It’s March and the madness has begun!
The Cats and the Buffaloes meet today in Las Vegas for round 2 of the Pac-12 tournament and round 3 of the Arizona vs. Colorado matchup. The Buffs are coming off one of their best games of the year, beating ASU 97-85 in the 1st round of tournament play.
#25 McKinley Wright 6’0″ G (Fr.)
#24 George King 6’6″ G (Sr.)
#1 Tyler Bey 6’7″ F (Fr.)
#11 Lazar Nikolic 6’7″ F (Fr.)
#35 Dallas Walton 7’0″ F (Fr.)
Off the bench: #15 Dominique Collier 6’2″ G (Sr.), #0 D’Shawn Schwartz 6’7″ G (Fr.), #23 Lucas Siewart 6’10” F (So.), #13 Namon Wright 6’5″ G (Jr.)
Offense: Colorado might be the most balanced offensive team in the Pac-12. They shoot well, can get to the basket, and have decent post play. They will run a motion offense that involves pick and roll, perimeter weave, and a lot of backdoor dives to the basket. The offense begins with McKinley Wright who leads the team in scoring and is the second best point guard in the Pac-12 behind UCLA’s Aaron Holiday. Though they put up 97 against ASU yesterday, they are 11th in the Pac-12 in points per game with a 67.8 average.
Defense: The Buffs play mostly man-to-man defense but have, of late, been playing more 2-3 zone. They mixed it up against ASU yesterday playing man, 2-3 zone, and even some 1-2-2 half court trap.
Strengths: This is a deep and well balanced team. Any number of players can step up and have a big game. They have good size and athleticism and can match up with just about any team in the country. McKinley Wright is on his way to becoming one of the best players in the Pac-12.
Weaknesses: Consistency. This is a team that at times looks like it is deserving of an NCAA tournament bid. Their inconsistent play, however, has lead to two bad losses to Oregon State and Washington State. They finished the Pac-12 regular season in 8th place with an 8-10 record.
Summary: Colorado is coming off a game in which they shot 53% from the field, 62% from 3, had 20 team assists, and won the rebounding margin by 13. It was probably the best they’ve played all year and if that momentum carries into today’s game, the Cats will have their hands full. This is a bad matchup for Arizona. Colorado has the size and athleticism inside (mainly with Dallas Walton) to compete with Ayton and Ristic. They also have versatile guards and forwards who are good at getting to the rim and either scoring or passing off for a perimeter shot. There doesn’t appear to be any significant advantage for either team. Ayton is always a matchup problem but Colorado has held him to his two lowest rebounding games this year. Though Ayton put up good numbers elsewhere he had a season low 5 rebounds in the loss in Boulder and then only 6 in the win in Tucson.
Keys for the Cats: In their two matchups this year, Colorado has played extremely well. Against the Cats this season they are shooting 55% from the field and 47% from 3. That’s over 10 percentage points higher in both categories than their season average. Colorado is averaging 68 points per game in Pac-12 play. In the two games against Arizona they are averaging 75.5 ppg.
Defense will be the most important aspect of this game, and for every game going forward, for the Cats. They have the offensive firepower to play with anyone but are susceptible to lulls–mainly on defense–that last way too long for a team competing for a Pac12 title and more. The versatility of Colorado could cause some problems for the Cats, especially if they don’t get some consistent bench play. Colorado has much better depth and foul trouble will be something the Cats will need to avoid.
This is an important time for Arizona basketball. This team is capable of a deep run in the tournament. With the future still uncertain and Arizona losing recruits and formerly committed players the upcoming year is shaky at best. Wether or not the ESPN Miller story is true, it has damaged this program for the foreseeable future. It is hard to imagine–and quite disturbing to realize–that there might be no recourse for Arizona if these allegations turn out to be false. These recruits will not re-commit. The damage has been done. And for what? To create a headline, boost ratings, and be the one to break a story.
To make things even more interesting, The University of Pittsburgh recently fired their head coach.