The Wildcats, seeded 4th, will face 6th seeded Colorado. The Buffaloes beat second ranked Cal 70-59 last night in their third game in as many days. It was a hard fought win, but Colorado came out on top, setting up a Championship game with Arizona.
Colorado's cCinderella run started on Wednesday when they beat geographic rival Utah 53-41. It seemed that they would be headed back to Boulder on Thursday, down to Oregon in the closing minutes of the second round matchup. Sophomore Andre Roberson scored the winning layup with 10 seconds left to give Colorado one more game. It made good with the game, topping Cal to set up the showdown.
The Championship game will be the third meeting for these two teams this season. They split the series, making this a true rubber match game. The winner gets to sit comfortably during the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday and find out when they play again. The loser will likely find itself in the NIT.
Leading Colorado this season and through the tournament is 6-foot-5 guard Carlon Brown. The 215-pound senior realizes that this is his last chance for greatness and has put the team on his back so far. He is no doubt a tired man, but averaged 15 points against the Cats this season and is a dangerous player if he gets hot.
Another player that is just as dangerous is the 6-foot-7 Roberson. Roberson was scoreless in Boulder, but had 12 points in Tucson. He is a great rebounder, averaging 8.5 rebounds against Arizona. Let's not forget that Roberson is also an exceptional defender, blocking 3 shots in McKale. He will be a tough matchup for the Cats.
Joining Roberson in the front court is senior forward Austin Dufault. The 6-foot-9, 225-pounder averaged nearly ten points in the two games this season. Dufault is an good rebounder and a tough guy to box out, as he had 13 rebounds in the series.
The senior forward is going to be a big player in the game. He sets plenty of screens, freeing up the guards, and gets some nice buckets on the subsequent roll. It will be up to the Arizona bigs to keep him out of the lane.
Spencer Dinwiddie, a freshman, has made a major impact this season and will look to improve on an impressive freshman year. The 6-foot-4 freshman put up 23 points in the series, but had some key plays and assists that kept Colorado alive in both games. He has seen production trail off as the Pac-12 tournament continues, but could still be somewhat of a factor in the decisive game.
The last of the starters is senior guard Nate Tomlinson. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior is in the same boat as Brown. This is his last shot and after tasting the NCAA tournament last year, it seems that the seniors may have to take it upon their own shoulders to get their team a bid this season.
Tomlinson had an average performance against Arizona this season. He had 12 points and 6 assists in the two games and those may not be telling numbers because he could easily have those totals in a single game.
First off the bench for the Buffaloes is guard Askia Booker. The 175-pound freshman played a great backup role this season and should see plenty of time as a starter next season. For now, he has to play his role and give his guys much needed breaks.
The 6-foot-1 Booker had 13 points against Arizona and that is exactly what he will look to do on Saturday. He shouldn't be a major factor, unless there is foul trouble. However, there is also an issue with how much rest the starters may need given their road so far. Booker could have an extended role and would have huge shoes to fill if that were the case.
Playing the backup role for the big men is 6-foot-11 sophomore Shane Harris-Tunks. The center had a decent game in boulder, with 4 points and 5 rebounds, but played a game to forget in McKale. He had a single free throw and a block as his good stats. Harris-Tunks also had 2 turnovers and 3 fouls in limited action.
Another guard we may see off the bench is Jeremy Adams. The 205-pound sophomore played a collective 8 minutes in two games against Arizona, but may see time in the Championship game as he collected 6 minutes against California. He is averaging one rebound in the series, but hasn't made many mistakes, which is a good thing for a Colorado team looking for more bodies.
The last reserve we may see tomorrow is Sabitino Chen. The 6-foot-3 junior saw some decent time in the series (8 minutes averaged), but saw just a single minute against California in the semifinals. Chen's play dropped off as the season progressed, which has led to less playing time, but with fresh bodies needed on the court, Chen could see some time. He had just 4 points in both games.
This is now the biggest game of the season for both teams and it should be fought for in exactly that manner. Nothing will come easy for either team. For Colorado, this is game four in four days. For Arizona, it is game three in three days. That may not seem like much of a difference, but this is where the offseason conditioning really shows.
Another key aspect of the Championship is how much heart these two teams have. Both teams have a truck load, and then some. The Wildcats and the Buffaloes are both led by seniors. This is their chance to continue a great run for either team.
This is the Pac-12 Championship game. It's "win and in", "lose and go home", "to the victor go the spoils", and every other victory slogan you can think of. One team will walk out of the Staples Center. One team will dance out.