You couldn’t blame Arizona fans if the news that Aari McDonald was injured before the Utah game made them very nervous. The Wildcats put that fear to rest when they showed that they may have a big star, but they also have a lot of talented depth.
Now, they move on to Colorado to play a young group of Buffaloes who didn’t lose a game this season until they had to go on the road to face Oregon the second week of Pac-12 play. Since then, they have had some near-misses against quality Pac-12 teams, but have had difficulty getting over the hump and grabbing the win.
The Buffs have played especially well at home, but have also given teams some scares on the road. When then-undefeated UCLA came to Boulder in mid-January, Colorado pushed them before falling to the Bruins 65-62.
Just under two weeks later, they were in Palo Alto playing another Top-10 team. Stanford needed overtime to defeat the Buffaloes 76-68. It wasn’t a fluke, either, as the Cardinal nudged past Colorado 69-66 when it was time to play the game in Boulder.
The Buffs could have done Arizona a favor on Friday night by defeating Arizona State. It would have wrapped up the four seed in the Pac-12 Tournament for the Wildcats. The Sun Devils spoiled that by erasing a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 65-59.
So, Arizona needs to take care of business themselves. A win over the Buffaloes will clinch the first-round bye in Las Vegas. Whether they have to accomplish that without the services of McDonald is still up in the air.
With their leading scorer’s status uncertain, it’s difficult to compare the stats of the two teams. Arizona certainly proved that it has players who can carry the scoring load in her absence in the game against Utah.
Colorado isn’t Utah, though. The Buffaloes have been better than the Utes on defense this season. A lot better.
Colorado allows 65.5 points per game compared to 71.1 for Utah. They are in the top third of NCAA women’s basketball in defense according to Her Hoop Stats, sitting at No. 108 in the analytics service’s defensive ratings. The team Arizona just blew out without McDonald is at No. 196 out of 351 teams.
While earlier this week Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said that she would rather play Utah first on the trip to the Mountain schools, having to play Colorado second without McDonald would present a special challenge.
The travel between states after already playing one game isn’t terribly easy. Doing it without a player who averages 32 minutes and 20.5 points per game is a big ask.
Once again, the other 12 healthy players will need to step up as a team if they are without their offensive and defensive instigator. It’s a challenge, but don’t put it past these Wildcats.
Arizona-Colorado game details:
Date: Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020
Time: 12 p.m. MST
Location: CU Events Center in Boulder, Colo.
Records: Arizona (22-4, 11-4), Colorado (15-11, 4-11)
Rankings and ratings: Arizona is ranked No. 11 in both the Associated Press and the USA Today/WBCA polls. Colorado is unranked.
Analytics site Her Hoop Stats rates the Buffaloes No. 93 and the Wildcats No. 16 overall. Colorado is rated the No. 85 offense and the No. 108 defense. Arizona is the No. 27 offense and the No. 8 defense.
The official RPI has Colorado at No. 90 and Arizona at No. 23.
Which channel is Arizona-Colorado on?
The game will be aired on Pac-12 Mountain only. It will not air on Pac-12 Arizona.
How can I stream Arizona-Colorado?
The stream will be available on Pac-12.com or the Pac-12 Now app on your mobile device, but only if you already subscribe to the Pac-12 Network. Click the “How to watch” button at the top of the link.
How can I listen to the radio call of Arizona-Colorado?
The call by Derrick Palmer is available on the Arizona IMG Sports Network. On the radio, you can tune into KTUC 1400 AM. You can also listen via Tunein.com or the Tunein app on your mobile device.
Where can I find stats for Arizona-Colorado?
Official stats are available on Arizona Live Stats both during and after the game.
How can I follow Arizona-Colorado?
You can follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm. You can also follow our editor @RKelapire and our reporter @KimDoss71 for coverage of Arizona women’s basketball on game day and every other day of the week.