The Arizona Wildcats (10-4) will host the Utah Utes (7-6) on Saturday as both teams look to improve to 2-0 in the Pac-12.
Tip-off is set for 12 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network. Here are some things to watch for.
Arizona starting point guard Justin Coleman dislocated his shoulder Monday in practice and only played four minutes off the bench against Colorado on Thursday as a result.
Sean Miller downplayed the severity of the injury and hopes Coleman can take on a more regular workload against the Utes, so that will obviously be something to watch in this game.
If Coleman cannot play or is limited again, Brandon Williams will get another opportunity to run the point. The freshman did a good job Thursday with 14 points and six assists against Colorado.
The thing Arizona misses most with Coleman is his shooting. The Wildcats only shoot 32.3 percent from 3 as a team, a number boosted by Coleman’s 41.9 percent clip. Arizona isn’t brimming with shot-creators, either, and Coleman’s ability to penetrate comes in handy there.
For more on Coleman and his injury, read my story about it from Thursday night.
Defending the 3
Speaking of 3-point shooting, if there is one way the Utes are going to win in McKale Center, it’s by getting hot from the perimeter — and they are plenty capable of doing it.
Utah shoots a solid 37.4 percent from 3 and takes a lot of them, with a 3-point rate that ranks 22nd in the entire country.
Because of its proficiency from deep, Utah is never out of a game. Just look at its win over ASU. The Utes trailed by 17 in the first half, but shot 16 for 30 from 3 to win comfortably by double digits.
The Utes have three players — Sedrick Barefield, Riley Battin and Parker Van Dyke — shooting over 40 percent from 3, while Donnie Tillman and Both Gach are hovering around 35 percent.
If shooting is Utah’s biggest strength, turnovers are its biggest weakness.
For one, Utah is committing 13 per game, the sixth-most in the Pac-12. For another, the Utes rank 337th (of 353) in college basketball in opponent turnover percentage (.150) and second to last in steal percentage (.351), meaning they rarely ever create takeaways.
The Wildcats have been solid on both sides of the coin, so this could be a game where they stay in single digits in turnovers while forcing upwards of 15. It is hard to lose on your home court if that’s happening.
Old man Barefield
OK, Sedrick Barefield isn’t that old, but all four-year seniors feel like dinosaurs these days. The 6-foot-2 guard sure has taken advantage of his time in college, improving each year.
This season, Barefield is averaging a career-high 15.7 points and 3.5 assists, his shooting percentages better than ever. He is also on a hot streak right now, averaging 28.5 points over the last two games, making 11 3s during that span.
Utah only has one other player — Tillman — scoring in double figures this season, as it mostly has a balanced scoring attack, but there is no doubt that Barefield spearheads it. He averaged 26 PPG against Arizona last season.
Another thing to watch: if Barefield starts. He started against ASU for the first time in four games. Coming off the bench didn’t hinder his production, but it seems like an odd thing to do.
Does size matter?
Despite the sheer number of 3s the Utes shoot, they are not a small team. Far from it. Their average height ranks 21st in the country.
Utah starts one 7-footer in Jayce Johnson and rotates two more — Novak Topalovic and Brandon Morley — in off the bench. Plus, the Utes start 6-foot-9 Battin at the 4 and Tillman, who splits time between the 3 and 4, is 6-foot-7.
But the Utes are only a decent rebounding team and they get just 42.1 percent of their points via 2-point field goals (a mark that ranks 332nd in the country), so it doesn’t seem like they are using their size to its fullest.
Can Utah stay hot?
Utah is coming off a big win against ArSU and figures to head down I-10 bubbling with confidence, hoping to use that momentum to start 2-0 in the Pac-12.
The Utes have not performed well after wins this year, though. Utah has only won back-to-back games once this season, and those victories were over cupcakes Florida A&M and Northern Arizona.
Defense is Utah’s second biggest problem behind turnovers, and why it is such an inconsistent team. The Utes rank 276th in the country in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, the worst mark in the Pac-12.
Doutrive not disappearing
It appears Devonaire Doutrive has finally carved out a consistent role in Arizona’s rotation. The freshman played a season-high 12 minutes against Colorado, posting eight points and four rebounds off the bench. It was a significant development because it was the first time he played meaningful minutes against a major-conference team.
Part of it was because Arizona was down a player in Coleman, but Miller is recognizing the value Doutrive brings as a scorer, rebounder, and all-around energy player on the wing.
“As we’ve watched him grow in practice really from the onset I thought there could be a period of time where he’d become important to our team because his style is so much different than everybody else,” Miller said Thursday.
“He makes us a deeper team because he’s earned the right to play a bigger role. I was really pleased watching him play. He played today like he practiced and that’s a good sign for a freshman.”
My full story about Doutrive can be read here.