Even though the game will be played inside Staples Center, Saturday's Pac-12 championship game between Arizona and Colorado will contain all the desperation of a mid-major title bout where both teams are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives.
Just two Pac-12 teams began the postseason with legitimate hopes of landing an at-large bid into the big dance, and neither of them were Arizona or Colorado.
Both teams are in this position because of their defense. Colorado has allowed an average of only 54 points per game in its three postseason victories (43 against Utah, 62 against Oregon, and 59 against Cal), and has held its opponents to just 39.5 percent shooting from the field in those wins. Arizona led the Pac-12 in field goal percentage defense during the regular season, and surrendered just 58 points to UCLA and 61 to Oregon State on its way to the championship game.
Colorado sophomore Andre Roberson - the Pac-12's leading rebounder - is a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor, but it's senior guard Carlong Brown who really makes the Buffaloes go. Brown has put the team on his back in conference play, averaging better than 16 points per game and also recording nine steals.
There's never been any question about Arizona's talent. Senior guard Kyle Fogg has been solid all season, averaging a team-best 13.7 ppg to go with 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals. The imposing frontcourt duo of Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry both average better than 12 points and seven rebounds a night.
Both of these teams - Arizona in particular - have the potential to get hot from the outside, but the much smarter money is on a grind-it-out game that won't be particularly pleasing to the eye.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER WATCH
Solomon Hill, Arizona
Went off on UCLA Thursday night to the tune of 25 points and 12 rebounds, and then followed that up by scoring 12 in the semifinals. He's a matchup problem for Colorado and could definitely have another monster game
Kyle Fogg, Arizona
Went for 22 and eight in the semifinals a night after scoring 13 against UCLA. He's the most reliable player on Arizona's roster, and will be at the center of just about anything good that happens for the Wildcats on Saturday.
Jesse Perry, Arizona
Has produced double doubles on back-to-back nights, scoring 16 points in both tournament games.
Carlon Brown, Colorado
The guy who makes the Buffs go will almost certainly have to play a tremendous game for them to have a shot at pulling the upset.
Andre Roberson, Colorado
Is averaging just over 16 points and 10 rebounds per game so far in the tournament. Will have the added task of tangling with Hill and Perry on Saturday.
Arizona 68, Colorado 57
I almost went with "pain," but I wouldn't do that to you guys. This one figures to be far from aesthetically pleasing, but Arizona is clearly the superior team and they should be able to make enough plays to snag the league's auto-id into the field of 68. The Wildcats will be an extremely dangerous 12/13 seed.
Game Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Location: Staples Center: Los Angeles, CA
Favorite: Arizona by 3.5
Previous Meetings: Colorado won 64-63 at home on Jan. 21; Arizona won 71-57 at home on Feb. 9
How They Got Here:
Quarterfinals: Beat 3) Oregon (63-62)