At T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
All games on Pac-12 Network unless listed otherwise
First Round, Wednesday
Game 1: No. 8 Arizona State vs. No. 9 Stanford, 1 p.m.
Game 2: No. 5 California vs. No. 12 Oregon State, 3:30 p.m.
Game 3: No .7 Colorado vs. No. 10 Washington State, 7 p.m.
Game 4: No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Washington, 9:30 p.m.
Game 5: No. 1 Oregon vs. Game 1 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 6: No. 4 Utah vs. Game 2 winner, 3:30 p.m.
Game 7: No. 2 Arizona vs. Game 3 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 8: No. 3 UCLA vs. Game 4 winner, 9:30 p.m.
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 11: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 9 p.m., ESPN
After an 0-7 start in Pac-12 Conference play that made reaching the NCAA Tournament a rigorous, if not impossible, uphill climb, it would have been easy for a veteran-heavy Colorado men's basketball team to begin looking ahead to life after college.
To the Buffs' credit in a season that hasn't gone as planned, that didn't happen. Following that nightmare start the Buffs rallied to go 8-3 the rest of the way, overcoming a two-game suspension for key seniors Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson along the way to take an encouraging level of momentum into the league tournament this week in Las Vegas.
The Buffs finished 8-10 in the league following wins this past weekend against Stanford and Cal that bore vastly different complexions. CU sprinted to 91 points against Stanford, posting assists in 25 of 35 field goals, before finishing the regular season by outlasting Cal in a rugged defensive battle Saturday.
"It gets back to figuring out a way. You just have to figure out a way," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "Hopefully if our offense is clicking we can outscore somebody and it takes a little pressure of your defense. But if you're offense isn't going, you'd better grind it out defensively and have that mindset. And that takes mental toughness.
"You know, I've been hard on this group when we haven't had it at times this year. I have to applaud our players (for the Cal win). They showed great mental toughness with the frustrations we were having offensively. Missing free throws. Missing wide-open threes. Maybe a call doesn't go our way here or there. There's a lot of things that can take away from your focus on the defensive end, but our guys didn't let that happen. We kept grinding it out defensively all game long."
Seventh-seeded CU opens the league tournament Wednesday against 10th-seeded Washington State at 7 p.m. MST. The winner takes on second-seeded Arizona on Thursday, also at 7 p.m. MST. It is the first time in conference history three top 10 teams — No. 3 UCLA, No. 6 Oregon, and No. 7 Arizona — lead the tournament field. In order to make a miracle run to the league championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, the Buffs will have to defeat all three of those teams, assuming none are upset along the way.
To say the least, it's a daunting task. Yet it's one the Buffs believe their uniquely frustrating season has them prepared for.
"We can get through storms. We can weather adversity," junior George King said. "I think that's a credit to our seniors just keeping everyone positive and not allowing that 0-7 to determine our entire season."
The Buffs handed out their end-of-season honors at the annual team banquet on Sunday, with senior Derrick White winning the Chauncey Billups MVP award. That honor was one of four voted on by CU's players, a list that also includes King as Most Inspirational, Tory Miller as Most Improved, and Gordon as Best Defender.
White and King also won two statistical awards. White nabbed the Jay Humphries Assist Award and King took home the Stephane Pelle Rebounding Award.
As of Saturday evening a limited number of tickets were still available for the Pac-12 tournament. Visit pac-12.com/tickets for more info. ... This will be the fifth year the league tournament has been held in Las Vegas but the first time it will take place at the new T-Mobile Arena.