Thursday was mismatch night in the Pac-12. The conference's significant home court advantage phenomenon wasn't enough to enable Arizona State to survive Washington or depleted SC to avoid getting crushed by Colorado. At the same time home court advantage boosted both Arizona and UCLA into easy romps over visiting Washington State and Utah respectfully.
It gets a whole lot tougher Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday Washington plays at Arizona, Utah and SC should provide a more reasonable matchup as should Washington State at Arizona State and Colorado vs. UCLA - our focus - should tell the whole conference a lot more about the surprising Buffs and the lurking Bruins. On Sunday in two huge games involving teams currently high up in the conference rankings, Oregon State tries to overcome the home court advantage at Oregon and Stanford hopes to beat the odds - and the home court - at Cal.
The big one for Bruin fans of course occurs Saturday as the University of Colorado visits the Sports Arena for a 1:00 pm PST game with UCLA. The Buffaloes have been a bit of a surprise this year. Colorado started the season 8-4 in non-conference games and with a victory over struggling SC Thursday night is now 6-2 in its initial season in the Pac-12. The Bruins of course defeated Utah Thursday to even its record in conference at 4-4 and is now 11-9 on the season.
UCLA and Colorado have faced each other five times with UCLA having won four of them. Colorado is coached by Colorado native Tad Boyle who has said that coaching Colorado is his dream job. Boyle took over the reins at Colorado on April 19, 2010 and has compiled a 24-14 record.
Coach Boyle has the Buffaloes playing really well with the addition of several recruits including Spencer Dinwiddie, a touted point guard out of Woodland (Calif.) Taft. Boyle goes nine deep in his rotation and uses his players well. There are four players on the roster who go 6-9 or taller.
Carlon Brown, another Southern California native out of Riverside, is the Buffs' leading shooter. He has started all 19 games since transferring in from Utah. Brown (6-5, 215) sat out all last season due to the transfer rules and is now a senior. He is the Buffaloes' leading scorer at 13.4 points per game. He averages 3.5 rebounds a game, has 42 assists, 13 steals and is shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from behind the arc and 79.6 percent from the free throw line.
Austin Dufault (6-9, 225) plays forward for the Buffs. A senior, Dufault is CU's second leading scorer averaging 11.6 points per game. He is a banger underneath but can and will step out and hit the three. Dufault averages 4.8 rebounds per game and shoots 51.6 percent from the field, 43.8 percent from three and 71 percent from the charity stripe. He has 14 steals and 23 assists as well.
Sophomore Andre Roberson (6-7, 210) made a name for himself as a true freshman a year ago setting records at Colorado for blocked shots by a freshman with 42, most rebounds by a freshman with 297 and most rebounds by a guard with 297. This season he is scoring more, checking in as the third leading scorer with 10.9 points a game. Roberson has 31 blocks, 15 steals and averages a team-leading 11.1 rebounds per game.
Roberson is hitting 46.1 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three and 67.9 percent from the free throw line. This season Roberson has been moved to a forward position to make the most of his rebounding skills.
Mentioned earlier - due to Bruin fans' familiarity with him during his recruitment a year ago - true freshman guard Dinwiddie is the only other player to have started every game this season. Dinwiddie is a 6-5, 190 pound point guard who was L.A. City player of the year nevertheless was not heavily recruited by UCLA. He entered this week averaging 10.8 points and 3.8 rebounds a game and has 32 assists and nine steals. He shoots 40.3 percent from the field overall but is actually better from beyond the arc making 44.6 percent (68-84) of his attempts. Dinwiddie has also converted 81 percent of his free throws.
Nate Tomlinson is a 6-3, 185 pound senior guard. Tomlinson has started 17 games this season and is second on the team in minutes played. Boyle likes to keep him on the floor as much as possible. Tomlinson is averaging 5.7 points and 2 rebounds and has amassed a team leading 59 assists so far this season. He has 16 steals and shoots his free throws at a 70.3 percent clip. Tomlinson has not shot the ball all that well from the field (37.6 percent) or from the three point line (32.2 percent) but he is a stabilizing force for his team just as Jerime Anderson is for the Bruins.
The Buffaloes have some size to match up with the Bruins. In addition to the 6-9 Dufault, Ben Mills (7-0, 220), Shane Harris-Tunks (6-11, 250) and Trey Eckloff (6-10, 230) are likely to see some playing time in an effort to combat the Bruins' size.
Colorado averages 69.8 points per game and gives up 62.2. They shoot 45.2 percent as a team and hold their opponents to 39.2 percent. Colorado hits 36.9 percent of their three point attempts and has held opponents to 32.2 percent. They convert 70 percent of their free throw attempts.
The Buffaloes have out-rebound their opponents by an average of 5.3 per game. They average 12.6 assists a game. They turn the ball over slightly more than their opponents, averaging 13.8 turnovers to their opponents' 12.4. They also get 5.1 steals and 3.2 blocks a game.
Clearly the Buffs come into the Sports Arena with talent, toughness and confidence. Brown has been known to try to operate as a one-man band but since he can get off on a hot streak, that's not necessarily a negative for Colorado.
For UCLA, Joshua Smith will have to play to his form against Utah rather than the ultra-tight struggles he had in front of his parents in the land of no sales tax last weekend. We'll see if the Bruins' performance with Anthony Stover on the court Thursday will encourage Coach Howland to give the red-shirt sophomore still dealing with a labrum injury more court time.
The Bruins will have to be on their game to hold serve in this one and they pretty much have to win it to maintain a chance to move up into the top three or four in conference heading into the all-important Pac-12 tournament at the end of the regular season.