No. 15 Arizona back in action vs. Colorado

The Associated Press

Arizona begins defense of its Pac-12 Tournament title when it meets Colorado in Las Vegas on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Sean Miller's No. 15 Wildcats (24-7) received an opening-round bye after winning the Pac-12 regular season last week and earning the No. 1 seed.

Thursday's tip against Colorado will be the first for the Wildcats in a week they hope ends with another title and another chance to cut down the nets at T-Mobile Arena. Arizona split its two meetings with the Buffalos this year with Tad Boyle's team handing the Wildcats their first conference loss of the season in early January.

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The Wildcats have slowly come back to full strength heading into the postseason after a tumultuous week without Miller and one of their stars, Allonzo Trier. Miller sat out several days while the school looked into a report that alleged he was recorded discussing a $100,000 payment for star freshman Deandre Ayton. Trier was ruled ineligible after the results of an NCAA drug test came back positive for a banned substance.

Miller and Trier returned last week after missing two games and helped the Wildcats earn two wins to finish out the regular season. The Wildcats will also welcome back freshman reserve forward Ira Lee, who has missed the last several games with a concussion.

"I like conference tournaments," Miller said. "If you approach it right it prepares you for the NCAA Tournament. If you lose it's a loss that feels completely different, because it's the first time you have that feeling of 'we don't have a game tomorrow' and the reason is you lost. If you win I think you build confidence and you get toughened through elimination basketball."

Arizona will open the Pac-12 Tournament with Colorado for the third time in as many years. The eight-seeded Buffaloes controlled their first game of the postseason Wednesday against Arizona State with a 97-85 victory over the ninth-seeded Sun Devils.

Colorado (17-14) was led by freshman guard and leading scorer McKinley Wright IV, who had 20 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Six Colorado players scored in double figures including three players off the bench led by reserve guard Dominque Collier's 17 points.

Wednesday afternoon's game ended with a bit of a scuffle that left Boyle with an injured calf as he tried to separate players in the final seconds of the win.

"The doctor usually doesn't give an injury report on the coach, but the doctor said I've either torn or strained a calf muscle," he said. "But it ... felt like somebody hit me with a golf ball or shotgun there as I ran out. So I don't know what happened. But it doesn't feel too good.

"But the win makes it feel a lot better."

Now Colorado's attention will turn to the Wildcats, a team Boyle's squad has already beat this season.

"You've got to be able to stop them because they're very potent offensively," Boyle said. "They're the best offensive Arizona team we've probably played against since we've been in the Pac-12. Obviously DeAndre Ayton is a heck of a player. But they have other good ones.

"... To me it's all about our defensive game plan, putting that together. ... But Arizona's well coached. They've got great talent, and it's a great opportunity."

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