Arizona and Colorado face off in possible testy rematch
A look at things to watch this week in the Pac-12 Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Colorado at No. 11 Arizona, Thursday. This one could get testy. The Buffaloes pulled off an upset in the team’s last meeting, knocking off Arizona 80-77 in Boulder on Jan. 6. That would already give the Wildcats incentive to get a little payback, but comments made by Colorado coach Tad Boyle might have them a little more fired up in the rematch. Boyle was asked if the win meant a little more because of the FBI probe that ensnared Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson during the offseason. His answer: “Hell yes.” Arizona coach Sean Miller downplayed Boyles’ comment during his media session this week, but you better believe the fiery coach going to use it as motivation for his team. Don’t miss this one.
LOOKING AHEAD: USC has gone through some ups and downs this season, but the Trojans have been playing better lately and are second in the Pac-12 at 6-2, a half-game behind Arizona. The Trojans have won four straight and six of seven after sweeping the Oregon schools last week. USC has a chance to avenge one of its losses when it faces Stanford, which dropped out of the Pac-12 lead with a loss to Arizona last week, and also plays Csalifornia this week.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Arizona’s Deandre Ayton and Arizona State’s Tra Holder were named to the midseason watch list for the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Award. ... Two of the nation’s most-played rivalries take place this week: Oregon and Oregon State (350 games) and Washington-Washington State (287). ... Oregon’s .790 free-throw percentage is on pace to break the Pac-12 record of .786 set by Arizona in 2003-04.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Justin Bibbins, Utah. The Utes’ diminutive guard can do a little of everything, particularly score. The 5-foot-8 graduate transfer guard averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds in a pair of games last week. Against Washington, he became the shortest player from a major conference, according to STATS, to have 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game the last 20 years.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: UCLA’s Monique Billings was the Pac-12 player of the week after becoming the 14th player in Pac-12 history to eclipse 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. ... No. 25 Arizona State at No. 23 California on Sunday is the conference’s only game between ranked teams. The Sun Devils have to play at Stanford on Friday before heading to Berkley.
Compiled by AP Basketball Writer John Marshall in Phoenix.