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NCAA Basketball West Preview: Arizona vs. Colorado and Cal vs. UCLA

In this week’s rankings, the Arizona Wildcats (12-0) sit at No. 3, representing the Pac-12 in the Top 25. Three teams sit behind the Wildcats with two losses (Arizona State 11-2, Oregon 11-2 and Colorado 10-2) and now that conference play will begin, look for some changes to take place.

But for now, Arizona is 15/1 to win it all in April and 1/1 to win the conference.

CBS Sports has predicted four Pac-12 teams will make the Big Dance: Arizona, UCLA, Colorado and Oregon with others team to keep in mind including Stanford and California.

After taking a break from its tight win over San Diego State on Christmas Day, the Wildcats return to action on Thursday and will play Colorado in its first conference game.

Also starting conference play on Thursday is California (8-4) at UCLA. Can Shabazz Muhammad and the Wear Twins play as well as they did in the OT game against #7 Missouri?

Arizona vs. Colorado

Arizona Guard Mark Lyons

At 12-0, the Wildcats are tied for the team’s best start since its 1987-88 team began their road to the Final Four. With a Thursday win, it will be a first since its 1931-32 team went 16-0.

History is on Arizona’s side for opening conference games since joining the Pac-10 back in 1978: 12-0. But they’ll have to put its last meeting with Colorado behind them. The Buffaloes won 53-51 in the conference title game and ended the Wildcats hopes for the Big Dance.

This year’s team has senior guard Mark Lyons, the Xavier transfer, as its leading scorer with 13.4 average points per game; he also leads in assists (3.2).

Senior forward Solomon Hill earned MVP honors at the Diamond Head Classic and with the freshmen Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski, this is a talented team.

As for Colorado, they have four players scoring in double digits including Askia Booker (14.8 per game) and Spencer Dinwiddie (14.4). When shooting three pointers, they’ve hit a combined 41.

Colorado will enter the game on a three-game win streak but this has come at home against Northern Arizona and Hartford. Playing on the road has proved to be difficult as the team lost two of three including a 90-54 loss to Kansas.

It will continue on Thursday with Arizona getting the win (-11.5).

 UCLA vs. California 

UCLA Shabazz Muhammed

The Bruins entered the season with high expectations along with freshman player Shabazz Muhammed.

After a couple of disappointing losses (Georgetown and #23 SDSU), the team is riding a five-game win streak and are coming off a big win against No. 7 Missouri.

It was the first time since November 2007 that the team had defeated a top 10 nonconference team.

The Bruins appears to be hitting their stride and so is Muhammed. This week he was named National Player of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Week after his tied for a season-high 27 points in the Missouri game. In OT, Muhammed scored seven of the team’s nine points including a nail in the coffin 3-pointer with 1:04 remaining.

Also at the top is senior guard Larry Drew II, a North Carolina transfer. He isn’t the greatest shooter but he’s No. 2 nationally for assists (8.6 per game).

As for Cal, they’ll bring the high-scoring guard duo of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. They’re at the top of the conference with Crabbe leading it and a No. 11 national ranking with his 20.9 points per game. Cobbs is No. 7 in the Pac-12 at 16.4 points per game.

To-date, the pair has a combined 448 of 858 team points (52 percent).

The team can also rebound, sitting at No. 3 in the conference and outrebounding opponents with a 40.2 rpg average.

Two of its four losses came against ranked teams (#21 Crei and #16 UNLV) and in their most recent loss, it was against Harvard, 67-62.

The Bears have some talent but UCLA has more for the win (-7.5)



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