Last week was a missed opportunity for the Arizona Wildcats basketball team.
This week is all about necessity.
The UA’s realistic shot at a Pac-12 championship went away with the loss at Washington. All focus now is on the NCAA tournament resume and Arizona can’t afford any more losses.
Which other games around the league are crucial to the Cats’ success?
The Mountain Time Zone teams are all at home this week and have Thursday all to themselves. Here is the TWIT-Pac TV schedule (all times Arizona/Mountain):
|Thu Feb 23||USC||ARIZONA||6:30 p.m.||FSAZ|
|Sat Feb 25||UCLA||ARIZONA||12 p.m.||CBS|
|Washington||WSU||6 p.m.||ROOT NW|
|USC||ASU||6 p.m.||FSAZ / PT|
|Stanford||Utah||6:30 p.m.||CSN BA|
|Sun Feb 26||Cal||Colorado||3:30 p.m.||FSN|
CSN BA = Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
FSAZ = Fox Sports Arizona
FSN = Fox Sports Net
PT = Prime Ticket
ROOT NW = Root Sports Northwest
Thu. Feb. 23
USC (6-21 / 1-13) at ARIZONA (19-9 / 10-5)
A victory gives the Wildcats 20 wins for the 23rd time in the past 25 years. The mission tonight is to score early. The Trojans haven’t hit 55 points once in their current five-game losing streak and their Pac-12 high is 62 points. A 10-point lead against USC is like a three-touchdown advantage against a wishbone offense. A bad wishbone offense.
UCLA (15-12 / 8-6) at ASU (8-19 / 4-11)
Last week the Bruins added a loss to the Big East’s 11th-place team to go with its losses to the Big 12’s 6th-place team and the West Coast Conference’s 4th-place team. But hey, at least they have a loss against the Sun Belt’s 1st-place team.
Cal (22-6 / 12-3) at Utah (5-21 / 2-12)
With the UA dropping two games back of the conference leaders the fan strategy shifts from rooting against the teams ahead of you to rooting for the teams you beat and against your peers. Cal is Arizona’s best win so Wildcat fans want the Bears to win out.
Stanford (18-9 / 8-7) at Colorado (18-8 / 10-4)
Colorado is 13-1 at home so it would help the Cats’ chances if the Buffs dropped one to a Stanford team outside the RPI top 100.
Sat. Feb. 25
UCLA at ARIZONA
This is the fourth consecutive Saturday noon start for the Wildcats. Do you prefer brunch or linner?
Washington (19-8 / 12-3) at WSU (14-13 / 6-9)
The Huskies are trying to win a conference championship but Washington counts as an Arizona peer in bubbleland. UW’s pedestrian 7-5 non-conference record has the Huskies just one spot ahead of Oregon in the RPI and 13 slots ahead of the UA. Root big for the Cougars, Wildcat Universe.
USC at ASU
Arizona hopes to build a double-digit lead in the first half against USC. Arizona State hopes just to hit double digits.
Stanford at Utah
The final home game of the year for the Utes. Increasing their Pac-12 win total by 50% would be a good going-away present for the seniors.
Sun. Feb. 26
Cal at Colorado
The Game of the Week is the only matchup among the top five Pac teams. Win and CU still has a shot at the regular season title. Lose and the Buffaloes could be in danger of missing out on a coveted first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
Oregon (19-8 / 10-5) at OSU (15-12 / 5-10)
Oregon’s only chance to lose this week has Arizona fans hoping UO does just that. This is the Ducks’ last road game and they have the seeding tiebreaker with Arizona due to the head-to-head win.
* * *
Hopefully the Wildcats learned from the sluggish Utah game and come out Thursday night ready to quickly dispose of Kevin O’Neill‘s Trojans.
The UCLA game is quite a bit more nerve-wracking. The Bruins’ shoddy squad was able to beat Arizona seven weeks ago and Travis and David Wear haven’t gotten any shorter. Josh Smith didn’t play in that first meeting and he’s come back to average 11.6 points per game since.
The Cats made just 3 of 17 (18%) 3-point attempts against UCLA the first time around. Brendon Lavender had two of them in January and the senior sharpshooter has made 11 of 18 (61%) from deep in his last three games. Finding him is a good idea.
When the height discrepancy doesn’t change, shoot it from long range.
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