The Colorado basketball team needs a boost to their tournament resume. Colorado could use this game to practically solidify their bid for the NCAA tournament. They only have one win against the AP top-25 this year in Kansas.
Arizona is the highest ranked team the Buffs have played all year. The loss of Spencer Dinwiddie was supposed to end the Buffs chances at the tourney, but they have been persistent. They haven’t lost to anyone they shouldn’t have. But they also haven’t had any big wins since. They need to prove they can compete with one of the best teams in the nation without their star player.
Arizona have had a few losses since starting the season 21-0. They lost at Arizona State, most recently, and at Cal previous to that. They’ve also had some close calls against Oregon at home and at Utah this week. If there’s a time the Buffs can get an upset, this is it. Arizona has shown vulnerability on the road, and Colorado is one of the toughest places to play in the country.
If Colorado is going to win this game, they need to shut down the playmaking of point guard TJ McConnell. He can create for their many skilled big men like Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarcewski, and Rondae Hollis Jefferson. Nick Johnson is another x-factor. He’s the leading scorer for Arizona and one of their few players who can create his own shot. He will also likely be guarding Colorado’s best guard, Askia Booker.
The Buffs have had a very strong defense all year, even without Dinwiddie. They have allowed Offense has been the problem against the better teams in the PAC-12. Dinwiddie was one of the few players who could create off the dribble, while also getting good shots for others.
Arizona had a key injury of their own in forward Brandon Ashley. He was the second leading scorer by averaging 11.4 points per a game, according to ESPN. Ashley helped balance Arizona’s attack and added much needed depth. Hollis-Jefferson has been inserted in the starting lineup, when before he’d be the first man off the bench. He provided a great player in the team’s second unit. Now Arizona’s depth is depleted with Ashley’s injury meaning they become more vulnerable when they put their second unit in.
The X-factor for Colorado will be the play of their off ball guard position. Askia Booker has taken on a majority of the ball handling duties with the loss of Dinwiddie, so guards like Xavier Talton and Jaron Hopkins have had to step up. Their play will be critical in deciding the game.
Josh Scott has been able to step up his rebounding and scoring ability. He will need to play a major factor in this game. He is one of the Buffs only true post threats, but also the team’s best rebounders. It will be quite a battle between Scott and opposing seven-footer Tarcewski.
This game will likely be decided in the final two minutes. Colorado has plateaued in their play recently, but Arizona has been struggling of late. With a raucous crowd expected in Coors Events Center, Colorado has a very strong chance in completing the upset.
Prediction: Arizona 68-63.