Men's Championship Preview
By Kevin Danna
If you thought this year's Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament was going to be all chalk, think again. The No. 1-seed Washington went down in the quarterfinals; the No. 2-seed California fell in the semis. What is left is two teams playing some of their best basketball at the best possible time: No. 4-seed Arizona and No. 6-seed Colorado.
Arizona has found its way to the championship game by way of knocking off the No. 5-seed UCLA (66-58) and tournament Cinderella Oregon State (72-61). Veteran leadership has been the name of the game for the Wildcats thus far, as seniors Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry and junior Solomon Hill have all reached double figures in scoring in both tournament games. Perry has done his teammates one better by grabbing 23 combined rebounds in the two victories for a couple of double-doubles, though Hill would probably argue that his 25-point, 12-window-wiping effort against the Bruins shines brightest.
After grinding out a 53-41 victory over the hard-working Utah Runnin' Utes, Colorado has had to wear its black uniforms ever since. That hasn't bothered the Buffs, though, springing the upset over Oregon thanks to a late put-back by another guy who is a double-double waiting to happen: sophomore forward André Roberson. The Buffaloes then one-upped themselves by taking down the No. 2-seed California in the semis 70-59 thanks to a balanced scoring attack, getting 17 points from Carlon Brown and Roberson and 15 from Austin Dufault.
Match-up to watch: Defense wins championships, and that will certainly be the case on Saturday afternoon. The Pac-12 title match will feature the top two teams in the conference in field goal percent defense; through Wednesday's games, Colorado had Arizona edged out by a tenth of a percent for the top spot (.407 to .408). The key defender for Colorado is Roberson, who not only leads the conference in rebounding, but also in blocked shots. While he will be making the paint a crowded area for the Wildcats, Arizona's Kyle Fogg will be looking to lock down Colorado's perimeter game as one of the strongest on-ball defenders in the Pac-12.
Key to the game: Who can control the tempo? Though it will be the Buffs' fourth game in as many days, look for them to stick to their identity and push the pace any opportunity they have. Arizona will make that difficult, however - the Wildcats forced Oregon State, one of the fastest teams in the nation, to play a half-court game for the majority of Friday's contest.