Tad Boyle’s Buffs missed out on a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament by finishing fifth in the conference standings.
Tad Boyle's Buffs missed out on a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament by finishing fifth in the conference standings. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO —

— The regular season didn't turn out exactly how the Colorado Buffaloes wanted, but they won't waste any time dwelling on missed opportunities.

Instead, CU is turning its focus to the opportunity ahead.

After Saturday's 66-65 overtime loss at California, the Buffs (21-10, 10-8 Pac-12) finished the regular season in fifth place in the conference standings. That left them one spot short of a first-round bye for the Pac-12 Tournament, which begins Wednesday in Las Vegas.

"Your thoughts (as a coach) are you have to get your team ready — mentally, emotionally, physically," CU head coach Tad Boyle said in the moments after Saturday's loss. "You've got to be ready to go, because anything can happen. It's new life for everybody."

CU's new life begins Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. MT when the Buffs face 12th-place Southern Cal (11-20, 2-16) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

"It doesn't matter to me," sophomore Xavier Johnson said about having to play in the first round, as opposed to getting a bye. "We're going to play basketball. That's what we train all of our lives to do and we're going to go out there and do it."

The Buffs went into the season targeting a top-four finish, and they were picked by Pac-12 media members to finish third. Of course, that all came with a healthy Spencer Dinwiddie in the lineup.

With Dinwiddie, the Buffs were on track for a top-four finish, but his Jan. 12 knee injury forced the Buffs to adjust. After losing Dinwiddie for the remainder of the season, the Buffs finished 7-7 down the stretch and came within a break or two against Cal of reaching the top four.

"We showed a lot of heart and a lot of effort (against Cal)," Johnson said. "We're a way better team now. We just need to keep going and just keep playing defense and rebounding and we'll get these wins."

CU played some of its best post-Dinwiddie basketball this past week in the Bay Area — at least defensively.

In a 59-56 win at Stanford on Wednesday, the Buffs held the Cardinal to 36.8 percent shooting and out-rebounded them 39-31. CU held Cal to 35.4 percent and out-rebounded the Bears 45-35. It's the first time all season that the Buffs held back-to-back opponents below 37 percent shooting.

"We're confident defensively," junior guard Askia Booker said.

CU's confidence was evident even in defeat. They were, without question, disappointed about the loss, but Booker said playing early in the tournament might be a good thing for the Buffs.

"It matters, but if you get a bye maybe you're off of basketball too long," he said. "Sometimes it's good to get right back on your feet, especially after a loss. You have some fire in you and you want a win."

Winning is what the Buffs hope to do this week in Las Vegas. If they can get past USC, they'll get a rematch with Cal in Thursday's second round.

"We have a chance to go to Vegas and make some noise," Boyle said. "That's what we're looking forward to doing."

A look back at preseason picks

For the first time in three years, the media correctly projected the conference champion. Arizona was the preseason favorite and the Wildcats won the regular season title. The media, in fact, correctly picked No. 2, as well, with UCLA occupying that spot in the preseason poll and in the final standings.

Overall, the preseason picks were fairly close to how the conference turned out.

The preseason poll: 1. Arizona; 2. UCLA; 3. Colorado; 4. Oregon; 5. Cal; 6. Stanford; 7. Arizona State; 8. Washington; 9. Utah; 10. Oregon State; 11. USC; 12. Washington State.

The final order of finish: 1. Arizona; 2. UCLA; 3. ASU; 4. Cal; 5. Colorado; 6. Stanford; 7. Oregon; 8. Utah; 9. Washington; 10. Oregon State; 11. Washington State; 12. USC.

Notable

CU goes into the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 5 seed for the second year in a row. The Buffs were the No. 6 seed in 2011-12, when they won the tournament. ... CU is 5-1 in Pac-12 Tournament games.

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.