Utah vs. Arizona: Utes encounter potentially skittish Wildcats

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Utes visit the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday afternoon, and both teams are coming off overtime thrillers.

Time: 3 p.m. MST

TV: Pac-12 Networks

One night into the Pac-12 season and it's already looking like another wild ride of a conference season. Whether that means the conference is more or less competitive than last year's unpredictable field may not be clear, but there's already a basic understanding of the tiers of competitiveness involved.

The Colorado Buffaloes and Arizona Wildcats confirmed they belong among the top contenders with their overtime game on Thursday.

And at the bottom -- if it is indeed the bottom -- the Utah Utes and Arizona State Sun Devils already fought in a 55-54 win by ASU to stay out of the Pac-12 cellar The Suns Devils and Utes were Nos. 11 and 12 in the preseason media poll, respectively.

So the Wildcats face the Utes on Saturday in McKale Center coming off what Arizona fans hope was a wakeup call against the Buffaloes. That could bode poorly for Utah (8-5).

Perhaps Utah's best game on the year through a schedule riddled with unknowns was a 61-58 loss to a usually-sound BYU team. Its worst could be a tossup between a 74-71 loss to Sacramento State or a 76-71 defeat at the hands of Cal State Northridge.

Utah's Jason Washburn was a thorn in Arizona's side last year. The senior center scored 14 and 15 points against the then-undersized Wildcats in 2011-12, and he's coming off a 19-point, 18-rebound performance against ASU. Senior guard Jarred DuBois is another senior to watch -- he is averaging a team-leading 13.3 points and is shooting 47 percent from three-points range.

If he chooses to go Sabatino Chen on Arizona, they might have a game.

And Chen's performance for Colorado on Thursday was a sign that, for the first time this season, the Wildcats' perimeter defense was flat, if not lazy. Arizona got burned in transition a number of times, but Sean Miller's team also allowed a high three-point shooting percentage (that's one of his no-nos) until it made a game-saving run in the closing minutes. The Buffs hit 10-of-15 three-pointers in regulation.

The Wildcats will be tested if they aren't alert. But the good news is that their potentially tired legs from the overtime game will be negated by Utah's own prolonged game. And the Utes had only one bench player play more than eight minutes against ASU.

Considering the Colorado game was viewed inside the program as a result of luck more than any successful execution, the Wildcats now must turn that scare into motivation.

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