Colorado at Arizona Thursday Preview
#1 ARIZONA CAN’T BE COMPLACENT AGAINST COLORADO’S WOUNDED BUFFALOES
Top ranked Arizona seems so much better than the rest of the Pac 12 right now that there may not be many opportunities to talk about them on the day of a high profile game. They won’t play many until March! But, Colorado, currently tied for third in the Pac 12, is certainly an opponent that could give them a headache if the Wildcats take them too lightly.
Colorado was a legit tournament caliber team before losing star guard Spencer Dinwiddie for the season to a knee injury. They still have a chance to make the Big Dance if everyone else can rally around the flag from this point forward. A big road performance against a superpower would be a crucial confidence builder. And, we all know there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal!
Colorado is currently 4-2 in Pac 12 play, losing the game at Washington where Dinwiddie was injured, and then losing the first game afterward at home against talented UCLA. The Buffaloes did bounce back strong with a blowout of struggling USC…possibly getting things back on the right track.
Arizona is an undefeated 5-0 in league action, and still perfect at 18-0 for the full season. The polls and computers all seen to agree they’re the best in the land. Let’s see if there’s any possibility for a shocking home loss Thursday Night in a game you can watch on ESPN2.
Colorado: #54 in Pomeroy, #44 in Sagarin
Arizona: #1 in Pomeroy, #1 in Sagarin
Colorado probably isn’t as good as those rankings without Dinwiddie in those rankings from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin. But, sometimes teams absorb the loss of a star well because everyone else steps up. They become more of a “team” rather than a star and its satellites. The impact in Power Rating is negligible. Of course, sometimes teams collapse! We’ll learn a lot about Colorado’s possibilities for the rest of the season in this Thursday Night tester. Right now, they’re a bubble team.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Arizona is strong on both sides of the floor, making it tough for opponents to exploit a weakness. Colorado couldn’t crack the top 100 on offense even with Dinwiddie playing all but two-plus games. This could foreshadow trouble down the road. Can Colorado keep winning with defense?
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Maybe, maybe not. Colorado is a top 50 defense, which sounds great when you’re talking about 350 teams but not so much when you’re focused on the cream of the crop that plays in the postseason. It’s Arizona who’s best positioned to win with defense if they lose an offensive star. Arizona spent so little time on TV in non-conference action that many fans and analysts don’t realize what a great defensive squad this is. Colorado may win with defense against other Pac 12 teams. They’re taking the worst of it here…and are in fact forced to try and win with a disappointing offense on the road against a great defense.
This is important if you’re just now getting up to speed in the baskets. Arizona plays SLOW! They have the profile of a “smash mouth basketball” team with pace and defensive quality, while also having a stellar offense. We’re often skeptical of Arizona’s chances because they don’t grade out well in the NETWORK priority stats. This team does. Maybe Arizona could lose focus on the road if Colorado was able to push tempo. At home, where it’s easier for Arizona to impose its will on proceedings, it’s Colorado who will be taken out of its comfort zone.
Against the Spread
Look at Arizona! While the media was shoving Duke and Kentucky down your throats early in the season, Arizona was exhibiting the abilities of a champion. Vegas oddsmakers, who spend way too much time listening to ESPN announcers rather than doing their own research (even in the local conferences!) are still chasing reality. The Wildcats have covered seven of their last eight. They may be getting better!
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