Getting up for the game
At 7-0 in conference home games, Colorado may well have an advantage playing at 5,345-foot Coors Events Center. But the Buffaloes are 1-3 away from home and noted college basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy noted on his blog that teams "residing at altitude might have an increased disadvantage when they go to a lower location."
Pomeroy cited Colorado's record over 15 years of home-and-home Big 12 series with Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Nebraska: The Buffs won by an average of 1.5 points at home and lost on the road by an average of 13.0 points - far beyond the average home/away differential of about four points.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said the Buffaloes aren't any worse off on the road but simply don't have a physical advantage over teams. UA coach Sean Miller figured he'd stay out of this one.
"I'm from Beaver Falls, Pa.," Miller said, smiling. "I just eat hot dogs and pizza and watch the Steelers. I didn't even know altitude till I came out there. So I have no thoughts, nor should I have any, on that."
Top-four seed is key
Another reason for the Wildcats to keep winning this weekend: As of today, they hold the No. 5 spot in Pac-12 tournament seeding, and only four teams will avoid playing a first-round game March 7.
Miller said the parity in the conference this year makes it "life or death" for a team to avoid a first-round game if it wants to win the tournament. The situation is more critical for Arizona, which will face ASU on Sunday, March 4, rather than Saturday, and thus would have only two full days of rest before a possible first-round game.
UA's best shooter is …
Miller has hit 73 of his 75 free throws so far in the annual charity "Shots for the Heart" competition among coaches, making him by far the most accurate shooter on a team that has made only 65 percent of its free throws in Pac-12 games.
Miller said he has sometimes even shot them in front of his team but that probably hasn't helped, either.
"I don't know if they're really paying attention, to be honest," Miller said.
Frustration levels on the rise
If you count the pleasantries UA assistant coach Joe Pasternack and Cal's Jorge Gutierrez exchanged during a collision on the Arizona bench last week at California, the Wildcats have had particularly heated moments in four straight Thursday games. The first three incidents involved an ejection each time, for Kyryl Natyazhko, Solomon Hill and Josiah Turner.
One explanation from the Arizona side of why this is happening: good defense.
"You start to see it probably in the second half, when they start getting tired," guard Nick Johnson said of opponents' frustration with UA's defense. "That's probably why we've had so many incidents this year. People just get tired of us constantly being there."
Weak rivalry for Rivalry Week
Tonight's game will be one of four that ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla is doing over five days this week during what ESPN is promoting as "Rivalry Week." Fraschilla started with Kansas-Baylor on Wednesday, will work Arizona-Colorado and then call Kansas State-Texas on Saturday and St. John's-Georgetown on Sunday.
It's not clear if Arizona vs. Colorado qualifies as a "rivalry" game at this point, however.
Performance over reputation
Miller may have his first-ever McDonald's All-American recruits if UA signees Brandon Ashley or Grant Jerrett are named to the prestigious 2012 rosters today, but he also points to evidence tonight that the honor doesn't mean everything.
Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie, who averages 10.8 points for the Buffs as a starting wing, barely made the Rivals.com Top 150 out of high school at 146 last season.
"The starting line in college doesn't take into consideration whether you were McDonald's All-American or not," Miller said. "When you look at his performance at Colorado as a freshman and what he does at the college level, no one's checking back to see where he was as a high school senior."
Colorado's Brown one of the best
One of the reasons Utah is struggling and Colorado is succeeding this year can be traced to the same guy: Buffaloes wing Carlon Brown.
Brown transferred in 2010 from Utah to Colorado, leaving Jim Boylen's regime a year before Boylen was fired, and has become the Buffaloes' leading scorer in his only season of eligibility in Colorado.
"I can't complain," Brown said. "Everything speaks for itself."
Miller says Brown is one of the best offensive players in the country and one of the best overall in the Pac-12.
"I don't know if anyone really understood how good Carlon Brown was," said Miller, when asked about Colorado being picked to finish 10th this season. "Carlon Brown is by far one of our conference's best players."
Brown, incidentally, started for the Utes against Arizona on March 20, 2009, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He had seven points, four rebounds, six assists and four turnovers.