This is it for the Arizona Wildcats; win the game, and they go dancing at the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Lose to the Colorado Buffaloes and their season is likely headed for the NIT. After two gutsy performances against UCLA and Oregon St., the UA has to feel good about their chances on Saturday afternoon.
The Buffaloes are a very talented team and sat near the top of the conference for most of the year until fading late down the stretch. They run a very similar offense compared to the Wildcats and are comparable in size in the paint. For a team once predicted to finish 10th in the Pac-12 at the beginning of the season, head coach Tad Boyle has done a tremendous job this season.
How did Colorado get here? They knocked off Utah in the opening round, won a thriller at the buzzer over third-seeded Oregon, and pulled a big upset on Friday night when they beat the Cal Bears by a score of 70-59. The championship game will be their fourth game in four days and they will be less than 18 hours removed from playing their last game.
Carlon Brown is CU's best scoring threat and is averaging 17 points in the tournament thus far. Look for Kyle Fogg to guard him whenever he is on the floor. Andre Roberson is one of the better rebounders in the entire country and averaged a double-double this year. Look for Jesse Perry, Angelo Chol and occasionally Solomon Hill to guard him.
Lanky senior forward Austin Dufault is a very solid player for Colorado and does a little bit of everything. Freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie can light it up from behind the arc, but his shot has been off in recent games.
In their two matchups in the regular season, they both won at home. CU won at the buzzer in the first meeting, and UA claimed a 14-point victory while at the McKale Center.
Projected Starters: Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg, Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry
Final Thoughts: This will be a very intense game from the start given the circumstances and the bid to the NCAA Tournament that will be awarded to the winner. Fatigue for both teams could become an issue in the second half, especially for Colorado given their schedule this week. The Wildcats simply cannot let Carlon Brown get open looks from the field and containing Andre Roberson is a must if they hope to win.
I'll say the Wildcats ride their tournament experience and veteran leadership down the stretch and go on to claim a 69-64 victory.
For more on the Pac-12 championship, be sure to check out Arizona Desert Swarm and The Ralphie Report.