Colorado has had to prove it was NCAA tournament worthy since the moment Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a season-ending knee injury Jan. 12.
The Buffaloes are 6-5 since, including the Washington game in which Dinwiddie went down in the second half.
The best win of the season for Colorado was against Kansas. That came with Dinwiddie on Dec. 7.
If Colorado is to bookend its season with another big win, then beating Arizona at home Saturday would be the perfect result. It could also convince the NCAA tournament selection committee that the team it is evaluating is more than capable of performing well in mid-March.
"In order to quiet naysayers, this is a must win," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said.
The Buffaloes get "College GameDay" in the house and Boulder should be rocking for what has the potential to be a rivalry in the Pac-12. Colorado and Arizona played tight games a year ago and while the first game wasn't as close in Tucson, there is no love lost between the two teams.
"The arena will be electric," Boyle said. "This is a budding rivalry."
The Buffs beat Arizona State on Wednesday night to build momentum heading into the weekend. They moved into third place in the Pac-12 behind UCLA at 9-5 and 20-7 overall. But the importance of this game cannot be understated. Colorado ends the season with three-straight road games against Utah, Stanford and Cal. That's incredibly dicey for Colorado. Whiff on beating Arizona, and an NCAA bid, regardless of where the Buffs finish in the Pac-12, could suddenly be called into question if the road ahead is littered with losses.
Arizona is coming off an overtime win at Utah and needs to keep UCLA off its tail. The Bruins beat Cal in Berkeley and head to Stanford this weekend.
So how does Colorado pull off what arguably could be the most anticipated Pac-12 game since it joined the league?
"We've got to take them out of transition," Boyle said. "We've got to limit them to one shot. They are a great offensive rebounding team. We've got to get the pace fast. Their depth can be an issue and the altitude is on our side."
Arizona has had to reinvent itself a bit sans Brandon Ashley. The Wildcats have the guard play to hang with any team in the country and the trio of Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarczewski and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can board and run with any frontcourt. Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell are a tough matchup for any perimeter. That puts even more pressure on Askia Booker outside and Josh Scott inside. But Colorado has had balance without Dinwiddie in key games. If the Buffs are to get this much-needed win then it will take a total team effort.
Boulder is buzzing for this game like it never has for a college basketball affair in February. The anticipation should equal the event.