With two losses in their last four games, Arizona looks more vulnerable than once thought.
Facing Colorado on Thursday, the Wildcats will prove whether there’s substantial cause for concern or if the latest lost to Oregon State was nothing more than a temporary glitch in an otherwise well-oiled machine.
If there’s a positive to the road loss in Corvallis, it’s that Sean Miller won’t have to work hard to get his team’s attention when it comes to playing lock-down defense.
That message was sent on Sunday when the Beavers shot 51 percent in a 58-56 defeat. On one end, Arizona could not come up with the key late stops while on the other, the Wildcats failed to figure out Oregon State’s zone defense in time.
But that game is in the past, tucked away in a place where no one wants to revisit. And if Arizona stomps on the Buffaloes, it will be forgotten sooner than later.
Colorado comes into McKale on the heels of a 74-49 loss to Utah in which Tad Boyle’s team was held to 39.5 percent from the field.
After the game, Boyle told his team that they received “an education about what a top-10 team looks like.”
Now the Buffaloes have another shot against a top-10 team, as Arizona just barely hung onto the No. 10 ranking in the latest AP poll. It’s the 30th straight week the UA has been ranked in the top 10.
The Wildcats have another streak going: 30 straight home wins, which is now the second longest in the country behind Gonzaga.
For Colorado to knock out both streaks at once, it will take a near miracle. The Buffaloes picked the wrong time to go head to head with a steaming Miller.
Senior point guard Askia Booker is the go-to-guy as he leads the team with 15.5 points per game but is only making 40 percent of his attempts.
Meanwhile, Colorado’s two best big men are recovering from injuries and listed as day-to-day.
Josh Scott was out for the UCLA and USC games earlier this month with back spasms and was a non-factor against Utah. If he is still somewhere far below 100 percent, Colorado will have an even tougher time trying to defend Arizona down low.
Xavier Johnson, the Buffaloes’ third-leading scorer behind Booker and Scott, suffered a high ankle sprain in the Utah loss and never returned to the game. He’s questionable to play according to Colorado media reports.
A beleaguered lineup on the road against a team coming off a tough loss is never going to be a recipe for success.
The bigger question by late in the second half will likely be what kind of progress Arizona has made on the defensive end. At this presser earlier this week, Miller stressed that not everyone had bought into the type of intensity that is known to define his teams.
If a week of practices hasn’t riddled out the lack of attention to detail, it won’t be a good sign going forward. But odds are that the Wildcats will come out onto the court with a different type of focus than the way they left Oregon State’s court on Sunday.