With only four games remaining, No. 7 Arizona is inching closer to a second-consecutive conference regular season title.
Standing in the Wildcats’ path is a Rocky Mountain road-trip that opens up with a Thursday night matchup against Colorado.
While all eyes are geared towards Saturday’s showdown with Utah, Arizona can ill afford to look ahead past the Buffs, who are eager for a signature win in conference play.
Arizona took care of Colorado last month in Tucson, but it did not come easy as Askia Booker kept the Buffs in it far longer than the McKale Center crowd would have liked. In a 14 point defeat, Booker made six three-pointers and dropped 30 points on the Wildcats.
Since that game, the senior point guard has cooled off considerably. Without much offensive firepower, Colorado has lost five of its last six with the lone win coming at home against Stanford.
Nonetheless, the Buffs present a danger to an Arizona team that has at times itself struggled to score, particularly on the road.
No one in Tucson needs reminder of the Wildcats’ last outing, in which Arizona’s starting five shot 25 percent from the field. Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson combined to go 4-25.
It’s nearly unfathomable to believe Arizona could put together back-to-back horrendous shooting performances, but the game did exemplify that the Wildcats’ offense is a tenuous machine.
But as the saying going, defense travels. And in Arizona’s case, so does rebounding.
No team in the country does a better of job of collecting opponents’ misses than the Wildcats. As long Arizona displays its usual effort on the boards, even a cold shooting night shouldn’t be enough to keep Colorado in it.
The Buffs are not a good shooting team as it is, with an offensive efficiency rating that ranks near the bottom of power conference schools.
Colorado’s offense runs almost entirely through Booker so if he’s not having a good day, neither is his team. Over the last four games, Booker is making 31 percent of his shots including a 2-14 performance at Oregon State last week.
One sign of encouragement for Colorado is that Xavier Johnson and Josh Smith will be playing Thursday after they both missed the meeting in Tucson.
Outside of that trio however, the Buffs should not have close to enough size or strength to keep up with Arizona’s onslaught.