SEATTLE — The results around the league over the weekend made the quest for one of the top four spots in the Pac-12 Conference exponentially more difficult for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Impossible? No. But at this point, any scenario that might land the Buffs in one of those top four spots, which comes with a first-round bye at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas in a little more than two weeks, will require a little help for the Buffs.
It also will require a clean sweep by the Buffs in their final three regular season games, all at home, beginning Saturday afternoon against Utah.
"It's not going to be easy. We know Utah is a terrific team and they're the best road team in our league, maybe other than Washington," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "We know USC and UCLA (after Utah) will have payback on their minds. We've got three quality teams coming in. But we are at home. I like the mindset of this team. We can't take being at home for granted.
"We need to come out and play with great energy and great emotion and great toughness. We need great crowds. We want to be that team that when the brackets come out for Vegas, the other team says, 'Dang, I don't want to play Colorado.' And the only way we become that team is to continue to improve and get better every day and play well. We have the ability to do that. There's no doubt about it."
The Buffs begin the penultimate week of the regular season mired in the middle of the pack in the Pac-12 standings. But a sweep of all three opponents coming to the CU Events Center — the Buffs complete the regular season next week against UCLA and USC — would give the Buffs at least a shot at sneaking into the fourth spot. CU also would need one of those Los Angeles schools to knock off Utah in Salt Lake City after the Utes did something this past week the Buffs were unable to do by securing a split during their two-game trip through Washington.
"I have the utmost — and I can't express how much I mean that — confidence in my team and myself and my coaching staff as well," CU forward Evan Battey said. "I think, I know, we can win these three games and make some noise in the tournament and potentially get to a 20, 21-win season. I really want that."
One factor working in the Buffs' favor is they generally have played well at home, posting a 10-2 record at the CU Events Center. CU's depleted rotation has perhaps made landing a top-four spot even more critical to any run in Vegas, as the notion of instead winning four games in four days is an even more daunting challenge for a club that has players logging more than 30 minutes a game as a matter of routine.
"In the locker room, guys are telling each other to keep our heads up. We're proud of each other regardless of what happens," sophomore D'Shawn Schwartz said. "We know we can beat anybody in the league. We all enjoy playing at home. I think we shoot a little better playing at home. It's just a little bit easier, but we've got to keep that same mental focus that we do with any game."