Arizona is favored tonight by 2 points over the visiting Colorado Buffaloes with the over/under currently set at 138 total points.
Both teams are 6-1 coming into tonight. Colorado’s only loss was an ugly one to Tennessee in which they scored only 47 points on 33% shooting. Arizona’s loss was to Stanford by 3 points.
The Buffs are a very good team with depth and one the Pac12’s best players in McKinley Wright who is averaging 16pts, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists per game this year. They also have good interior size and play with 7 footer Dallas Walton and 6 foot 8 inch Evan Battey. And D’Shawn Schwartz (54% from 3 this season) has had a number of good games against Arizona in recent years.
Colorado is the best free throw shooting team in Division 1 basketball with an 86% shooting percentage from the line, and they are getting there just under 20 times per game. They are only averaging 11.3 turnovers per game this year, compared to Arizona’s 13.4.
The Buffs are top 30 in 3 key statistical categories from kenpom: 24th in efficiency margin, 23rd in defense, and 29th on offense. The Wildcats are 47th in margin, 37th on defense, and 52nd on offense.
Colorado will run a lot of “horns” sets against man defense and Arizona has been experimenting with that alignment as well recently. (See image below). They have also run a little bit of Virginia’s “wheel” motion from the blocker-mover set, (see images below), with Walton and Battey working opposite sides of the lane. They’ll also put McKinley Wright at the 2 guard and look to run him off some staggered screens and down screens.
Both Boyle and Miller are partial to man-to-man defense. Recently, however, they both have been using some 2-3 zone here and there. Arizona showed it for a number of key possessions in the 2nd half against Stanford.
This an important early game for both teams and might help set the tone for the rest of the conference season. Colorado seems to have the advantage with their experienced upperclassmen. Freshman Ben Mathurin for Arizona continues to impress with his athleticism and is putting up pretty good numbers with 10 points and 5 rebounds per game while only playing about 19 minutes per game.
The Cats are a pretty well balanced team as well and Jemarl Baker has continued his hot shooting at 45% from 3 point range. One oddity for the Cats has been their poor free throw shooting lately. Their last two games saw them making only 52% and 56% from the line. They are 31of 57 in those two games. One of their best qualities so far in this young season is how often they get to the line. They are 13th in the country averaging 26.3 free throw attempts per game. Cashing in on those attempts will be important as they take on the best free throw shooting team in the country.