With five games remaining in the regular season, the Colorado Buffaloes men's basketball team sits in a tie for seventh-place in the Pac-12 Conference.
It remains a situation not at all in line with the Buffs' preseason expectations and fifth-place selection in the league's preseason media poll. Yet after a disastrous 0-7 start in Pac-12 play, wins in five of their past six games has nevertheless given the Buffs the belief they are peaking at the right time of the season.
If the regular season ended Monday, the Buffs would begin the Pac-12 tournament as the league's No. 8 seed with a first-round date against Stanford. While the harsh reality of the standings has the Buffs in the bottom half of the league, head coach Tad Boyle knows a defensive rebound at Arizona State, or just one more defensive stop against USC or at road dates against Washington and Washington State, and his Buffs easily could have reversed their 5-8 Pac-12 mark.
In other words, the disparity in the standings generally is greater than what the Buffs have experienced on the scoreboard.
"We've won five of six, so I think the results kind of say that," Boyle said. "Now we've got five league games left so we can't just assume this is going to continue. We've got to focus on Oregon State and what it's going to take to beat them.
"You have to understand our 0-7 start came with four games that we were ahead, that we had scored more points than our opponent in four of those seven games, with (under) a minute to go. And we couldn't finish it out. We couldn't get the stops when we needed to get the stops. You turn those things around, we're not that far. The records and the standings look like we're buried. We were 0-7. That's the bottom line. But we weren't that far away from being a 4-3 team."
CU plays three of its final five regular-season games at home, but that stretch begins on the road this week with a date Thursday at struggling Oregon State (7 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network) followed by a trip Saturday to No. 7 Oregon (1 p.m. MT, FOX). It remains an uphill climb for the Buffs to even join the conversation for the NCAA Tournament bubble (CU began Monday at No. 102 in the RPI), yet they remain well-positioned for a strong finish that, at the very least, would leave CU with a favorable position in the NIT.
Of course taking care of business at OSU, followed by an upset on the road and a season sweep of the Ducks, would go a long way toward staking a place on the tourney bubble for the Buffs.
"You want to peak here down the stretch. We just have to keep improving each and every day," CU senior guard Derrick White said. "We can't be satisfied with a couple wins here and there. We've just got to go to practice, watch the film, learn from it, and continue to improve."