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Arizona basketball: Three things to watch when Wildcats welcome Colorado to McKale

Kobi and the Cats are looking for nine in a row on Saturday night

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats are 3-0 to start Pac-12 play for just the second time under Sean Miller after a 66-56 win over Utah on Thursday night.

Next for the recently dominant Cats is their lone regular season meeting with Tad Boyle and his Colorado Buffaloes.

Here are three things to watch for when the Wildcats and Buffs lock up on Saturday night.

RED HOT RISTIC

Dusan Ristic had a rough start to his 2016-17 campaign. He eventually picked things up and started playing a bit better.

Then Parker Jackson-Cartwright returned. And I doubt anyone is happier about that than the 7-foot Junior from Serbia.

Since PJC's return, Ristic has been a machine. In those three games, he's totaled 50 points on 22-of-30 shooting from the field and is 6-for-7 from the free throw line.

Jackson-Cartwright's fantastic entry passes are giving Ristic a ton of chances to score, but Dusan's aggression and touch around the rim are what's finishing the job, resulting in his most successful string of games as a Wildcat.

Facts about tonight's opponent suggest that Ristic won't slow down yet. Over their last three games, Colorado's opponents are shooting nearly 60% from the painted area. If that trend continues, Ristic could feast on Saturday night.

THE FACE OF THE DIME

Speaking of Colorado's recent games suggesting a feast — the Buffs have also struggled mightily in their last few games in creating turnovers. Their opponent assist-to-turnover ratio has skyrocketed in the last few games.

This could be coming at a bad time for the Buffs as they prepare to face the guy I mentioned above, Parker Jackson-Cartwright.

PJC is coming off a game against Utah where he controlled the offense and made no mistakes, dropping nine assists on the Utes with zero turnovers.

Arizona's offense is just a different animal with him on the floor. There's much better spacing and virtually every pass counts for something.

He's only scored six points since returning from his high ankle sprain three games ago, but throw in his 19 assists to just three turnovers and you see PJC's true value.

If Jackson-Cartwright can control the offense like he has as of late, Colorado could be in for a long night.

A VILLAIN RETURNS, A SCORER DEBUTS

While they have struggled on the defensive end as of late, head coach Tad Boyle always has his teams prepared to face Arizona, no matter what. Saturday night shouldn't be any different.

On the floor for the Buffaloes will be Wildcat favorite, fifth-year senior Xavier Johnson.

Johnson doesn't care for Arizona as we detailed the other day. Arizona, on the other hand, seems to be rather fond of playing him—they're 6-1 against Colorado when Johnson plays, including two Pac-12 Tournament victories.

Johnson was almost not allowed to play in Saturday night's game after a punch was thrown against Arizona State on Thursday. Johnson was ejected and, normally, players get suspended one game for fighting.

The Pac-12 later ruled that the incident was "extreme contact" and not a fight.

Joining Johnson in his quest to beat the Wildcats on their home floor will be senior transfer Derrick White. White spent his previous seasons in Division-II ball, setting scoring records for University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

White and Johnson are the two leading scorers for this year's Buffs and White has shown that he can really light it up.

He's averaging over 16 points per contest and went off for 35 in Thursday's close loss to the Sun Devils.

If White gets going, Colorado could be dangerous. A large part of Arizona holding off Utah on Thursday was the Utes just missing wide open shots. They may not want to try their luck with White launching from beyond the arc.

One thing is for sure — if this is Xavier Johnson's final game against Arizona and it results in a loss for the Buffs, that'll feel like a punch, or extreme contact, to the gut.


Arizona and Colorado are scheduled to tip-off at 7:30 PM MT, and will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.