During halftime of Sunday’s UCLA-USC game, Fox analyst Marques Johnson suggested that Oregon had a better chance to beat No. 1-ranked Arizona than Colorado this year because of an influx of veteran transfers.
Then the broadcast shifted back to Pauley Pavilion, where UCLA was throwing its hat into that who-can-beat-Arizona ring.
The Bruins, who defeated Arizona three times last season, dismantled the Trojans 107-73. That may have sent a statement to USC coach Andy Enfield, who was quoted as telling his players during a preseason practice “if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.”
It also may have sent a warning to Arizona, which will visit Pauley on Thursday. The game will be expected to be tougher than Arizona’s 71-62 victory over Washington on Saturday, a tense McKale Center contest that changed leads nine times.
Then again, the Wildcats continue to prove themselves on the road.
They won at San Diego State and Michigan already this season and entered Pac-12 play this season in a tie for the second-most road wins in conference play (19) since coach Sean Miller arrived in 2009-10.
Among other things, the Wildcats also have a junior leader in Nick Johnson, who Miller said was accustomed to the pressure of conference play after he scored 24 points against Washington on Saturday.
They also have a more dominant frontcourt than they did when the Bruins beat them up last season and a precocious freshman forward in Aaron Gordon who says he’s ready for conference play.
“It took me a little bit to adjust in the preseason and now I understand the aspects of college basketball, what it takes, how hard you have to play, how physical it is,” Gordon said after the Washington game. “And now it’s just like any other college basketball game to me.”