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March 9, 2013
First-round bye at stake for No. 18 Arizona
Barring help that would be a borderline miracle, Arizona's seniors will not be cutting down the nets Saturday in their final home game at McKale Center. But the 18th-ranked Wildcats will have the chance to lock up the fourth seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming Pac-12 Conference tournament, and send out the seniors with one final victory over their in-state rivals - at the very least.
Tipoff between Arizona and Arizona State is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. MST.
The Wildcats (23-6, 11-6 Pac-12) sit one-half game behind third-place California and a full game behind leaders UCLA and Oregon in the standings. UA would need to win and have the Bruins and Ducks both lose this afternoon - the Bears are done - to finish with a share of the conference's regular-season championship in a four-way tie.
Regardless, however, UA would lose the head-to-head tiebreakers, as the 'Cats are a combined 0-4 against the three teams and would remain the No. 4 seed. A loss and a Colorado win today would drop Arizona to No. 5.
"A lot of things would have to go our way, including us beating ASU. But that's the focus for us," UA head coach Sean Miller said.
ASU (20-10, 9-8 Pac-12) will try to play spoiler, much like it did last season in the regular-season finale in Tempe. Then, the Wildcats had a chance to pad their NCAA tournament resume but lost, 87-80.
Now, UA will attempt to repeat the results of the first meeting between the teams this season. The Wildcats posted a 71-54 road win on Jan. 19 and limited key Sun Devils Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski.
The duo combined to make just 2 of 13 shots - including 1 of 7 for Felix from the 3-point line - and gave star redshirt freshman Jahii Carson very little help. Carson finished with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting but was in foul trouble early in the second half.
Miller said he knows Bachynski and Felix are "capable of playing much, much better than they did the first time."
"To me, [Felix] had one of those days where a number of shots that he normally makes didn't," Miller said. "I'm not saying we didn't have something to do with it, but … he's not going to play that way again.
"Same thing with Bachynski. … I thought we were physical and Kaleb (Tarczewski) did a nice job matching his size."
Arizona senior Kevin Parrom is determined to close the regular season on a strong note and snap the team's two-game skid.
The Wildcats, once a top-five team and in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, not just the Pac-12, are trying to spark some momentum heading into next week's postseason.
"We are going to win. I can't lose on my last game," Parrom said. "I can't accept that … especially (against) ASU. I can't consider losing that game."