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Colorado looks to knock off No. 1 Arizona Thursday
By: Mark Kern - StatFox
Published: 1/23/2014  at  6:43:00 AM
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COLORADO BUFFALOES (15-4)

at ARIZONA WILDCATS (18-0)

McKale Center - Tucson, AZ
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Arizona -14, Total: 130.5

No. 1 Arizona looks to remain undefeated on Thursday when it hosts a Colorado team in search of a signature road win.

In last season's trip to Tucson, the Buffaloes were up by 16 points with 12:40 remaining in the game, only to see the Wildcats come all the way back to tie the game up. An apparent buzzer-beating three-pointer for Colorado was waved off and the Wildcats went on to win 92-83 in overtime. The Buffaloes got their revenge later in the season, defeating the Wildcats 71-58 in Boulder, before falling in the Pac-12 tournament to Arizona by 10 points. That evened the series at 3-3 (SU and ATS) since Colorado joined the Pac-12. The Buffaloes were playing tremendous basketball early this season, starting off 14-2 SU, including a win over No. 8 Kansas in Boulder. However, things changed for Colorado (10-8 ATS overall, 2-1 ATS on road) when star SG Spencer Dinwiddie (14.7 PPG, 3.8 APG, 41% from threes) tore his ACL, as the team is just 1-2 since the devastating injury. The cupboard is not bare in Boulder, but it will take a team effort to beat an Arizona team that has continued to get better. The Wildcats (13-4 ATS overall, 8-3 ATS at home) are coming off a 91-68 win over rival Arizona State, where they made 56% FG and connected on 8-of-15 from the three-point line. The only weakness in that game for Arizona was its struggles at the foul line, making just 54% FT (15-of-28). Although the Wildcats are an excellent rebounding team (+10.6 RPG), Tad Boyle is 16-3 ATS (84%) versus teams with a rebounding margin of at least +7 RPG since becoming the Colorado head coach. However, Arizona is 11-2 ATS (85%) when playing a winning team this season, and 15-4 ATS (79%) when the total is 130 to 139.5 over the past two seasons.

Can Colorado put a real scare in the nation's No. 1 team on Thursday? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 59% ATS (164-113-5) mark, including a stellar 63% ATS (132-79) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is at 62% ATS (34-21-1) in Best Bets for the season and 66% ATS (27-14) since Nov. 26. StatFox Dave is also 61% ATS (32-22-1) for the season and 71% ATS (17-7) since Dec. 18, while StatFox Zach is a strong 58% ATS (32-23-1) on Best Bets this season, including 62% ATS (26-16) since Nov. 22. StatFox Gary is 57% ATS (31-23-2) for the season, and 64% ATS (23-13) since Dec. 3, while StatFox Scott is 58% ATS (33-24) for the season and 61% ATS (23-15) since Dec. 2.

Colorado has done a great job this season in crashing the boards, ranking 33rd in the country with 39.2 RPG and outworking opponents by a +8.6 RPG margin. The offense is averaging a solid 75.5 PPG on 44.9% FG this season, but those numbers dip considerably to 67.7 PPG and 39.3% FG in non-home games. The Buffaloes took a definite hit when they lost Dinwiddie for the season, but there is still enough talent remaining to compete in the Pac-12. Junior G Askia Booker (13.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.3 APG) is a talented combination guard that can really put pressure on the defense by attacking the rim. In his past five games, Booker has scored 15.8 PPG thanks in large part to his 37 free-throw attempts during this stretch. But he is not the greatest shooter from the three-point line (33%), and has nearly as many turnovers (38) as assists (44) this season. In last season's trip to McKale Center, Booker finished with 18 points (4-of-7 threes) and five assists. Colorado also has a budding star in sophomore PF Josh Scott (14.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.2 BPG). The 6-foot-10 Scott had his fair share of struggles least season as a freshman, but has come back a much stronger player; which has allowed him to be able to battle down low with any other big man in the country. For the Buffaloes to remain among the top teams in the conference, then forwards Xavier Johnson (9.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and freshman Wesley Gordon (6.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG) are going to have take their games to the next level and increase their scoring. Johnson had a strong series versus the Wildcats last season with 14.3 PPG on 64% FG with 5.7 RPG.

Arizona is undefeated because of its play on both ends of the court. The club ranks fourth in the nation in defense (56.7 PPG), holding opponents to 37.0% FG (3rd in Div. I) and 29.1% threes (20th in nation). The Wildcats rank 14th in the nation in shooting (49.1% FG), 26th in assists (15.9 APG) and 30th in rebounding (39.3 RPG). While the offense hasnít been out of this world (75.9 PPG, 82nd in Div. I), the Wildcats do a great job of turning their defense into offense. They have athletes all over the floor that create havoc on defense, starting with SG Nick Johnson (16.3 PPG, 50% FG, 39% from threes, 3.4 RPG). Johnson is one of the elite athletes in the country that can apply pressure to opposing ball handlers, but also has the ability to block a shot. Johnson was the star in the Pac-12 tournament win over Colorado last season with 18 points on 6-of-7 FG with three assists. While Johnson is 6-foot-2, he is a mini-version of star freshman PF Aaron Gordon (12.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG). Gordon has continued to improve as a throughout his first season, and is the type of player that can take over come March. He has scored in double-figures in four straight games, averaging 14.0 PPG and 7.8 RPG during this stretch. The balance of Arizona is one of the biggest strengths for the team, as the club has seven players averaging at least 7.3 PPG. SF Brandon Ashley (12.1 PPG on 53% FG, 6.2 RPG) and C Kaleb Tarczewski (9.9 PPG on 59% FG, 6.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG) do a great job of contributing on both ends of the court. However, the difference between last season and this seasonís team is PG T.J. McConnell (7.4 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.9 SPG). He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had while Arizona, and does a terrific job of keeping all of his Wildcats teammates happy, producing hefty 3.0 Ast/TO ratio while shooting 47% from the floor and 38% from three-point land.

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