On the road to (March) madness?
Colorado has put itself in position to win the Pac-12 regular-season title with a 7-0 record against its new conference foes at the Coors Events Center.
This is the first time the program has been in contention this late in a season since 1996-97 when Chauncey Billups was a sophomore at CU.
The surprising 2012 championship chase began with a laugher against Utah (73-33) and continued with a dramatic last-second win over Oregon (72-71) on Saturday night in front of 11,052 believers.
The Buffs (16-7, 8-3) have now played everyone in the Pac-12 and are currently tied with Cal for second place, one game behind a Washington team they buried 87-69 in Boulder.
"I don't think there is any team we can't beat," second-year CU head coach Tad Boyle said after improving his remarkable home record to 31-3. "But I don't think there is any team we can take for granted either. I think the whole key for us is you take the next task at hand and we have to beat a quality opponent on the road."
CU will have a chance to do just that on national television against Arizona on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN).
The Wildcats (16-8, 7-4), who suffered a 64-63 loss at the Coors Events Center on Jan. 21, are trending towards the NCAA Tournament bubble after sweeping Cal and Stanford in the Bay Area.
"We are a little bit young, but I think we can make that step," said CU point guard Nate Tomlinson, whose free throw with one second left sank the Ducks. "We are a tough team. We can compete. We just need to take that next step into being smarter, and I think that will translate into wins."
The Buffs will play five of the final seven regular-season games on the road. CU is 1-3 in its first tour of the Pac-12 with a blowout win over USC, a tough loss to Cal and two lopsided defeats against Stanford and UCLA.
The visitors will probably be favored in the games at Arizona State (Saturday) and Utah (Feb. 18).
Oregon State (March 1) and Oregon (March 3) will be highly motivated to split the season series when CU visits Corvallis and Eugene.
"Challenge them," Boyle said when asked what he will do to get the Buffs prepared for the long road ahead to postseason play. "It's mental toughness, it's approaching the game the same way, it's playing with the same urgency and toughness. ...
"When you build a program, the first thing you have to do is learn how to win at home. Then you have to learn to win on the road. And then win against quality opponents. We have set the stage next Thursday playing a quality opponent on the road; it will be fun to see if we can make the next step."