The 11th-ranked Arizona Wildcats will go for their fifth straight win Thursday, but will have to do so against the team that is responsible for handing them their last loss — the Colorado Buffaloes.
Colorado (12-8, 4-4 Pac-12) and Arizona (16-4, 6-1) squared off just three short weeks ago, with the Buffaloes downing the Wildcats, 80-77, in Boulder, Colo.
That game was not as close as the score would indicate, either. Arizona trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half.
And afterward, CU coach Tad Boyle rubbed some salt in the wound by saying his team’s win was extra satisfying because of Arizona’s role in a recruiting bribery scandal.
So the Wildcats should have a chip on their shoulder entering Thursday’s rematch in Tucson.
KenPom gives Arizona an 88 percent chance of winning with a projected score of 79-66, while ESPN lists the Wildcats as 14-point favorites.
Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. MST on FOX Sports 1, and here is what we think will happen. Be sure to leave your predictions in the comment section below.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 81-67
Arizona will get its revenge on Tad Boyle and the Buffs, and I think pretty handily.
Yes, Colorado beat Arizona in Boulder, but that still doesn’t make the Buffs a good team. And they certainly aren’t good enough to beat the Wildcats in McKale.
Colorado is 10th in the Pac-12 in offensive efficiency since league play started, and I just don’t see how it will replicate the performance it had in Boulder, when it shot 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3.
Jason Bartel -- Arizona wins 85-65
Colorado is a really bad team on the road. They’re 1-5 in true road games this year including losses to Colorado State (T-8th in Mountain West), a 19 point loss to Oregon State, and a 27 point loss to Xavier.
So yeah, I’ll take Arizona fairly big here despite the outcome of the game played in Boulder.
Scott Moran — Arizona wins 91-68
If there was ever a game where Sean Miller can get this team pumped up, it’s this one. Not only are the Buffs Arizona’s sole conference loss, but Tad Boyle said the FBI scandal made the win even more satisfactory.
I think the team has its best offensive performance in Tucson on Thursday, and I think the Wildcats get plenty of revenge on Colorado.
Matt Sheeley — Arizona wins 85-69
Truth be told, I was going to use the same score that our fearless leader, Ryan Kelapire, used but I’ll freshen things up with some different numbers. If he nails the score, I’ll congratulate myself in my head.
All these guys are right. Arizona played one of their worst halves of basketball in the first half of that loss in Boulder earlier this month. Combine that with Colorado having an above-average shooting performance and you’ve got the Buffaloes’ upset win.
That’s not happening on Thursday night. While Sean Miller has never seemed to have anything but respect for Tad Boyle and Colorado before, he does tend to hold a grudge. So those FBI comments may light a fire under this team on Thursday night.
The zone will slow them down at points because, well, of course it will. But ultimately, Arizona wins this one going away.
Alec Sills-Trausch — Arizona wins 73-64
Arizona will win but who knows if this will be a blowout like my comrades above think it will be.
I can’t put my finger on this team. Some days their offense is fantastic and then against others (versus the Buffs or Oregon State) it can be head scratching. All I want is some consistency out of this team and until we head down that road, these games will continue to be more volatile than they should be.
Steve Apter — Arizona wins 82-80
Here’s two 2017-18 stat lines, one is sophomore man-child Miles Bridges.
17.7 points/g, 7.2 boards/g, 41 three-pointers made on 114 shots
14.2 points/g, 8.3 boards/g, 42 three-pointers made on 109 shots
The latter line belongs to Colorado senior George King, who elected to withdraw from last year’s NBA draft to return to Boulder.
He’s an inch shorter than Bridges in the same 225-pound frame. What he lacks defensively in comparison to Bridges, he is a better shooter and rebounder.
King has asserted himself on the glass this season, ranking in the top-100 nationally per game, including a high of 15 against Air Force in November. King already has six double-digit rebounding games this season, the same number Lauri Markkanen had all of last season.
This is arguably Tad Boyle’s best freshman class, just in time to replace four starters from last year.
He’s playing a ton of freshmen — they’re young and inconsistent — but opponents that match Arizona’s length and toughness on the wing have been an issue in the past (see Butler 2016, & NC State 2017).
With King and Mizzou transfer Namon Wright on the wings, the Buffs have a puncher’s chance if they can get anything out of 7-foot freshman Dallas Walton, and/or get Deandre Ayton into foul trouble for his second consecutive game.
Christopher Boan — Arizona wins 84-70
Sean Miller’s raw anger alone will give the Wildcats plenty of motivation against the man named Tad and his band of not-so-merry men.
The Buffs lucked out in the sterile wasteland that is the Coors Events Center earlier this month. They shall not get such a pittance in McKale.