Following a disheartening home loss to Allen Crabbe — err, Cal — Arizona travels to Boulder to face a Colorado team that knows a thing or two about disheartening loses. Regardless of the big picture implications, all of the build up to the Colorado game has centered on how the last meeting ended. Everyone on the planet knows the story, so there’s no need to rehash it. The Wildcats will be up against the angriest crowed they’ve faced since, well, probably ever.
The Buffaloes last defeat against Arizona sent them into a tailspin. They opened Pac-12 play at 1-4 overall and were in danger of letting the season slip away. Since then, Colorado has regrouped nicely to win five out of its last six games. Included in that stretch was a recent one point win at Oregon. The Buffaloes also swept Cal and Stanford. Their only blemish during the hot streak was a surprising setback at Utah.
Colorado is a balanced team with four starters averaging double figures. Andre Roberson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Askia Booker continue to be the standout players they were entering the last matchup. However, Arizona can’t afford to sleep on Josh Scott either. The freshman forward burned the Wildcats for 15 points last month in Tucson. At 6’10” and only 215 lbs he is a beanpole, but obviously he is also skilled and agile enough to outmaneuver Arizona’s big men. On the season he averages 12.2 points and 5.2 rebounds.
Sabatino Chen continues to start for Colorado despite minimal contribution. He has only reached double figures three times all season and, other than his 15-point effort against the Wildcats, hasn’t scored more than 10 points. In fact, he has failed to score at all three times since the Arizona game. Chen will be hungry to prove himself again, but the Wildcats have the talent to shut him down now that he’s earned their respect. Outlook:
All of the pieces appear to be in place for a Colorado victory as the Buffs are the hottest team in the conference right now. Meanwhile, Arizona has been inconsistent, losing two of its last four at home to unranked opponents. Plus Colorado is notoriously strong in Boulder, where they’ve lost just once this season, a down-to-the-wire battle against UCLA. As if that weren’t enough, the players, fans, and coaches have circled this game on their calendars; expect an atmosphere more befitting of a Final Four game than an early February tilt.
On the other side of things, it’s possible the pressure and expectations will negatively affect Colorado. Similar to Arizona’s own white-out debacle, Colorado may come out tense and struggle to find a rhythm. However, that may be expecting too much. More likely than not, the Buffalos will execute well and if Arizona wants this game, they need to take it. There is a ton on the line considering the Wildcats are in a three way tie for first and five other teams (including Colorado) are within two games.
Arizona has stepped up in other big matchups this season, even when doubters abounded. Although the rest of the country may not realize it, beating the Buffaloes on the road would make a huge statement. Will the Wildcats reassert themselves and take a step towards the conference championship, or will Colorado reenter the picture and throw the league standings into chaos? Expect a wild one in Boulder!