Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson was every bit the Pac-12 Player of the Year against Utah. Photo by Wildcat Universe

Everything you need to know about the recent history between the Arizona Wildcats and Colorado Buffaloes is available here.

If you did not click there, here is a quick recap: Colorado crushed Arizona’s tournament hopes in 2012; Arizona won two of three versus the Buffs last year; there is a guy who wears black and gold with funny hair who does not like Arizona; and Arizona embarrassed Colorado earlier this year after he said some things he should not have said.

Here we go again, for the third year in a row, the Buffs and Cats will face off in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Wildcats had a most impressive victory yesterday as their defense rewrote the record book versus the Utah Utes in a 71-39 beatdown. The Buffaloes narrowly escaped, and most likely burst the Cal Bears’ NCAA tournament bubble, by a score of 59-56.

The Buffaloes were still learning to adjust without their star player Spencer Dinwiddie the first time these teams squared off. Before the most recent meeting, the Wildcats were still adjusting without sophomore forward Brandon Ashley. Arizona won both.

Spoiler alert: Colorado sophomore Xavier Johnson was the guy mentioned above who said the things he should not have said. His rant included saying that Arizona is “not that good” and that Colorado would win by a landslide the next time, and he could not have been more incorrect. The Wildcats played possibly their most complete game of the year on Feb. 22nd, easily cruising past the Buffaloes for an 88-61 victory.

No more excuses now; both teams now have had more than enough time to adjust without their star players. Arizona needs to shut down the Buffaloes’ three-headed monster of X. Johnson, sophomore center Josh Scott, and shifty junior point guard Askia Booker. If the Wildcats’ defense plays the way it did yesterday, this should be an easy task.

The Wildcats are coming into this game well rested because no starter played more than 30 minutes yesterday. Gabe York clocked 30 minutes, but some of that was mop up time when the game was all but over. All Colorado starters played at least 30 minutes except Johnson, who still played 29.

So what does that mean? The Wildcats need to run. Run, run, and run some more until the Buffaloes stampede out the gym. Arizona is at its best in transition when they have T.J. McConnell running fast breaks and giving it up to guys like Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson, or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who can finish at the rim.

The Buffaloes would be smart to slow the game down and control the tempo. Arizona has struggled the most when they are forced to play half-court offense. When the game is at a slow pace, the big men from both teams are going to be crucial. Colorado’s Scott and Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski will be facing off for a sixth time today, so they are very familiar with each other. They are the same age and will see each other more after this year as well. Feed the big men!

In the end, I see Arizona continuing its momentum from yesterday in a rout of Colorado. Regardless of the result of this game, Colorado should be in the NCAA field and Arizona should earn a number one seed this Selection Sunday. I believe the Buffs will have a very hard time scoring against the Wildcats outstanding defense, and Arizona ends up winning their third game versus Colorado this season by a score of 71-48.

And always remember, “Nastiness is required.”

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