feb. 20, and five apiece against Stanford (Feb. 11) and Oregon (Feb. 18).
“It’s something I talk about with my coaches all the time,” Walton said. “Especially as the five-man, I’ve got to get more rebounds. I can’t finish games with zero rebounds. It’s something I told the coaches I’d work on and improve on. Toward the beginning of the year, I was boxing out just to keep my man from getting the ball. Once I realized I had an opportunity to get the ball myself, that’s kind of the adjustment I made. It was a small adjustment, but one I knew I could make.”
A win against ASU would clinch the 12th 20-win season in program history. Seven of the previous 11 have occurred during Boyle’s tenure…CU senior D’Shawn Schwartz is set to play in his 124th career game, which will tie Josh Scott for 11th all-time. Schwartz also is two minutes away from becoming the 20th CU player to reach 3,000 career minutes, and he likely will pass Michel Morandais (3,013 minutes) for 19th all-time…Though he still has a minimum of three games remaining, CU senior Jeriah Horne is vying to post one of the top five single-season 3-point percentage marks in program history. Going into the ASU game, Horne’s .451 mark currently ranks third, trailing No. 2 George King (.456 in 2015-16) while remaining a few fractions ahead of current No. 3 Mack Tuck (.450 in 1994-95)…The Buffs began Thursday at No. 16 in the NET and No. 17 at KenPom.com.