Place: MGM Las Vegas
TV: Pac-12 Network (Sorry DirecTVers)
Line: Arizona -5
Arizona is all too familiar with Colorado by now, controversially beating them the first time at home in overtime after Colorado’s game winning three pointer in regulation was called off, followed by getting humiliated on the road to a pissed off Buffaloes team that wanted–and fully got–its redemption. Needless to say, this is not the most ideal of match-ups for Arizona’s first game in the Pac-12 Tournament, but then again, rarely is that the case in a #4 vs. #5 seed game. Here are a few keys to an Arizona victory.
Colorado has outshot Arizona from the field in both games this year (though, in fairness, they have overperformed against the Cats when you look at their average overall shooting performance this season. Go figure considering every team puts the target on Arizona’s back), but the difference between Arizona’s win and loss came down to boards. In Arizona’s victory, the Wildcats outrebounded the Buffaloes 39-31, including six more offensive rebounds than Colorado; in their loss, Arizona was outrebounded by two boards. Two boards may not sound like a whole lot, but when Arizona is being outshot, they must find ways to get extra opportunities to score.
2. Coming Out the Gate (for both halfs) Strong
With the exception of Arizona’s loss to Oregon, the Wildcats do not lose when they make a statement from the get go. Arizona has struggled, however, when they come out slow at the beginning of the first or second half of games. Against Colorado, Arizona allowed the Buffaloes to jump out to a 21-8 lead in the first game, and although the Wilcats pulled off an incredible comeback, the win would have been a loss without a generous helping of luck–that won’t happen again under Touranament circumstances. At the beginning of the second half during these teams’ second meeting and already down by seven points, the Wildcats allowed Colorado to score eight unanswered points off of Arizona’s two turnovers, a foul at the three point line and two missed shots–game over. The Wildcats need to come out ready to play immediately and remind Colorado how tired they are from playing yesterday.
3. Spencer Dinwiddie
All of Colorado’s starters seem to have had their fair share of points against Arizona, but the one largest discrepency between Arizona’s win and loss appears to be the performance of Colorado’s best player, Spencer Dinwiddie. In the first meeting, Diwniddie could only muster 11 points and shot poorly (3-8 from the field and 0-3 from downtown), but in the second meeting he could not be stopped (21 points, 5-9 and 2-5 from downtown). Shut Dinwiddie down and Arizona wins this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller puts Johnson on Dinwiddie on defense.
Arizona will play the winner of #1 UCLA v. #9ASU, which will be played at noon today. If you have UCLA locked in as the automatic winner, hold your horses. The Devils are 1-1 against the Bruins and lost to UCLA by only five points in overtime. While Arizona State needs this win for any chance at an NCAA invitation, UCLA is locked in. As young as the Bruins are, any lapse in concentration will boot UCLA out of the Pac-12 Tournament early.