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March 14, 2013
LAS VEGAS -- Despite a first-round bye, Arizona may have drawn the worst possible opponent to open the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
In a rematch of last season's tournament championship game, the fourth-seeded Wildcats will meet No. 5 Colorado Thursday in a quarterfinal match-up at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Tipoff is approximately scheduled for 2:36 p.m.
The Wildcats (24-6) have had trouble with the Buffaloes (21-10) dating back to last season's Pac-12 tournament showdown, which cost UA the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The venue is different after the conference decided to move the tournament out of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Arizona is hoping the memories will be different, too.
"When you don't win the final championship, it's like a Super Bowl, no one remembers who was in the Super Bowl except the winner," UA head coach Sean Miller said. "Conference tournaments are sometimes like that, but it's hard to be standing on that last day, back-to-back years like we've been.
"We have experienced that disappointment on the last day. So I think that is a motivating factor."
The teams split the two regular-season meetings this season, but then No. 3-ranked 'Cats escaped with a controversial 93-82 overtime win in Tucson after CU guard Sabatino Chen's banked 3-pointer at the end of regulation was disallowed.
"We don't go back and we don't cry over spilled milk," Buffs guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. "We know it goes in the record book as a loss. But a lot of people around the country have the same feeling that we do. Even some of their players do because we kind of talked about it on the floor last time.
"So we do feel like we're 2‑0 (against the Wildcats this season), but we don't take that for granted because they're a great and talented team."
The Buffs bounced back in Boulder with a 71-58 decision dubbed the "Valentine's Day Massacre."
For the better part of the 85 minutes of action, Colorado has dominated the action and controlled the tempo from the outset. In the two first halves combined, Arizona shot a little better than 30.3 percent.
The Buffaloes have been in the league for just two seasons, but the meetings with the Wildcats - and the drama surrounding the first game this season - have quickly made the two teams budding rivals.
As if the game needed another storyline, Colorado forward Andre Roberson, the nation's leading rebounder, was a question mark heading into the week. The Pac-12's defensive player of the year and first-team all-conference selection missed the final two games of the regular season with a viral illness.
But Roberson started Wednesday in CU's 74-68 first-round win over Oregon State, which topped the Buffs in final game of the regular season but could not turn in a repeat performance.
Roberson scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds in 25 minutes. The junior also turned the ball over five times and did not record a blocked shot.
"Andre brings a lot to our team. There is no question about it," Buffs head coach Tad Boyle said. "He was a little rusty today. But in terms of his defense and clogging up the lane and changing shots, Andre was terrific. It wasn't his best outing, but we're certainly a better team with him than we are without him."
The Wildcats closed the regular-season with a 73-58 win over Arizona State to stop a two-game slide. The focus now is on building off that performance and picking up some momentum in the postseason.
"It's a renewed opportunity for us to come in the Pac-12 tournament and get a chance to really win it," first-team all-conference selection Solomon Hill said. "It's kind of up for grabs. I think anyone can really win it."
The winner will move on to Friday's semifinals and face either top-seeded UCLA or No. 8 ASU. The Bruins and Sun Devils will begin Thursday's quarterfinal action at noon.