LAS VEGAS — Tad Boyle has attempted to divide the 2017-18 basketball season into four portions for his youthful Colorado Buffaloes men's basketball team.
The first two portions, the nonconference and league schedules, already are in the books. Yet in order to reach the fourth section, which would be an invitation to a postseason tournament, the Buffs must first make some noise in the season's third section, which begins Wednesday afternoon in the Pac-12 Conference at T-Mobile Arena as the eighth-seeded Buffs take on Arizona State (1 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
"I broke it down for them (this week) where we are," Boyle said. "This is season No. 3. We've got the preseason, the nonconference portion of our schedule. We've got the regular (Pac-12) season. Now we have the postseason tournament. We're guaranteed all three of those seasons. But the fourth season is the postseason, and right now it's a one-game season because unless we win a game, or a couple of games, our season may be over. That's the reality. We don't know that, but that's the way it feels right now."
As it stands, the Buffs would need to defeat ASU and then upset top-seeded Arizona in the quarterfinals on Thursday to even have a shot at an NIT berth, but even that scenario might not be enough. Arizona, USC, and ASU are the Pac-12 teams most likely to land NCAA Tournament berths regardless of how the league tourney plays out, while Utah, UCLA, and Washington have the most viable opportunities to play their way into the NCAA tourney.
If those three teams don't make the cut, they will remain in line ahead of the Buffs for a potential NIT berth, as will Oregon and Stanford.
Pac-12 track records
A number of Buffs players are expected to log their first career minutes at the Pac-12 tournament, a list that includes freshmen — McKinley Wright, Tyler Bey, D'Shawn Schwartz, Lazar Nikolic, and Dallas Walton — along with junior Namon Wright, a transfer from Missouri.
Seniors George King and Dom Collier are the CU players with the most experience at the league tournament, and they have enjoyed mixed results.
Collier has averaged 5.3 points in six Pac-12 Conference tournament games, but he did most of his damage as a freshman when he scored 14 points in CU's quarterfinal-round loss against Oregon State. Collier has shot 10-for-31 overall (.323) and 6-for-16 on 3-pointers in the league tournament.
King made a memorable league tourney debut two years ago, topping 20 points in each game against Washington State and Arizona. Against those same opponents last year King was held to a total of just 18 points while going 1-for-10 on 3-pointers.
On Tuesday the Associated Press released its All-Pac-12 selections, and much of it mirrored the official all-league results from the coaches poll released a day earlier.
Like the coaches' poll, Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton swept the Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year award. However, while Washington's Mike Hopkins won the league's official Coach of the Year honor, Utah's Larry Krystkowiak took the same honor in the AP voting.
The AP first team: Ayton, UCLA's Aaron Holiday, Arizona's Allonzo Trier, Stanford's Reid Travis, and USC's Jordan McLaughlin.
The AP second team: ASU's Tra Holder, USC's Chimezie Metu, Utah's Justin Bibbins, Oregon State's Tres Tinkle, and Washington's Noah Dickerson.
I voted for Ayton for Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honor and selected Hopkins as the coach of the year. Here is how I filled out my first and second team selections.
First team: Ayton, Trier, Holiday, Travis, McLaughlin.
Second team: Metu, Tinkle, Holder, Dickerson, and Arizona's Dusan Ristic.
No CU players were named to the Pac-12 all-academic teams released on Tuesday... Former CU player Tre'Shaun Fletcher, now at Toledo for his senior season, was named the Player of the Year in the Mid-American Conference...While the Buffs have never played ASU in the league tournament, a win would set up a matchup against Arizona for the sixth time in CU's seven Pac-12 tourney appearances.